Parental Expectations and the Homework Nook
Homework is a daily ritual for most of us with school-aged children, and it's a task that must be done around extra curricular activities and dinner. There are two factors that positively influence the homework experience: clear parental expectations and a defined and organized homework space.
Communicating expectations to your children about homework gives them parameters within which they need to work. It does not mean being overly strict. Clear expectations define how and when you want them to do their homework. Remember, children strive to live up to what you expect of them. Because of this fact, it is important to set goals that are attainable: not too easy and not too difficult.
What kinds of expectations are we talking about when it comes to homework? Most importantly, choose a specific time for homework and stick to it. Be sure to give them some down time after school. (They need breaks too!) But when it's homework time, they are to do the homework. No protests allowed! There is also no TV, no phones, and no fooling around. Insist that they keep their schoolwork organized; if this is a challenge, work with them and show them how. Tell them you expect them to do their best work in a neat manner.
If homework is an activity that takes your child a very long time to do, it is important to find out why. It is usually one of two possible reasons. The first reason is that your child is dreading the work and doesn't want to do it. If this is the case, procrastination will take over and become a very real obstacle. Nip it in the bud by giving your learner some time management tips. For example, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and have him work until the timer rings. He'll be surprised by how much he can accomplish in that timeframe. Tell him to take a short break (get a drink or walk around a bit). Then it's back to the timer and homework. Continue working in this manner until the homework is completed.
The second reason for homework taking too long is a little more complicated. If your learner is taking a long time to complete a small amount of homework, he may not understand the skill. Homework should be extra practice of a skill that was presented in a lesson. Demonstrate some strategies for solving the problem and spend time together working through it. Attempt to lead your child to the answer instead of just giving it. Often, this will be enough to get your child back on track. If not, take notes about what is confusing him and contact his teacher. Discuss what strategies you can both use to help your child understand the skill more completely.
Another important piece of at-home learning success is what I like to call the Homework Nook. The Homework Nook is a clearly defined place in the home that is devoid of distractions and reserved for homework. It can be the kitchen table, a desk in your family room or a card table you set up near a window. It is the same place they'll do their homework day after day. If the space you choose is near a TV, then I recommend that the TV stay off during homework time.
A fun activity to do together with your child is to stock your Homework Nook with supplies. You may want to go to the store and purchase an inexpensive basket or set of plastic drawers. Discuss what supplies might be helpful to have readily available and place them in your basket or drawers. You may want to give your child the ability to pick a special supply (a colorful pen, a cup of paperclips, or a decorative pencil cup, for example) that is his only, and that he will keep in the Homework Nook.
Above all else, try to be consistent with homework rules and going through your child's backpack after school every day to check class work, assignments, and teacher notes. Show your youngster that you care about their work and want to help. Parent involvement makes all the difference!