I’ve never met a student or parent who claims to love homework. But, if is used effectively, homework is the best way to reinforce skills practiced during school hours. There are homework-abusing teachers out there who love to assign homework in abundant amounts several nights a week. I would like to believe, though, that the majority of educators use homework as a tool to help students master important concepts. As a parent of a school-aged child, there are ways to avoid tears during homework sessions.
Approach homework positively. Negative comments about homework only reinforce students’ complaints. Encourage your child to focus on the reasons for doing homework and the challenge of doing it well.
Designate a specific place. To establish academic work as a priority at home, specify the place it is to be done. If parental supervision is needed, have the student work at the kitchen table so Mom can be available to help while she is cooking dinner. If a student works well independently, he may prefer to do his homework at a desk in his room. Just check to see that distractions are kept to a minimum. Cell phones, IPods, CDs and other “temptations” need to be set aside or even removed until the work is finished.
Make a schedule. Find the time that works for your student. Most children benefit from a break in the routine right after school. Active outside play can help release tension and empty the mind to prepare to study later. Allow some play time, but be firm about coming inside and beginning to work after a reasonable amount of time. Your schedule will need to be adjusted during holiday or sports activities, but try to stick to a routine whenever possible.
Reward positive behavior. Keep a sticker chart posted and reward your child when he starts homework without being reminded. At the end of a good week, treat him with a trip to the park or some ice cream or whatever he would consider special. As he gets older, stretch the rewards out for longer periods of time and make the incentives larger.
Encourage independence. Have your child do as much of the work as possible on his own. If he is struggling with a math problem or writing assignment, ask questions about what he did in class that would help him remember how to work through the problem. If he continues to struggle, write his teacher a note to ask what you can do to help. Sometimes a concept may just need a little more clarification in the classroom, or the teacher may recommend learning aids or techniques that will help.
Homework teaches responsibility and discipline. Instead of dreading the daily assignments, focus on the long-term results and encourage your student to do the same.