Wednesday, September 7, 2011

10 Homework Strategies

It's that time of year again. Some of us are excited to have the kids back in school and are ready to get back into a routine, while others of us are silently mourning the loss of another summer. Whether we are ready for it or not however, school is back in session. Here are 10 great homework strategies to help your kids get back into the swing of things.

1. Location, Location, Location. It's as true for homework as it is for real estate. Have a good homework place set up in the home: a place that's free of distractions (NO TV), lots of room to spread out and has everything needed handy - ie: pencils, pens, paper, crayons, calculators, paper.... you get the idea.

2. Remove Distractions. Not only should homework not be done in front of the TV, but other distractions should be removed as well. I have had to tell my daughter numerous times in the past, "You would get your homework done a lot faster if you didn't have to stop every two minutes to read/send a text". Have a gadget free zone: no TV, cell phones, video games, YouTube, or i-pads. The more distractions you remove, the faster and more efficient homework will get done, and more retention will be achieved.

3. Set An Example. If you have time, rearrange your schedule so that all your desk work can be done during homework time. I always used that time, when my kids were little, to pay bills, organize work, and write letters. Whatever desk work needed to be done, I did it while my kids were doing homework so that we were "working" together. It helped them focus easier and I was there in case they needed some help with a problem.

4. Time Is Important! Most kids these days are too crazy busy. clubs, sports, private lessons, church groups..... we put too much on our kids plates. And let me tell you, graduating from school is a lot harder today than it was when I was in school. Requirements are higher and classes are harder. Calculus and Statistics in High School? Not only are kids trying to squeeze in all of the aforementioned activities, they are trying to do it amongst AP and college level classes. Make sure they have time. 

Let me repeat: DO NOT OVERBOOK YOUR CHILD'S SCHEDULE! We always told our kids "Pick one." One extra activity at a time. We usually let them have one musical thing and one active thing. That was it. It is for your sanity and theirs. Down time is just as important, and kids really need it. They will also need the extra time to study when a test or big project is coming due. If their mind is relaxed and uncrammed they will have a much easier time focusing on the task at hand.

5. Know Deadlines. We have all been there before. Our kid comes to us on Thursday evening in a panic. The science fair is tomorrow and they don't have a project to present. WTF!!!!! Are you kidding me!? Get a planner and know deadlines. Help your child understand the importance of pacing themselves when a project is due so that you don't have to scramble and panic last minute. Work out a plan for the assignment and have mini-deadlines to take the pressure off the final one.

6. Know When to Help and When to Wait. Jess was always quick to ask for help during our homework years. I kind of adapted a little trick when she asked for help: I would always say "Okay, just give me a minute to finish up what I'm doing and I'll take a look". What this accomplished was giving her time. More often than not she had it figured out by the time I looked over to see what she needed, and if not then she really did need my help. Don't be super quick to help with every problem your child asks for. Let them try to figure it out on their own, and if help is needed give as little as possible. Guide them in the right direction, but do not do the problem for them.

7. Tackle the Hard Stuff First. Just get it out of the way. It's like ripping the band aid off in one quick jerk. Have your child asses the homework for the night. Do the hardest first and work down to the easy stuff. Once the hard stuff has been tackled the easy stuff will seem like kids' stuff and will be much easier to concentrate on when fatigue starts to set in.

8. Watch for Fatigue and/or Frustration. There have been times in my children's lives where I have finally said to them, "You have done enough. Put the homework down and go do something else for a while". Our kids have WAY more homework than I ever had. They are coming home with homework in Kindergarten for crying out loud. In Jr. High and High School they have 6-7 teachers who all think their class is the most important. Each of those teachers thinks that 30-60 minutes of homework is easy and not that time consuming. In and of itself it's not, 30-60 minutes is more than reasonable: however, when you times that by 6 all of the sudden you have 3-6 hours of homework! This doesn't happen very often, but on occasion it has. Or, you end up with the two classes, two major projects due, scenario. Not fun. Keep your kids sane and make them take a break when you see it is needed.

9. Homework Time Should Be Early In The Day. A break is important when first home from school, but it shouldn't be too long of a break: let the kidos get a snack, watch a little TV and unwind. Homework time should be earlier rather than later however. It's like exercise - you don't want to exercise right before you climb into bed, and you don't want to be doing homework then either. The earlier homework gets done, the less there is hanging over everyone's head the rest of the day. Plus, if something ends up being more time consuming than originally planned, the time is there and you child is not panicked passed the time heads should have hit the pillows.

10. Get a Snack All Set Up BEFORE Starting On Homework. No excuses now ;o) There is a space, supplies, time set aside and a wonderful snack and beverage all laid out in perfect sequence. Dig in and get'er done.

picture taken by Mwesigwa

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