As soon as we get in the house, sit down and start your homework,” is a sentence I’ve said countless times to my trio. As each child moves up the educational ladder, the homework assignments become more difficult and more tedious. Just like any other household, completing homework doesn’t come without its woes. One child is doing their best to get a “snack” instead of homework, another is trying really hard and can’t get it, and the third insist on doing their homework before they get home and turning it in before you can check the quality. Because after all, the homework represents your effort as a parent. Right? Wrong!
As a teacher and tutor, I know that teachers’ intent is not to frustrate you or your children. Simply, there are not enough hours in the school day and we want to use homework to reinforce ideas learned in class, review topics already learned, or to preview ideas we will learn in the future.
Here, I offer up a few tips to make homework with your kids easier.
Stamina is the ability to do a task for an extended amount of time without getting distracted. Just like with anything in life, we have to help our kids increase their ability to do something for an extended period of time. Honestly, as an adult, who can sit for three hours and focus on a task? Both hands raised, not this teacher. So, start slow. If you have a really reluctant child, building stamina will be their best friend. Start with 5 focused minutes, then take a brain break. Slowly increase their time on task, until they are up to an amount of time that will allow a good chunk of homework to be done. 25-30 minutes is adequate before they will need to and want to take a small break or are complete with the nights’ assignments. Sure, as children get older the stamina can increase. But please, don’t try to make your six-year-old sit down for an hour and do their homework. You both are going to end up exhausted, frustrated, and in need of some alone time.
Rewards can range from stickers to free time, to an episode of their favorite show. When your child increases from 5 to 10 minutes focused and on task, reward them. Rewards do not have to be elaborate but don’t let your child’s efforts go unnoticed. Celebrate their success and see them improve dramatically over time.
These are some rewards that have worked with both my own children and my online students.
Take a Break
To save the sanity of the entire family, take a break! Once you sense a hint of frustration from either parents or the kids, everyone should step back and take a break. Keep the breaks short enough to not lose momentum, but long enough to allow everyone time to regain their umph. What do you do during the breaks? Anything you want that is not related to homework. Walk to the mailbox, take a 5-minute dance break, say a prayer, lay on the floor, or color. Whatever you do, don’t do homework during the break, and don’t allow the breaks to become too frequent or so long that you put the work off.
Yelling confirms that you are upset and in turn, you get more upset. It lets your kids know that you are upset and they either shut down completely or become a crying heap on the floor. What do I do? I count and breath. If I feel myself reaching the point of yelling, I stop and breathe and ask myself if it is time to take a break. If it is not the time for a break, I try to quickly recover and reexplain the tasks and I ask my children what part they are having trouble with. We have all made this mistake, but we don’t want to teach my children that they should be yelled at for lack of understanding. If you remember nothing else, remember that not yelling will make doing homework with your kids much easier.
Set a Timer to build independence
As you build stamina and your children grow in their understanding, it is time to implement more independence. The more independent your child can be, the easier it will be to do their homework. This is something we have implemented with even our youngest child.
When you are beginning the assignment, set a timer. For the first 5-7 minutes, don’t allow your children to ask any questions about the assignment. This encourages them to read the directions and reread the direction if they are not quite sure. When children are in the classroom, they are often completing tasks independently. They cannot rely on the teacher or the parent as a crutch, so they have to practice building their independence and use the strategies they have learned to help them understand difficult tasks. A timer is a great visual reminder that they are not alone “forever”, but it also reminds them they have to try their best to figure it out during this time.
An egg timer is pretty easy to use and kids can even set it themselves. You can also use the same timer to help build homework stamina.
Don’t do all the homework
Yes, I am a teacher. Yes, I said do not do all the homework. Honestly, if the homework packet is stressing you and your child out, just do what you can. Homework is not worth a child losing their love of learning. Homework is a tool meant to help, not hinder. If not completing a couple pages in their packet will make doing homework with your kids easier, do that! Again, you can build up your child’s stamina to complete the entire weeks’ assignment. But, as a teacher, I’d rather a child get a good night’s rest and be ready to rock the next day than complete 282 pages (slight exaggeration) of homework and be exhausted. And as a parent, you are free to choose what is best for your child.
Happy Learning families,