End Homework Battles: Five Easy Steps
Katie Basson, B.A., M.A.T.
Ask parents what their biggest school year challenge is, and you'll likely
hear that it is the difficulty they face in getting their kids to do
homework. With so many other attractive ways for kids to spend their time,
getting them to buckle down and complete that extra bit of schoolwork can be
like pulling teeth. As with any chore, though, there are strategies you can
use to get it done and make it more fun.
1. Make Time for Homework
Fitness gurus have known this for years: you are more likely to stick to an
exercise regimen if you do it at the same time everyday and make it an
inviolable part of your schedule. The same goes for homework. Don't leave it
up in the air as to when homework will be completed. This only ensures that
it won't get completed until you have an extended argument with your child
about it - usually one hour after bedtime. Instead, sit down with your child
and review your family schedule for the upcoming semester. Decide where
homework will fit in your daily schedule and make it non-negotiable. It is
always helpful to anchor homework time to some other regular activity. Good
choices are: directly after school or right before or after dinner.
(Scheduling homework in the hour before bedtime is usually not a good
practice since your child may be too sleepy to do a good job.)
It is also important to dedicate a set amount of time for homework. This
will discourage students from rushing through homework so that they can
watch the latest Disney video. What is a reasonable amount of time to spend
on homework? That varies with age. Check with your child's teacher. It is
generally accepted, though, that First and Second graders should spend about
a half hour on homework each night while Third and Fourth graders might need
to spend as much as an hour per night.
2. Don't Accept No for an Answer
A common refrain from students is "I finished my homework in school" or "The
teacher didn't assign us any homework today." It should not matter that they
don't have a specific assignment. Homework is an extension of the learning
that occurred that day in school, and what they learned that day can be
extended in any number of ways. Students can read silently during their
allotted homework time, they can look up information in an encyclopedia to
enhance what they are learning in Science or Social Studies, or they can
look at flashcards, practice math facts, and test their spelling. This is
how to teach your child to be a self-directed learner. You will be giving
them a gift to get them in the habit of doing this now. When they are in
high school, having this extra study habit will bring them academic success.
3. Establish a Partnership with Teachers
Early in the school year make an effort to get to know your child's teacher.
Make an appointment to talk with the teacher in the first few weeks of
school, so that you can express your desire to be a good partner in your
child's education. She will appreciate it, and you will be one step closer
to a smooth school year. Find out what her homework policy is so that you
know what to expect. It is also helpful to know how high her standards are,
so that you can ensure that your child's homework is acceptable.
4. Provide the Right Environment
Most people's advice on homework is to set up a desk in your child's room
and make sure that they have a quiet and distraction-free work environment.
This sounds very reasonable, but few people seem to be able to follow this
advice. I know many students who instead do their homework on the living
room floor, at the kitchen counter, or at the dining room table. It seems
that some people work best when they aren't isolated from household
activity. If that is the case with your child, then provide a small
traveling office for him so that he has all of the necessary items at hand
and won't waste time running around the house looking for a sharp pencil.
With all the supplies nearby, and distractions limited to the general
background noise of family living, your student ought to be able to
concentrate on homework.
5. Set a Good Example
"Do as I say not as I do" is no longer considered appropriate parental
advice. In order to instill the proper values in our children, we must model
them. If we expect our children to be conscientious, hard-working students,
then that is what they must see in us. Make an effort to show your child
your work ethic by reading trade magazines and business books while they do
their homework. Take out a pencil and write notes as you read. Investigate
ideas fully. If you read something interesting in the newspaper, look up
information about it on the Internet. Always be eager to learn something
new. Sign up for an adult education class, teach yourself to knit, or write
that novel you've always dreamed of. The more that you can show your child
that learning is a lifelong adventure that requires their involvement, the
more likely it is that homework will cease being a chore and start being an
integral part of a life well-lived.
If you take the time to set up these parameters around homework, you'll find
that you waste less energy arguing over homework and making up for lost
assignments. You'll have more time and energy for other pursuits, and so
will your child. What's more, you'll discover that the benefits of hassle
free homework add up to more than just scheduling efficiency, they equal a
Katie Basson is a parent, teacher, and creator of
The BITs Kit Better Behavior Kit for Kids™. Katie teaches seminars on
behavior modification techniques, and assists parents through challenging
behavioral and educational issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of
the YWCA and is an educational advisor to Zoesis, Inc., a children's
software company. Katie's expert advice has been sought for articles in The
Boston Globe and Parents Magazine. Sign up for her biweekly Parenting
Solutions newsletter at
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