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Steps Towards Homework Success

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Updated on Apr 4, 2008

It is the rare child (or adult!) who enjoys doing homework. Most kids see it as an unwelcome chore after a tiring day at school, and many will do whatever possible to avoid facing the inevitable task. Many experts now debate the effectiveness of homework, arguing that it's not the most appropriate way for children to practice their skills or deepen their understanding. In his book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids are Getting Too Much of a Bad Thing, Alfie Kohn argues that not only is there no evidence that homework improves a child’s performance in school, but it can actually have negative effects. When homework cuts into a child’s personal time, it can erode her relationship with school, and some parents find that homework becomes an aggravating point of conflict in the family.

However, many educators contend that homework can be an important time for students to develop their intellectual independence and establish a personal work ethic. It's also an excellent opportunity for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school. Regardless of its effectiveness, for most students as young as first grade, homework is a reality. A few key ingredients can make homework time tolerable, successful and even enjoyable for your child.

The Right Place

Just like adults, children need a quiet, organized place to work if they are to be effective and efficient. Help your child prepare a special place in your home that will be used exclusively for homework at homework time. Preferably it is away from common distractions like the TV, computer and telephone. Ideally it is quiet and calm. It could be the kitchen counter, the dining room, or a desk in the living room. Bedrooms are dangerous because they tend to have all the usual distractions (as well as the bed, which may be very tempting after a long day!). A table space for alert writing is essential. Organize the space with useful homework resources (a calculator, a dictionary, a timer, pencils and pens, etc.). Put up a sign to mark the space (“My Office” or “Quiet – Big Mind at Work”). Make it inviting, comfortable, and most of all organized.

The Right Routine

Just like adults, children work better at different times of day. Some are early birds and some are night owls. Some think best right after school, some need to run around in fresh air in order to recharge their batteries. Watch your child’s rhythms carefully and help her find the right time to do homework. Many children find success with a snack and half-hour play break before hitting the books. Treats like television and computer time should be reserved for after homework completion. Set a timer to keep track of how long your child is working. Most school districts and classrooms have time limits for homework (approximately 10 minutes for each year your child has completed in school), and teachers do not want their students to slave away for hours on end. Let your child know that homework time is finite, with a reasonable expectation of effort and output. Finally, break up the work. Encourage your child to get up and stretch/ get a drink/ chat with you every 15 or 20 minutes, or after each completed assignment.

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