Create a Stress Free Homework Time

Stress free Homework

It’s back to school time again, and most schools in Cobb County are already starting their second week of school. Kids have had time to settle into school routines and gain understanding of classroom expectations. Many teachers that didn’t start giving homework during the first week of school, are planning to start giving nightly homework. For a lot of our readers with school-aged kids, that last sentence creates anxiety and will make you cringe. But homework time doesn’t have to be a battle in your home. What if I told you that if you follow 4 easy steps, your homework battles are over. No more suiting up with armor to stand at the kitchen table while your child fights it out with you over school work.

Set time limits

Set a timer for a break when you come home from school.  Give your child some down time before having them complete homework.  If possible, some physical activity, to get the heart pumping, is ideal prior to sitting down to complete academic paper and pencil tasks.  When exercise makes the heart pump more, the brain gets additional blood flow, helping the person to be more alert and focused. Balance is important, so be sure to start and complete homework prior to dinner time if possible, so the child isn’t too tired to finish assignments that are due the next day.

 

Communicate

Communicate with your child’s teacher from the start of the school year.  Relay any concerns to about homework time to the teacher, particularly if homework time has been a struggle in the past at your house.  Most teachers are open to alternative assignments, or can give you tips that align with their homework and class expectations.

Encourage

Encourage your child when he or she seems frustrated.  Remind them of tools or notes they may be able to use, or point them in the direction of resources.  Have healthy snacks and peppermints available during homework time. Peppermint is proven to stimulate the brain when studying.  Additionally, have a quiet and cheerful space for homework, with limited distractions. Whether it’s a special spot in the kitchen, playroom, or even in the bedroom, provide a comfortable area that isn’t full of temptations to make completing assignments easier, with less redirection needed.

Provide Incentive

Students may get homework completion grades, or even receive grades on homework assignments.  At home, you can provide incentive for your child for creating good habits and having a positive attitude.  Some ideas you can reward your child for are: demonstrating a positive attitude, persisting when things get tough, advocating for self / asking for help when needed, using tools and resources that are available.  For instance, place a marble in a jar each time your child demonstrates one of these.  When the marble jar is filled, take the family out for ice cream to celebrate, or take your child to a movie of their choice. 

When Your Child Encounters Roadblocks

Reading

There are great benefits to having frequent exposure to literature. Whether students are reading to themselves, reading out loud, listening to others read, or listening to recordings, the experience with books can create a love for literature.

Struggling readers or children that demonstrate difficulty attending to a task requiring sustained focus, tend to get tired quickly when reading, especially when reading to themselves.  The process of reading is more challenging, making the brain work harder, and causing mental exhaustion.

A few tips for a students that have difficulty with reading homework:

  • If the student has a choice of books to read, provide book choices that they are easily able to decode and on their reading level.  The child will feel successful, and this will free up brain space to better comprehend the text.
  • When the text is assigned, and the child is having difficulty, try partner reading or text to speech programs.

o  Partner reading-  Read a paragraph, then alternate with your child.  In between paragraphs, and prior to switching, ask your child about what the story is about to check in for understanding.

o  Text to speech- There are several text to speech programs available online.  Some are paid, and some are free. Check out audible.com for books.  If you use this accomodation frequently, check with your child’s school about services that they can provide, including access to online text to speech libraries.

 

Three easy guiding questions to check for understanding

How does the character in this part feel?

Where does this story take place?

What do you think will happen next?

Math

Fact Fluency- Rather than typical flashcards, check out online games to practice math facts. www.multiplication.com, www.coolmath.com, and www.mathplayground.com are all free websites that have options to practice facts

If you don’t want to incorporate online games or screens, you can create easy homemade games with index cards. For instance, play Go Fish with the problem and solutions of math problems to make a pair.

Homework: Is It Really What’s Best?

As someone with an extensive background in education, particularly of those with learning differences, I have done a considerable amount of research on the benefits of homework for young children.  Despite popular belief, the current research shows that homework provides no benefit to elementary and middle school aged students. At a high school age, students may benefit from some homework, particularly in math, but after a two hour period, there is a decrease in effectiveness.

 

Elementary and middle school aged students gain more experience with essential life skills through play, time outdoors, and quality conversation with family and friends.  Rather than spending two hours doing homework by themselves at a table, or trying to memorize facts for a test using short term memory, students should play outside with neighbors, dig in the dirt, and sit down for dinner with family.

All of that being said

It’s not practical in today’s society, especially in public schools, to not give homework.  Teachers feel pressured to give homework and are required to teach skills and standards, quite often running out of time to do so. This results in assignments coming home for practice that students may not be ready to independently complete, needing more time with the content or skill at hand.

There is nothing wrong with teaching students responsibility, independence, and time management.  You can teach these skills through modeling and setting routines and expectations at home, and homework is the perfect opportunity for this.  Self advocacy is one of the most important skills you can teach a child. Children that learn to advocate for themselves early, are more likely to be successful, especially in high school and college.  Self advocates are independent and don’t mind speaking up when they need something. When learned as a skill early, this becomes second nature over time, creating confidence and self esteem. A term you can use early with children to build self advocacy is to “ask for what you need”.

Parent Guidelines for Homework

Stop the child from completing the assignment or activity if:
  • Child can’t complete independently- write a note to the classroom teacher noting this, and ask for an alternative assignment that can be completed independently
  • Student is visibly frustrated: acting sad, beat down, crying, angry, etc.
  • You and the child are both unclear of the assignment
When and how to help:
  • When to help – The child looks frustrated, has stopped working, is distracted and trying to find other things to do, is not engaged in the activity or assignment.
  • How to help- redirect the child, ask if they have any questions, prompt them to look to notes or tools in their binder to help them
What not to do:
  • Provide answers
  • Tell your child they should or should not know something
  • Speak badly of the school, teacher, or other students that your child encounters. Keep your views neutral to your child.  If you’re unhappy with the school or your child’s teacher and need to vent, use a spouse, family member, or friend as a sounding board when your child isn’t present.

Don’t be afraid to give feedback to your child’s teacher.  Start off the year with an open line of communication about homework.  If homework is often a challenge at your house, be up front with your child’s teacher.  Most teachers are open to concerns, especially when approached ahead of time, and willing to make accommodations or brainstorm alternative assignments or plans.

Good luck this school year! We hope homework and afternoon activities go smoothly and you enjoy some time with your family.

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