Your child has been sitting in his room for over an hour, and his homework isn’t done… in fact, he hasn’t even started, and now he wants to wants to watch TV instead.
Does this sound familiar? Is every night in your house a battle to get homework done?
Sharon Marshall Lockett, author of Home Sweet Homework and founder of Lockett Learning Systems, says there are many reasons why kids have trouble with homework; but the top three are:
- They think they understand the homework, but they “draw a blank” once they’re home, and don't know where to begin.
- There are too many things vying for their time.
- It isn't a priority in the home, so they become masters at negotiating their way out of homework.
So, short of doing his homework for him, how can you help your child complete his homework without going to war over it? Here’s what Marshall Lockett recommends:
First of all, make homework a non-negotiable. That means no excuses, no extenuating circumstances, and no playing around instead; the homework must get done, every night.
According to Marshall Lockett, there are four personality types that need to approach homework differently.
- Sanguine children don’t sit still very well, and like to talk as they learn. “They can follow you around the kitchen ‘talking’ their homework while you cook dinner,” says Marshall Lockett. Let your sanguine child talk it out, and then have him go write it down before he forgets.
- Phlegmatic children need you to be around them, listen to them, and hug them a lot. Once you’ve caught up with news of your phlegmatic child’s day, “ask them about their homework and make sure they know what to do. You can then leave them to work alone and check back every once in a while... or read a book at the table while they work alongside you,” says Marshall Lockett.
- Melancholy children are serious, hard-working students with high standards who work best alone. Marshall Lockett suggests starting your melancholy child off with a nutritious snack, and then leaving him to it. “When they reach a break in their assignment, join them at the table or desk and look over their work. Praise it specifically, not generally.”
- Choleric children are goal-oriented and focused. They are active like the sanguines, but less social, and are only motivated by things that have meaning to them. “They are into ‘reaching the goal,’ i.e. finishing the assignment, more than ‘understanding the content.’ Your job will be to make it relevant to them. They can help you with dinner as they study out loud,” says Marshall Lockett.
Your child likely learns best using one of his senses over the other; for instance, he could learn better by seeing something, by hearing it out loud, by touching, or by doing a task. However, if you combine the senses, you’ll empower him to learn different ways, and grasp the concepts more completely.
Here are some strategies Marshall Lockett recommends for doing that:
- Read aloud to your child as he follows along.
- Have him write down or draw a picture of what he just learned.
- Act out the story with him.
- Have him march around the room to a beat as he reads.
Other strategies for locking information into the mind include repeating it three times before moving on, reviewing material several hours after studying it, or working in short spurts of 5 to 15 minutes.
Nobody says homework has to be boring; in fact, studies show that people learn much faster when something’s entertaining. Here are some ways to make homework fun:
- Friends: Let your child work with others, quiz each other, or compete to see who can finish first. Marshall Lockett suggests sitting them at the table instead of in your child’s bedroom so you can make sure socializing doesn’t get out of hand.
- Family: Make family homework a tradition; sit with your kids at the table, and read a book or work on paperwork.
- Food Serve everyone a nutritious snack at the table. “It's amazing how many discipline problems food solves,” says Marshall Lockett.
- Fun “Build in rewards and breaks for tasks completed, grades raised or time spent, that are meaningful for your children,” advises Marshall Lockett. Maybe it’s a movie or a game. Also, while some children need silence to learn, others actually do better with music playing.
Whatever new strategies you try, you’re bound to find homework getting done more effectively than before… and your child will enjoy it more, too.