Homework time can help students review and cement skills learned in school. Beyond that, even more important skills of responsibility, attention, perseverance, follow-through, and habit formation can be developed with a homework routine.
Set the Stage for Homework Success
Design both time and place conducive to concentration. The place should be where the adult can monitor regularly, yet not in a traffic pattern where distractions invade the work. Soft instrumental music is helpful.
Provide protein-rich but low sugar snacks, along with relaxation time. These shouldn’t be too long, and should adhere to a schedule to avoid daily arguments about getting started. Keep water easily reachable to a) keep hydrated, and b) reduce need to keep getting up and losing focus on the task.
Both the music and the food provided at snack time should not be available any other time. Thus, there is a psychological set that signals study time and reduces resistance to habit development.
Daily Homework Planning Time
This works well during the snack since food is a great magnet to pull the child toward the study place. Treat the child as a partner and use a “visiting” style not an authoritarian approach. Ask questions, welcoming both positive and negative comments. From this a child can learn that it is OK to dislike something, yet work has to be done. Inquire as to due dates. Use of a calendar is helpful here (many are required to keep one in school folders or notebooks).
There may be the rare time that there is just too much homework. As long as the child puts forth effort during “homework time” the parent can write a note to the teacher that it will be finished on another day. Weekends can provide an extra study time if needed and well-rewarded. If this persists, consult with the school about your concerns in a non-defensive, problem solving way.
Schedule Daily Study Time for Homework
Avoid asking, “Do you have homework?” as that question invites avoidance and presents an invitation to lie. On days when a child declares no homework, there needs to be a plan. It could involve oral reading, writing, skill workbooks which you get from the school or local store, or extra drill on an area of need (math facts, states and capitals, etc.) The child learns there is no reward for avoiding homework, so will be more forthcoming about assignments. Include short motor breaks like sharpening a pencil or walking over to the adult to show them something related to the assignment.
Sibling Management During Homework
It is not always best to have siblings together since it can provoke negative interactions and distraction. Parents have to judge when it’s best to provide separate study areas. Two pitfalls can occur when children study together:
- An older child can put down the younger child’s work, or
- A more advanced younger child can reinforce insecurity in a struggling older child.
If there is a toddler in the house, this would be a great time for video with enforced rules about not roaming around or being loud. This allows older children to focus on the task at hand while training the toddler to give attention to a learning task of his or her own.
Avoid Co-dependency During Homework Time
In most situations, it is not wise to sit beside the child the whole time. Be busy elsewhere, stopping by regularly to encourage and consult. Parents who reinforce independent functioning raise kids who have more success in the greater world.
Reward Children for Homework Time
The best way to keep the habit going is to emphasize the positive. Provide instant and tangible rewards (stickers, checks, etc.) and use an earning system to be cashed in on weekends (eg. every so many stickers get a certain privilege).
Parents can make homework time both realistic and successful by following through on a daily plan. It will not always be fun, but it can be rewarding to both child and parent.