By Chris Leuzinger, Nourishing Minds Tutoring
Most families probably have a routine something like this: wake up, scrounge up a quick breakfast, go to school and work, rush to one after-school activity or another, then dinner, homework, bedtime routines, rinse, and repeat.
Then it strikes.
“Mom, I have a book report due tomorrow!” Feel free to substitute any other school-related assignment that has been procrastinated on until the very last possible second – but most parents with school-aged children can sympathize. Then come the theatrics. The tears. The tantrums. And my personal favorite: “You can’t help me because that’s not how my teacher does it. You’re doing it wrong. You can’t do it that way.”
“AHHHHHH!” Insert choice words here J, pull some hair out, forget about pouring yourself that nice beverage, roll up your sleeves, and prepare to spend the next two hours working through the aforementioned book report (which, upon further questioning, little so-and-so has known about for weeks).
Homework. Isn’t it wonderful? It’s amazing how one little word can wreak such havoc on a household. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. By following some of the simple tips below, you can retrain children to become more independent, eliminate the tantrums (some of them anyway), and reclaim some of those lost homework hours, because–believe it or not–it is never the teacher’s intention to have any child or family struggling for hours on end to complete an assignment.
Simple Tips to Put an End to Homework Drama
Implement consistency and routine.
This is imperative and should be non-negotiable. Like it or not, homework is an important aspect of children’s education, and if approached correctly, is more than just consolidating the work completed in school. Good study habits instilled at a young age translate into more independence in middle school and high school, and even beyond. Children thrive when they know what to expect. Try setting a schedule or time aside everyday (this most often works best if it is the same time) to complete homework, and try to keep it brief…20 to 30 minutes works best. For some children, this may be after a snack and some down time; others may work best as soon as they get home; and others maybe after dinner or before bed.
Teach children how to be organized.
If their school has academic planners, encourage children to use them! If not, buy one–or better yet, have your child make up their own. Teach children to write down homework assignments and when they are due. Refer to this nightly/daily. Again, this reinforces skills that will become invaluable in many different aspects of life. It will also help when they genuinely forget what their homework is.
Create a homework space.
Above everything else, a designated homework area should be stocked with all of the necessary materials (paper, pens, pencils, glue, etc.) and be free from distractions. Make homework time a cell phone/TV/computer-free time. Unless of course the student is utilizing technology to complete the work. More and more school districts are relying on technology both in schools and at home.
Be genuinely interested in your child’s work. Ask questions about the work they are completing. Ask if they can teach you the methods they are using. (Let’s be honest: Common Core can be confusing at times, and in math, for example, you may even learn a new way of problem-solving–there are some great methods that are far superior to the old-school ways we all learned!) Praise good work, and make sure everyone remains positive. This can be one of the single biggest determining factors for success. It will help build your child’s self-esteem, make them feel great about themselves, and translate into putting an even better effort into their schoolwork.
At times, learning can be confusing, frustrating, and complicated. All children learn differently, at different rates, and in different ways. Having a positive, patient attitude will go further to support your child’s learning than getting frustrated yourself.
Know when to “throw in the towel” and ask for help.
You may be wondering why I included this as a strategy. Surely it seems counterintuitive. However, this can be a powerful tool in making sure children remain positive and motivated to complete homework in the future. As I mentioned above, a normal homework assignment is never designed to take hours upon hours. It helps no one and does more harm that good to try and persevere through a marathon session or sessions. Don’t hesitate to follow up with the teacher and try to get to the root of the problem. Was it a one-time fluke experience, or is there a deeper issue or concern making the struggle an everyday occurrence? Understanding the cause of the problem makes it much easier to remedy.
Some of the tips above might seem obvious, but they truly work. It may take some time to develop routines and to teach organization–and at times it can be difficult to remain positive and patient–but by taking the time to implement the above strategies, there should be fewer tantrums. Fewer tears. Fewer theatrics. And for the love of God–no more last-minute book reports!