Most kids are going to have homework at least a few nights each week. As much as some students, and even some parents, dread these assignments, homework provides review and practice of concepts taught in class, helps students prepare for future lessons, teaches responsibility and independent work habits, promotes time management, and develops research skills. Teachers know that repeated practice over a period of time is a great way to reinforce skills and help children to master what they have learned. Here are a few ways to help your child to make the most of homework time.
- H – Have a plan. Help your child choose which assignment to do first. Suggest that he start with something fairly simple, but not save the most difficult problems for last. Also, help him set mini-deadlines for longer assignments, such as science fair projects or book reports. This helps your child develop good work habits, teaches him to schedule time wisely, and helps him make a habit of completing projects on time.
- O – Overcome obstacles. Teach your child skills that will help him solve problems when he gets stuck. If he has trouble reading a passage, help him sound it out unfamiliar words. If he is stuck trying to select the correct multiple choice response, show him how to eliminate incorrect or off-the-wall answer choices. If kids are unsure of how to answer a question, guide them to reread the passage, or “go back to their class notes or books to find what they need,” suggests National Board certified teacher Angie Parmentier. “Homework should only be skills, strategies, and concepts that have already been covered in class. This is a great study skill strategy!”
- M – Motivate. Parmentier suggests using a timer to motivate your child. Break the assignment into chunks, and set the timer while your child works. Then, encourage your child to beat her time for each chunk. “This is best for those that need extra motivation but do not find grade level homework extremely challenging. For me, my gifted students really enjoy trying to beat their times.” She cautions that this strategy can be too much for a struggling student. Other ways to motivate could be a special privilege or reward at the end of each chunk, or trying to get more of the answers correct on the first try in each section.
- E – Expectations. Kids need to know what to expect when it comes to homework. Have a designated time and a quiet place that is free of distractions. Wondering when the best time is for homework? Parmentier says, “Since all children are different, they need to figure out what is going to help them feel successful with homework and not overwhelmed. Some students need to start on homework as soon as they get home and before they get too ‘comfortable,’ while others need a mental break and some outside time before getting back to business.” Figure out a schedule that works for your child, so he knows the expectations for getting homework done.
- W – Watch for frustration. If your child is overwhelmed by having too many questions on a page, cover up all but one line at a time, or fold the paper so that only a small portion of the page is visible at once. If an assignment is taking too long, break it up into smaller sessions, and take a few breaks in between.
- O – Offer support. When it comes to homework, National Board certified teacher Erika Acklin says, “My number one piece of advice is to do it together. Discuss what the assignment is, talk about ways to solve the problem, discuss how it could be applied to the real world, and try to have a little fun.” Be helpful and supportive, without doing the work for your child.
- R – Review. After completing homework, have your child go back and recheck his work, or better yet, check it together. Sometimes it's best to let your child have a short break after finishing the assignment before checking it. Fresh eyes will be able to find mistakes more easily. Help your child correct mistakes, and review any material that has proved to be confusing.
- K – Keep in touch. If a child repeatedly has trouble with homework assignments, let the teacher know. Circle problems or questions that you were unable to solve together, and write a note. High school teacher Tara Barbieri suggests, “Parents of younger students should always monitor their child’s homework folders, since many elementary teachers send home either daily or weekly homework. Parents of middle and high school students should let their children take more responsibility, but if they feel their students are not doing what they should be, they should not hesitate to check with the teachers about the work assigned.” Also, let the teacher know if you feel that there is simply more homework than your child can successfully handle, if you believe he would benefit from more homework, or if the assignments are excessively difficult or too easy for your child. And, be sure look for comments that the teacher has made on any homework assignments or projects.