When school starts, schedules often change to accommodate early bed times for earlier rise times. As we all transition, we often run into small moments of frustration. For students, this often coincides with homework. Whether your child is a first year kindergartener or acclaimed fifth grader, he or she could benefit from parental oversight. Here are eight homework tips for parents to help you and your son or daughter cope better with homework blues. Let’s set them up for success and limit homework frustrations.
1. Time it right
It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out when your child is most creative or ready to sit down and focus. While it may make sense from a scheduling perspective to push your child to get homework done immediately after school, this time may be when they are at their lowest energy level. Try asking your child about his or her preferences, and use the first few weeks of school to experiment a little – you may just find the perfect “slot” that works for them and the rest of the family.
2. Make sure the basics are covered: Food and Sleep
There is nothing worse than trying to concentrate on a tired mind or a rumbling tummy. And despite the fact that your child stopped napping when he was two, he or she may benefit from a quick shut-eye before beginning homework. A snack right before, or with homework, may be helpful, too. Many kids are too excited at lunchtime to actually eat their food and come home starving. Offer protein-rich foods that don’t trigger sugar spikes like bananas with peanut butter or Trail Mix, so their energy lasts until homework is done.
3. Create the right space to study
While it’s not a “must” to create a formal environment, many kids are motivated when they have their own space to focus. Encourage them to find their own style and take pride in creating the best setting for their success. Help them decorate and personalize it, and check on how to best evolve the space to suit their changing needs. Getting and staying organized is a very important skill to learn during these formative years, and creating the right environment to establish and reinforce good habits can make a real difference. (See all of our study lofts for inspiration.)
4. Limit distractions
Siblings, pets, visitors… who can concentrate when the house is full of distractions? Limit them by either timing homework during hours of low activity (i.e. before the rest of the family barges in), or encouraging a “closed door” location to complete homework before re-joining the action going on in the rest of the house. Some kids do better with some background noise (like soft music), which can help drown out other sounds. If your child struggles with distractions, you may want to check whether a set of earphones with soothing sounds can help them concentrate.
5. Offer the right help when they are stuck
When your child asks for help, try asking questions, and offer different perspectives or ways to imagine the same problem. Visualize a math challenge, or relate it back to a real life situation he or she will remember. Don’t give them the answer – it’s their problem to solve. If they still can’t get it right, see if another member of the family or a friend can provide another perspective. If all else fails, it’s OK to admit to the teacher that he or she worked hard on a problem but simply could not solve it.
Depending on the age of your child, the right incentives can work wonders, and really motivate kids to complete their homework – accurately! Have an avid Minecrafter? Give them 30 minutes playtime after homework is completed. Desperate for that playdate? Coordinate with the parents to make sure homework is completed before they get together. If you choose this strategy, be careful to follow through, though – if it’s not done right, the rewards need to be delayed or cancelled altogether. So pick rewards that are fully under your control and won’t disappoint other kids or interfere with activities that you care about.
7. Get – and stay – in touch with the teacher
Beyond the scheduled conferences, most teachers appreciate informal check-ins and opportunities to connect with parents. Ask them what strategies they suggest and whether they have any feedback.
8. Value their work
Celebrate achievements! Show off their completed projects to other family members, and tell stories about successes to others. Bring positive energy to a job well done, and motivation will follow.
Do you have more tips for parents – helping your child complete homework? Please share with us!