Labor Day has come and gone. A new school year is now in full swing. Backpacks contain homework that has the potential energy like a bomb that has been dropped smack in the middle of family life. I am hoping these few tips can allow your home to be a place where there is peace, joy and laughter rather than arguing, whining and crying each day.
1) Ask teachers to match the child’s developmental and skill level.
Many times, teachers give the same homework assignment to the entire class. This means some children will be working below their ability level and some above their ability level. So, at homework time children may feel frustrated or bored.
Teachers who read this may say, “I don’t have time to plan individualized homework.” I was a teacher myself for 24 years so I understand the time constraints. Homework can be as simple as reading 20 minutes per evening, practicing math facts (at the child’s level), creative writing assignments, etc.
2) Talk to your child’s teacher about his/her expectations for homework.
Ask if assignments will be graded. Some teachers today do not grade the homework. Children return the assignment, and it is then put in the trash. Parents may agonize over their child’s neatness and handwriting only to have the work thrown away. I don’t know about you, but my store list and random notes on my desk would definitely get an “F” for handwriting! If something isn’t going to be read by another person, does the child need to perfectly form every letter and number?
I suggest asking the teacher how long he/she expects your child to work on home assignments. If you hear 20 minutes, then set a timer and have your child work 20 minutes. In class, your child is told how long they have to complete an assignment so it is exactly the same. If your child dawdles and isn’t finished, you might give them 5 more minutes. After that, you can have your child pack up the work and he/she can talk to the teacher about why the work is not complete. Parents may need to consult with the teacher to either adjust the work or develop an incentive plan for your child to have the work completed within the allotted time.
I have heard of middle school and high school students with 3 to 4 hours of homework an evening. If you feel this is stressing your teen and affecting home life, then let your voice be heard.
3) Children complete homework independently. Parents are on the side line.
I have been surprised to learn how many parents either do the homework for their child or sit with them and coach as they complete the work. I believe homework is to reinforce material that has already been taught and practiced in class. Most schools have children work independently on tasks during the school day, so children are capable of doing work on their own. If the work is too difficult for your child, then talking with the teacher is in order.
Does the phrase, “science project” inject a feeling of anxiety in your heart? In my past days of teaching, I stopped doing these projects as a home assignment. I have known parents who chose the topic and participated in completing the science show boards. Children who won the school science fair trophies often had a good deal of parent assistance. What about having your child do the entire project by him/herself and then attaching a note reminding the teacher that there was no adult assistance? You could write, “Please grade accordingly.”
4) Give breaks.
Remember that recess and P.E. have become lessened in many schools. Children can spend the majority of their school day in their seat doing worksheets and workbooks. When children arrive home, they need to grab a snack and get some physical activity before sitting down again to work. Suggest a bike ride, shooting baskets, or simply free play in the back yard. Then have a set homework time at a consistent hour. If the work is lengthy, suggest taking 5 minute brain breaks for movement.
5) Have a designated homework area.
Help your child to find a quiet place with few distractions for homework. Have supplies available, such as sharpened pencils, erasers, glue and scissors. If computer use is required, then working in a place where parents can see the screen will help your child to stay on task.
I pray that these tips will help you to maintain a healthy relationship with your child. May a delight in learning fill your home.
For an interesting look at homework in America, watch this short youtube video:
Kathy Milans is the lead member of the Soul Care Collective Steering Committee.