With the end of summer rapidly approaching and back-to-school sales already winding down, it's time for the start of the school year. As parents, many of us are happy to have our kids back in school, but the benefits of having your kids out of the house from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. has its drawbacks, particularly the commencement of the dreaded nightly homework battle.
In preschool, your kid’s homework assignments are simple — maybe he had to find something with the letter D in your house and bring it to school. With slightly older kids, it’s a completely different story — an entire spelling list to memorize and six pages in his math book. (Sometimes it feels like it’s your homework!) So what can you do to ease back in successfully? Here are some tips from the experts:
Clear the clutter.
Just like adults, kids can’t do their work if their homework space is piled high with dishes, books or piles of paper. A designated homework spot should be clean, brightly lit, with all of the right tools (pencils, erasers, rulers, etc.) within reach and neatly organized. This doesn’t mean that your child needs to do his homework in the quiet of his room. On the contrary, kids will usually actually work better in a common space where parents are readily available to help with a question, as long as the common area doesn’t have too many distractions.
Designate a nightly homework hour.
Generally, it’s right after snack or dinner and before free time. During that homework hour, no one else in the family should be using electronics, including you. Try to stay off your phone and your tablet. During that hour, think of creating a library atmosphere for your kids — quiet but not silent. If one of your kids finishes her homework early, then she should use that time to read a magazine or book, because turning on the television or a video game will make the kids who are still working resentful.
Know your child’s limits.
As much as homework is a part of life, there are some schools that are choosing to ban it altogether because it can take up so much time in the evening of an overscheduled child who has already spent most of his day sitting in a chair. So if homework is taking hours for your child to complete, consider talking to his teacher about having his work modified. Or if it seems to be a school-wide issue, you can try talking to other parents and approaching the school leadership about lessening the workload for all students.
Instead of telling your child, “You need to sit down and get started on your homework,” offer a choice: “Do you want to start with your math homework or your English homework?” A choice offers the ability to make decisions in a structured way and also helps to build self-esteem. This works in other areas too, like choosing what to wear in the morning, or which of two healthy snacks kids can bring to school.
Let your child feel the consequences of his actions.
Too often, parents try to “save” their children from making mistakes. I have one friend who frantically fills in any answers in her daughter’s math workbook during breakfast. One of my favorite ecards gets right to the point: “Homework: The teacher’s way of knowing how smart the parent is.” As parents, we need to remember that homework is our children’s responsibility. If they refuse to complete it, or don’t study adequately for a test, then they will know firsthand the disappointment that goes along with it. Better now than in 15 years when she’s studying for the LSATs!
There are lots of stresses that come along with the start of the school year, but you can do your part to make sure homework isn’t one of them.