Homework Help – Advice From The Trenches
After a long school day, when finally arriving home and having the objects of relaxation right at her finger tips, the last thing a child wants is more school work; and, the last thing a parent wants is to argue over homework. The good news is that over the last fifteen years of teaching and tutoring, we’ve witnessed first hand that with guidance and regular practice, most kids can internalize good homework habits and are eventually able to complete homework independently on a regular basis.
Here are some tips for helping your child to eventually become independent and successful.
Establish A Routine
One of the keys to painless homework is to establish a consistent routine. To establish a healthy homework routine, it’s important to involve your child in the discussion. Every person wants control over his/her circumstances and children aren’t any different. A child who has agency will participate more willingly than one who feels controlled and forced, and when children know what to expect tasks become more manageable.
You should discuss details such as:
- where s/he would like to do homework
- what materials s/he needs and would like
- the time at which s/he would like to begin. Does s/he want to eat for a little while and then complete homework or does he/she prefer to get it done right away and be free?
The homework session…
Get Organized: Begin each and every session by getting organized. Organize backpacks, folders and notebooks then come up with a game plan for completing the day’s work.
Plan: Review what there is do, make a list and estimate how long each task will take. Having a sense of the landscape will make navigating it much easier. Also, everyone needs a break and knowing that homework will not be an interminable task can alleviate stress. This is also the time to come up with a plan for long-term assignments. Longer assignments should be broken down into manageable parts and self-imposed due dates should be written into the child’s homework planner. Determine if there will be break in between or if the child would prefer to work uninterrupted.
Completing the task: If they are to eventually become independent, children must learn how to find information on their own and teach themselves. Teach your children how to search the internet, use youtube.com and reference their textbooks to figure out how to complete work they don’t understand. Anyone who has watched a child type full sentence questions and paragraphs into an internet search box knows that searching the internet successfully is not an innate skill. While you’re helping your child with homework, you should be also helping them to learn how to teach themselves what they don’t know. Model how you would learn something which you had to learn independently. Teach them how to evaluate the quality of a website, how to find useful website and bookmark them. For example, a website such as Khan Academy should be bookmarked and children should know how to navigate it to help themselves. Please see below for list of useful websites.
Hocus Pocus Focus! or What To Do with a Distractible Child
With practice, children (and adults) who have a difficult time concentrating can develop their ability to focus. A useful technique is to work in concentrated spurts and then take a break and gradually increase the time of the work spurts. With your child, estimate how long s/he could focus very intently on a task. Get a timer, set it for that amount of time. Tell the child s/he will work very intently for that amount of time and then take a five minute break. During the break the child should move around. At first a young child may be able to focus for three-five minutes and an older child or teenager may be able to focus for 10-12 minutes. By adding a minute a week you can develop the child’s ability to focus gradually.
You may find it hard to imagine that your child will ever start a homework session by organizing folders and backpacks and then setting self-imposed due dates, but we’ve seen it many times that by going through the same process, day after day, children will begin to internalize the routine. It won’t happen overnight and will probably require several months, and in the toughest cases maybe even years, but eventually most children will internalize the homework routine and become independent.
Modeling Behavior: One of the most important ways parents can help their children learn good homework habits is by sitting with their children and modeling the homework routine. We all learn by imitation. By working through these steps together with their kids, parents can help students see the value of them. Taking time to do the first fifteen minutes of homework together each night for a few weeks can help establish the training wheels for good homework practices, and once these are routinized, the training wheels can come off as your kids learn to ride on their own.
Long-Term Thinking. By going through the same routine, day after day, children will begin to internalize the routine. It won’t happen overnight and will probably require several months and maybe even years, but, eventually, although they will probably never grow to love homework, most children will internalize the homework routine and become independent and successful.
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