Homework can be a stressful time of night for parents and children alike. After a long day day of school and work, homework can seem unbearable. However, homework is a necessary part of the learning journey. So here are some tips that hopefully make the school night homework routine a little smoother for your home.
Be prepared. Having the supplies that you need, all in the same place is a life-saver. Look at your child’s school supply list and buy a second set of supplies for your house. Having what you need on hand will save you time and effort so you don’t have to spend 20 minutes looking for a pair of scissors or colored pencils.
Be organized. Keep school supplies in one place. If your child has a desk, that is the perfect place to stock the gear. If your child doesn’t have a desk, consider buying a caddy for each child and keeping their school supplies organized in the caddy. The caddy can travel to wherever they are working on their homework - the kitchen table or a any other work area.
Set a time and a place. Everyone does better with a routine. So, set a schedule for your child. Take into account their personality and schedule. If age-appropriate, involve them in the conversation. Does your child focus best right when they get home from school or do they need some time to unwind and then get to their homework. Try and be as consistent as possible with the time and place that your child does their homework. Soon enough, homework will be part of the nightly routine.
Talk about expectations. Homework is practice. However, all parents have heard their children say, “I don’t know how to do this!” So, review with your child that homework is practice; it is something that they learned for the first time in school. However, that doesn’t mean that the work is easy. For younger children, the expectation might be that you sit down and work on homework together. As your child ages, you might sit down and get them started, but then let them finish working on their own. For even older children, you might just be near them during homework time in case questions arise. Let you child know that you can help with homework, but that completion of the work is their responsibility.
Use a planner. Even very young children can use a planner. As soon as you can, start to teach the skill of using a planner. This will help you and will decrease frustration at homework time. Have your child write down their assignments and check them off when they are complete. As children get into upper grades, have them write down the supplies that they will need as well. Being more organized will help to cut down on the frustration surrounding homework time.
Have a plan. Sometimes life does not go as planned. So, if there are nights that you can’t keep to the routine, have a Plan B. Maybe homework has to get done prior to sports practice or maybe you will tackle homework after a special event. Whatever arises, make sure to have a plan in place when you need to change things around.
Talk to the teacher. Sometimes, homework can just be too much. If your child is struggling nightly with homework and these suggestions have not helped, have a conversation with your child’s teacher. Perhaps there is some reason that your child is struggling and the teacher might have some insight. Maybe your child has a hard time writing down the assignments, is unorganized, or is struggling with a particular unit. If nightly battles are occurring, set aside some time to talk to the teacher and other school support staff about some strategies for homework. Sometimes, working together is the key that will change around homework time for the better.
Tracy Christman is a psychologist with Milwaukee Public Schools and the mom of two boys.