Lately it seems like we start receiving “parent” homework before the school year even gets properly underway. There’s the little packet of “to dos” handed out at registration. Then another packet of “Spotlight your Child” activities handed out at the teacher Meet ‘n Greet. And if you’re adventurous enough to attend Back to School night, you can bet you’ll pick up another packet of parent homework there too!
Then the school year really kicks off. Sometimes it can feel like we’re drowning in the very schedules we prayed for all summer long. While you’re scrambling to catch up on all the little craft assignments you couldn’t get around to before the first day, the real homework starts rolling in. All of a sudden you’re knee deep in giving help with homework from book reports to science projects, math problems and last minute “Mom! It’s my turn to be spotlighted in my class and I don’t have a cool poster yet!” activities.
Great, only two weeks in and we have a homework situation! Cue the obligatory bout of stinging “parent fail” self-deprecation.
At this point, it can be tempting to jump on Pinterest and see what other parents are doing to maintain the apparently well-oiled machinery of their school routines. But then, if you’re like most people, you’ll just get distracted by some homemade Halloween pumpkin character that would require degrees in engineering, graphic art and interior design to actually produce.
And now the time you’ve spent trying to find ideas for help with homework has actually left you with even less time to spend doing it. And that little homework “situation” has slowly escalated to more of a full scale cataclysm, complete with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (mostly yours)!
So how does one climb that mountain of academic tasks and remain on top of it all year long? Well, obviously Pinterest is not a great place to start when you’re already trying to dig your way out of an academic avalanche. Tips are better. So here are some helpful tips for staying on top of homework, no matter how many little people you have contributing to the pile.
1. Homework serves an important purpose. No, really!
Try to keep in mind that the true purpose of homework is first and foremost an opportunity for your child to learn specific skills or information. Most of the time they can do this alone. However, that learning can be enhanced to a level of mastery providing the environment is favorable to it. This means that it is your job as a parent to facilitate this learning, not to do the learning for them. Offering your child help with homework doesn’t really help them if you do it all for them.
Although it is important to help your children complete their homework correctly, it is also important to help them take the lead. Pull the pins out of those incredible Pinterest feats; they make it too tempting to hijack the task, which really defeats the purpose of homework. Step away from the blue prints, hand your child the glue gun (or the Elmer’s glue!) and give them full creative license. Your job here is to encourage (and maybe stifle a cringe or two).
2. Get to know the teacher
Depending on how you look at it, what is required on any given homework assignment can range from pretty basic to “you’re the parent other parents love to hate” over the top! Rather than risk missing the mark, ask the teacher what they actually expect.
Make it a point to attend back to school night and every parent teacher conference, so you can ask them directly what is expected for your child’s homework. Also, ask how involved you should be. This will help you to toe the line between helping your children be successful, doing their homework for them and, let’s face it, running the risk of having other children in the class feel like underachievers!
3. Help your child to set up a homework schedule
The idea here is to keep track of what homework is due, and when. Try to avoid doing this yourself. It’s better to help your child figure out how to do it without depending on you. Help your child to create a homework plan. This is a great opportunity to teach them about time management and realistic deadlines. Then help them to stick to it.
Creating a plan with your child’s help will make them feel involved and invested in the process. It also helps them take responsibility for completing tasks on time. This means they will be much more likely to stick to the plan, and since they work with their teacher directly, they will probably have a better understanding of the expectations.
4. Keep your involvement age appropriate
It should go without saying but, remember to work with your children at a level that recognizes their abilities and limitations. Younger children need more help performing their homework tasks, while older children might just need help staying on task!
A good homework schedule should include the following things:
- Specific Timeframes for Each Task. By being as specific as possible, and keeping expectations age appropriate, you will help your child to stay on task.
- Consequences for Positive and Negative Behavior. Try to enforce the idea that a homework task must be finished before your child can enjoy a reward such as play or TV. Other little rewards (like snacks) can also encourage them to stay on task until their homework is complete.
- Plenty of Time to Complete Assigned Work. Overwhelming your child with too much work in too little time will not help them. Be patient and give them the time they need to successfully complete their projects.
- Breaks. Watch your child for signs of frustration, boredom or fatigue and give them a break. Remember, they spend all day in school and need time to decompress.
- Physical Activity: Use breaks to do something physical like jumping jacks or jump rope. It’s a great opportunity to get blood flowing and use up some energy. It’s also a healthy alternative to screens and devices, and will get them back to the homework task faster, and in a less distracted state.
Homework is an important part of success at school, but it can also create stress and anxiety in the home, for both parents and students. Follow these tips to minimize that stress and help your child become much more successful at home and in the classroom.