I fondly remember learning multiplication tables under my dad’s supervision. My dad would set a timer for 15 minutes, and then I would recite each table. I also remember reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham while my dad listened close by and asked me questions to see if I understood what I had read.
My dad made homework fun, partly because he used the following tips from the U.S. Department of Education and Parents Magazine. As a parent or guardian of a school-aged child, try to incorporate these tips into your homework routine. If you don’t have a routine, use this list as a place to start.
- Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework.
Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions, such as people coming and going. Sometimes a change in scenery is needed. Something as simple as a special place to work can boost a child’s motivation and, in turn, his confidence.
- Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.
Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.
- Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.
Sometimes kids need a jump-start. Play Beat the Clock by making a game of homework. Set a timer for five minutes, shout “Go!” and have your child work as fast as she can until the timer goes off. At that point, she can take a short break or keep going.
Racing against a timer gives kids an external sense of urgency if they don’t have an internal one. Be sure that this is not an excuse for sloppy work; parents should check the work to ensure that this is not the case.
- Be positive about homework.
Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires.
- When your child does homework, you do homework.
Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read too. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook or undertake a similar math-related task.
- When your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers.
Giving answers means your child will not learn the material. Too much help teaches your child that when the going gets rough, someone will do the work for him or her. Little kids need instant feedback, so it’s okay for parents of young grade-school children to correct mistakes.
Compliment your child on how well he or she wrote letters or numbers. If you praise specific improvements, your little learner will become more inclined to try to do a good job the first time around.
- When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it.
Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that the school and home are a team. Follow the directions given by the teacher.
- If homework is meant to be done by your child alone, let them do it.
Too much parent involvement can prevent homework from having some positive effects. Homework is a great way for kids to develop independent, lifelong learning skills.
- Stay informed.
Talk with your child’s teacher. Make sure you know the purpose of homework and what your child’s class rules are.
- Help your child figure out what is hard homework and what is easy homework.
Have your child do the hard work first. This will mean she will be most alert when facing the biggest challenges. Easy material will seem to go fast when fatigue begins to set in.
- Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration.
Let your child take a short break if he is having trouble keeping his mind on an assignment.
- Reward progress in homework.
If your child has been successful in homework completion and is working hard, celebrate that success with a special event (e.g., pizza, a walk, a trip to the park) to reinforce the positive effort.
Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.