Back-to-school means the return of the dreaded “h-word”: homework. Don’t worry, though — we’ve got three “s words” to help you through it (and no, it doesn’t include the one that immediately comes to mind).
For Homework tips to make the process more efficient and less painful, try using the three S’s: schedule, space, and support.
Schedule – How to create a homework schedule
It’s helpful to establish good habits and a regular homework routine right from the start. You know your child best, so customize the timing by asking the following questions:
- Are they best suited to tackle their work right after school, before they get caught up in their free time activities? For example, once they get rolling on something fun, will it be a huge battle to transition them back into a school mindset?
- Would they benefit from a bit of time to decompress and regroup first? Maybe they need to refuel with a healthy snack or chat for a few minutes to resolve any worries from the school day.
- Since dinner is a regular part of the evening, could the homework routine be structured around that? Could schoolwork be completed while dinner is being prepared or immediately after eating?
- How can you effectively allocate homework time around extra-curricular commitments, such as music lessons, activities or sports?
Whatever time slot you choose, focus on quality, not quantity. Encourage your child to mentally lock into the “homework zone” and give a solid effort for an age-appropriate amount of time. Fifteen focused minutes are far better than an hour of moping and complaining. Identify your child’s learning style and try the corresponding strategies to keep them engaged.
As with any task, leaving it to the last minute is guaranteed to cause unwanted panic and stress. Conduct a daily “backpack check” where you and your child unpack everything (water bottle, lunch container, library books, permission forms, planner/agenda, homework pages, etc.) and identify any time-sensitive items. Be diligent about repeating tasks, like a weekly reading log submitted on Fridays.
Space – Creating a designated homework space
If possible, designate a workspace or “homework station” for your child (Today’s Parent has some tips to get you started).
Pre-stock the work area with all the necessary supplies: paper, pencils, highlighters, headphones, a calculator, and so on. This bypasses the need to get up and root around to find “the perfect pencil” (or whatever other delay tactic they can invent).
Location is an essential factor, as you want to limit distractions, interruptions and background noise as much as possible. Older students may be able to work independently in a separate room, while younger kids may need more support and monitoring.
Speaking of monitors, today’s homework may reside on a computer rather than an old-fashioned piece of paper. The problem is kids mainly associate electronic devices with recreational functions like games, cartoons, video clips and internet surfing. It is extremely tempting for them to click out of their fill-in-the-blanks social studies slides and open something far more entertaining.
Here are a few strategies to teach screen time management:
- Set a timer to designate a certain number of minutes as “school screen time” only. If the work is completed correctly in the allotted time frame, another timer will be set with a reward of “recreational screen time.”
- Consider having designated locations for the two different purposes — for example, sitting at the kitchen table with the laptop to complete their science questions, then moving to the couch to watch an episode of their favourite show.
- If you’re concerned that your child is spending time on other websites during homework time, privately check the device’s browser history.
- Set up your child’s device in a common area of the house, with your child’s back turned and the screen facing toward you, so you have a clear sightline as you walk by or perform other tasks.
Support – Provide support with homework when needed
Many free online resources help kids (and parents!) navigate subject-specific homework. We’ve got a helpful round-up of them to save you some time. As your child learns how to use a search engine, guide them towards reputable sources, such as well-known news publications, magazines, encyclopedias, or universities.
The best source of information, however, is your child’s teacher. At the start of the year, add his or her contact information to your phone. Reach out if you have questions about homework expectations, especially if your child has specific needs or accommodations.
Many teachers now use a virtual learning platform or online classroom to post homework and updates. Here are some tips to avoid technical glitches:
- Bookmark the site and write your child’s login and password information on a sticky note displayed in a prominent spot. That way, even babysitters or caregivers can get access if needed.
- For major assignments, don’t take your child’s word for it — visit the site yourself and view the teacher’s instructions. From there, you’ll be better equipped to help your child break the project down into phases (research, note-taking, rough copy, good copy, etc.).
- Take note of important due dates or upcoming tests and add them to the family calendar.
- If your household experiences a technology problem — for example, an internet outage or an unexpectedly empty printer ink cartridge — send an apologetic note with your child the next day or contact the teacher directly.
Overall, try to stay positive and patient yourself. Homework can be frustrating and annoying to kids, so parents need to provide calm encouragement. Avoid speaking negatively about the teacher or the assignment. If you and your child feel overwhelmed, take a short break and return to it with your full attention, rather than trying to multi-task.
Homework doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Set realistic expectations and keep an open mind — especially when presented with an unfamiliar new way of solving or “modeling” a math equation. In those situations, you and your child are both learning something!
For more School Tips check out our back-to-school hub!