Homework...the word alone conjures up such dread, such loathing!
Homework...I can hear the whining now…
You and teacher are a team. You are the eyes and ears on the learning process at home. If the work is too hard or too easy or your child is constantly confused or overwhelmed or even if the work is sucking the intellectual curiosity out of your child (cough, cough, down with busywork!)--the teacher needs to hear about it.
It doesn’t have to be this way. At its best, homework can give you important insight to what and how your child is doing in school. It can also help instill some important life skills.
But this doesn’t just happen. Traditional homework and traditional attitudes about homework won’t make it happen. But things are about to change and you are about to rescue homework time.
Step 1: Set your child up for homework success.
Make a family plan: Sit down, get out a calendar and plan when, where, and how you will all work together to get homework done. Don’t try to tuck it in on the seams of the day or kinda “wait and see.” Be proactive. And keep in mind, “just before bedtime” rarely works. This is a tool I use to help my family get a plan.
Remove distractions: This one is obvious but SO HARD to act on. The tractor beams of the TV/phone/tablet/gaming system are powerful! But no one in the history of homework has done better work while multitasking. Teach your child he is no different in this regard--no matter how old he is. Help your kids with this by not letting anyone in the house play/watch until everyone is done (this includes you). This homework board is a great idea for limiting distractions for elementary kids. Keep fighting the good fight because if your child can learn to remove distractions--he will be a productivity ninja as an adult!
Don’t overschedule: If you find that the only time you have to do homework is in the car, as you drive to x, y and z, your child is too busy. Make some hard choices and set some limits. The one thing you should always prioritize in your schedule--sleep! Teaching your child to budget her precious resource--time--will give her a great advantage as an adult.
Keep a good attitude: Kids are like dogs and horses, they intuitively now how you really feel and act accordingly (I’m from farm country, so that comparison makes sense). So get on the homework train! Homework can teach kids some valuable life skills and give you a window into what they are learning (more about that in the next paragraph). BUT if the homework your child has is really not accomplishing those tasks--well, then you need to have a frank conversation with the teacher (read on--I’m getting to that part).
Step 2: Don’t help with the content but do help with the process.
To not help or not to help, that is the question. When it comes to homework, I believe less is more and I’m sure your child’s teacher agrees with me.
Homework is a way for teachers to gauge how well your child has learned something. If you are really doing it, then you’re showing the teacher how well you know something. Not helpful information.
So don’t help with the content. Instead, help with the process of planning, executing, and reflecting on the task. These are important life skills that you, as a parent, can instill in your child.
Planning: We’ve already talked about getting a family plan. The US Department of Education has a good list of questions that can help you teach your child how to plan before they begin working. Here are my favorite:
Do you understand what you're supposed to do?
Do you need help in understanding how to do this assignment?
Do you have everything you need to do the assignment?