-by Karen Davis and Susan Kruger
Say the word to a student, and it’s synonymous with torture.
Say the word to a parent, and it often spells b-a-t-t-l-e-g-r-o-u-n-d.
As a parent, you know just how much energy homework can drain from your child (to put it lightly) and from you!
But is there a helpful way to get homework accomplished?
The start of a new year is the perfect time to establish new routines to improve the process of doing homework.
Ask yourself this question: “If I could improve one thing about homework, what would it be?” Got your answer?
The first answer that comes to mind is probably, “Get rid of it!” Honestly, as a teacher that might be my first response, too. However, well thought-out homework assignments actually do serve beneficial purposes. So let’s try again…
After working with students for many years, some common complaints I hear include:
- “It takes so long to do my homework assignments!”
- “I keep losing assignments.”
- “My parents get on me for procrastinating till the last minute.”
- “Homework causes so much conflict at my house!”
Now that we recognize some problems, let’s create solutions!
Ironically, one of the most valuable purposes of homework is to learn to solve problems…and problems are inherent to homework. In almost every situation, a “recurring problem” can be solved by creating a system. The best solutions are simple, easy-to-follow homework systems. A homework system is simply a routine that helps you develop effective study habits that really work.
Here are some quick examples of effective “homework systems”:
- Distractions are the #1 reason homework takes a long time. The solution is obvious—take away distractions, e.g. the cell phone and other electronic distractions. Don’t want to be the bad guy? Believe it or not, students often share with me how much they appreciate when their parents do this. Oh, they may mutiny at first, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize how much more they get accomplished. Secondly, have your student set a timer for the amount of time they think an assignment should take, then challenge themselves to beat the timer. Not only does this help to focus on their work, but it also turns homework time into a competitive game!
- If losing assignments is your issue, reduce the number of notebooks and folders your child has to manage. I have students streamline all folders into one, 1” binder. Then, “Take 10” every time they sit down to do homework—2 minutes to put all loose papers into their correct folders, plus 8 minutes to review handouts or notes from the day.
- If your child is a victim of “Last Minute Panic Attack,” start having weekly family meetings (Sunday dinnertime often works well). Everyone discusses their schedules for the upcoming week (including parents): activity schedules, upcoming tests/projects, etc. This system works wonders because it encourages everyone to be proactive and cooperative in planning ahead together.
- To help eliminate conflicts, follow steps 1-3. They will eliminate at least 80% of your homework blues.
These suggestions are only examples, but they illustrate the concept of developing systems to help solve common homework problems.
Tip for Parents: Whenever possible, involve your children in brainstorming solutions. Children of all ages usually have honest and insightful ideas, especially when they feel like their input is taken seriously. The more input they have in identifying reasonable solutions, the more willing they will be to participate.
Finally, test your system. Be patient. It may take 2-4 weeks for a new homework system to settle into a routine. Be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
May Homework Hour become Happy Hour in your home this new year!
Karen Davis is the Director of Above Grade Level In-Home Tutoring service of Delaware Valley