It’s the beginning of another school year and many families are dreading the folders filled with homework- sometimes assigned by every teacher. This feeling is shared by all parents, even if your child is a high achieving student. It gets even more stressful if your child has underlying struggles with certain skills or just doesn’t see the point of homework- a question many students will ask at some point in their education.
Well, here’s the point: Doing homework is one of the many chances that your child has to reinforce or hone skills that are being taught in class. It’s also a good way of knowing if your child has gaps in their understanding of key pieces of information they need to excel in a particular subject or concept. It also allows you to see if it is time to seek additional instruction in the form of tutoring at school or private tutoring to address the struggles quickly.
In addition, homework has become an integral part of most grading systems in most public as well as private schools. So slacking on homework may have a negative effect on your child’s final grade, even if they did well on their tests and quizzes. This worries many parents.
You don’t have to fret and worry any longer, because I’m going to show you some of the my favorite strategies I use in my practice to help families overcome homework struggles. It’s simple to adopt as well as effective. This system works better when your child is involved in the setup process and starts applying these habits before the amount of homework they get increases.
I strongly believe in systems, because they provide a predictable routine that your child can learn and apply quickly, and can also be easily be followed by anyone who steps in to support or help.
3 simple ways to create a homework positive home
1. Set-up a dedicated work area for your child
From the brain science perspective, a dedicated learning space is very crucial. Our brains can be trained to respond positively to certain signals, and “switch on” to make doing certain activities much easier, every time we engage in the same environment. It becomes the zone that your child’s brain associates with doing homework.
This area should be free of distraction or have as little distraction as possible so your child can focus and work faster. It shouldn’t be your child’s bedroom (the brain associates that area with rest and relaxation, not intense mental work); or the kitchen table or the dining room, which naturally has lots of activity going on while your child is trying to focus. A home office is ideal if the phone is muted while your child does their homework. The goal is to have an area where your child can focus and work faster, instead of taking all evening to complete their work.
2. Organize and stock the homework area with school supplies and a filing bin
Another habit that will set your child up for homework success is an organized environment. Stock your child’s learning area with all the supplies they need to work quickly and efficiently. If your child has to expend mental energy finding pencils and erasers, rulers, paper, or other materials they need to do their work, it may have negative effect on their work. An extra set of supplies like: pencils, sharpeners, erasers, a ruler, colored pencils, notebooks or loose leaf paper, and a timer (not a phone app) are basic necessities. Additional supplies depending on the grade of your child may include: highlighters, thesaurus, and a dictionary (not a phone app).
3. Have a set schedule for doing homework
Doing homework around the same time during the school week and on weekends (if your child gets homework on Fridays) is another key element to success. I recommend a short break after school and then jumping right into doing homework. It’s much easier to get into the “zone” since the brain is still primed for thinking and learning. Thinking easily flows and it will take less time to complete the work. Also, our brains respond very well to routines.
To get “rewarded” (having their work graded) for the hard work your child put into doing their homework, they must take the next step and submit their work.
In my study skills training sessions and workshops, I always teach students that their homework is “complete” only when it has been placed in their homework folder, and then in their backpack, and then submitted to the teacher the next school day.
This new system will take some time to adopt and master, so keep working on it until it becomes second nature for your child. And by all means, adjust some of the ideas to fit your child’s unique needs. Also, if your child splits their time between two homes, apply these strategies at both homes and try to keep a consistency in how they are applied in both homes. If you diligently apply the strategies you and your child choose to use, homework will become less stressful and more enjoyable for both of you.
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