This is the time of year when children's homework becomes part of the afternoon and evening family-time agenda during the week.
Parents work all day, the kids are in school all day, and we all are grateful when we get together at the end of the day and spend some time together over the dinner table and maybe watching a movie or TV show on the sofa. But that darned homework tends to mess things up and makes family time a bit of a chore.
Thus the "work" in homework, no?
There are some things you can do as parents to keep homework from being such a challenge for you and for your kids. One of the biggest things is to come up with a plan and follow-through on that plan every step of the way.
- Know the teacher's goal. Is the homework meant to reinforce lessons covered in class, or is it just "busy work"? How much weight does the homework grade have in the overall mark? If the child is smart, will s/he need to do the entire lesson? Are there extra-credit opportunities? Does incomplete work get graded, or does it have to be completed to be eligible for a grade? Knowing this ahead of time will give you and your kid(s) a basis to work from to ensure the work gets done as it should for success in the class.
- Make the child responsible. Lay out ground rules for homework, including times you are available for help and a timeframe to get the work done, then leave the student to work out his own time management skills to get the work done. And resist the urge to help them fix answers that you know are wrong. Let them get the grade they deserve from them knowing the lesson and not from having parents who cover for them.
- Time of the essence. Don't let your kids delay bedtime because they're not done with homework. Give them a time limit, but also be sensitive to giving them a chance to take a quick break if they have an intensive amount. If there is two hours' worth of homework, give them 2 1/2 or three hours to complete it and allow them to take a quick break for five or 10 minutes to rest their eyes and brain between assignments.
- Help them struggle. We don't mean sit back and watch it happen; this is part of the responsibility part mentioned above. In the early years it's especially helpful for kids to actually learn the effects of not getting homework done or doing a subpar job. Rather than being picky about everything on homework; as a parent, instead pick one thing each night - like punctuation or legible writing - so you don't run your kid down with criticism about every aspect of the homework. Enforce the time limit and let them feel a sense of failure that could have been controlled. See if it changes what they do about homework. If it doesn't change, then intervene and find out why.
- Get a neutral perspective. if it seems your kid struggles with the homework or takes longer than it should take, find some other outside person (like a kid who is three or four years older, or a tutor) to sit down with your kid and help you determine if there is a learning problem or if it's just the environment in which he works. Do some trial and error to see what works best for your child so he is in the best position to succeed and do his best work.