It’s the middle of the school year—there are more hours of daylight; the weather is starting to warm up (ever so slightly); and the weekends and after-school hours are starting to fill up with spring sports on the horizon.
Your child’s homework might be the last thing on your mind. If you and your child have fallen into a rut when it comes to working on homework, read on to get tips for developing a good homework routine that will work for your family.
Why homework challenges arise
If you and your child are having homework challenges, it can be helpful to step back and evaluate the situation:
- Are you and your child waiting until the last minute to finish the homework assignment?
- Is your child having a hard time understanding the homework?
- Is your child bored and more interested in doing something else?
- Is there an underlying learning disability that needs to be addressed?
Your assistance is needed
If your child’s school uses a homework packet system that is sent home weekly, take a few minutes to look over the assignments and figure out a schedule for getting them done. Doing some each day beats trying to do it all at the last minute. This is a life skill we all need to learn. Kids live in the moment and have only a vague idea of time, so planning ahead takes some effort.
If your child eagerly zooms through their homework, maybe Monday night is the day you get it done. If your child needs their homework time divided up, pick one or two worksheets to do per night so your child can take their time to work through their assignments.
Don’t assume your young child will automatically come home from school, grab their homework packet, and get straight to work on their homework. In fact, they have likely spent a greater portion of the day sitting and concentrating on learning. Their brain and body both need a break. Active, physical play, outside if possible, will rejuvenate and refresh them, and give them the ability to focus on homework when the time comes.
During the elementary school years (maybe even beyond), you may need to help your child remember to get their homework done. The “when” and “where” will vary depending on what works best for your unique child and family situation. Consider talking with your child and encouraging them to help create an after school routine that works for them.
- When your child gets home from school, after-school care, or sports, let them relax first.
- Offer an afternoon snack and let your child tell you about their day. You could also use this time to ask your child what they need to get done for homework tonight. The special one on one time together as you are reconnecting at the end of the work and school day will build resilience in your relationship, and having a bit of fun together helps you feel close. This goes a long way to build a buffer for the stress of homework later.
- Designate a time to work on homework. One idea could be after a snack, but before they are allowed screen time or play time.
Establish a homework space
Just like adults need an organized workspace, kids can also benefit from having a designated spot—free of clutter, their sibling’s toys, snack wrappers, etc—to sit down to work. Your child might even enjoy having an “office” just like mom or dad.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy—just a small table or desk with a chair that your child can sit or stand at comfortably. Here are some workspace ideas to consider:
- If possible, have your child do homework in a quiet place away from distractions, such as the TV or a sibling playing.
- Create folders for each day of the week and organize their homework into it. This way, if it’s Monday, your child can easily grab the “Monday” folder and work on those assignments.
- Consider having a “done” folder or basket so your child can see what they’ve accomplished!
- Fill a special cup with pencils, markers, scissors, and a ruler and place it in your child’s homework space.
- Ask your child if they want to decorate their homework space. You could include pictures of family, pets, and friends.
- If you feel like there isn’t room where you live to create a permanent homework space, consider getting a toolbox or basket type carrier for homework and supplies. You can stash it out of the way, and retrieve it for homework time. Sitting at the kitchen table or counter works fine for most kids.
Motivate and encourage, but don’t do the work for them
It’s a great idea to sit with your child as they work, but do not do their homework for them. Keep your comments positive. Say things like, “What do you think?” and “I know you can do this.” Encourage your child to solve homework problems themselves rather than giving them the answers straight away. You can make suggestions and help with directions, but it’s up to your child to do the learning. Reading and following directions for themselves is a skill to work towards. This will help develop their motivation from inside, rather than always relying on others to direct them.
When you have an after school and work routine, it helps your child feel safe. They know what to expect and what comes next. There are no surprises and they know you are in their corner. When you are available to your child for homework time it helps them feel important, and helps build their self esteem. Doing homework can seem like a small thing, but it is an opportunity to help your child know your family values. They learn to keep trying even when it’s hard, that education is important, and you believe in them.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).