Melissa Rich and Suzanne Wood of Raleigh Tutoring weigh in with some helpful homework tips that help keep meltdowns far away from the dinner table!
If you’re a parent of a school-aged child, you’re probably no stranger to homework drama. Some kids balk at having to pause play time to sit down for more school. Others are more willing, but need lots of help from Mom or Dad. Then there are the kids, usually older, who wait until the last minute to do homework only to find they don’t have the right materials or underestimated how much time they need.
While homework hassles vary according to a child’s grade, temperament, and school, almost all affect the dinner hour in some way. Helping a kid with long division or running out to Target for posterboard can leave less time to prepare dinner. With older kids and teens, dinner may have to be scheduled around after-school activities and homework, resulting in some not very appetizing early or late meal times.
Here are some parent-tested, teacher-approved tips to help reduce homework-related stress in your home:
Plan ahead: Rejoice if your child is among the many elementary-age students who brings home all or most of their homework in a Monday folder filled with four days of assignments due by the end of the week. This way, if you know Emma has piano on Wednesday and Billy’s scout meeting is Thursday, you can make sure they get the week’s homework done by Tuesday. Fortify your kids for these extra-long sessions by ensuring that they’ve had a light snack. For those of you with middle and high school kids, most teachers have websites where they post procedures, expectations, assignments, and grades. Bookmark these pages on your home computer, so they are easily accessible for you and your young adult. Teach your child to use a paper or smart calendar to plan ahead.
Hover, don’t help: The whole point of homework is to give children the opportunity to independently practice skills they learn in school. The urge to help our kids is strong, but try to resist it. Limit your involvement to answering quick questions about an assignment’s instructions and checking to make sure all the work gets done. If your child has to ask for help to actually do the work, don’t step in and do it for them. Teachers need to know if students are not mastering material on their own. If struggling with homework becomes a pattern, check in with your child’s teacher and ask for support. Homework shouldn’t be so hard that it requires a parent’s constant hand-holding.
Encourage routines: Designate a regular homework spot. Depending on your child’s age and level of independence, this could be the kitchen or dining room table, a desk in the family room or even a desk in their room. Working at the same place every afternoon or evening helps reinforce good study habits, as does sitting down to homework at roughly the same time everyday. It doesn’t have to be right after school--some kids have extracurriculars or just need time to blow off some steam. But unless your kids are in high school, homework should be done well before bedtime to minimize everyone’s stress.
Stock up: Nothing disrupts family harmony more than learning at 7 p.m. that you’re all out of gluesticks--and your kid needs one stat. Store school supplies in a cabinet in the homework area or in a portable caddy and go through them once a week--say before you do your weekend shopping--to note which supplies need replenishing. To help you keep track of what your child needs, keep the list their teacher supplied at the beginning of the year in or near your storage space.
Let’s face it: Kids may never find homework fun. But it needn’t be a dinner-spoiler, either.
Melissa Rich owns Raleigh Tutoring, which specializes in a variety of education-related issues and test prep...so your kid can go to Harvard, which is undeniably the best college :)