7 Things to Do Before Reading (and Any Other) Homework

Sidestep some of the challenges that you and your child might face by creating a more homework-friendly environment.

By Scholastic Parents Staff
Dec 29, 2023



7 Things to Do Before Reading (and Any Other) Homework

Dec 29, 2023

Creating a homework-friendly home is a great way to sidestep some of the big obstacles you and your children face with homework.

Whatever subject they're working on, make sure your child is relaxed and has had the opportunity to unwind after a full school day before jumping into taking care of their schoolwork. Whether they take the time to play, read independently or together with you for a read-aloud, giving your child the time they need before they sit down to practice their skills will benefit them in the long run.

Michele Myers, PhD, is an assistant professor in Elementary Literacy Education at Wake Forest University and president of Literacies and Languages for ALL (LLA). She is also the author of The Educator's Guide to Building Child & Family Resilience and Revolutionary Love: Creating a Culturally Inclusive Literacy.  

Here are a few tips Myers recommends to get started developing a homework-friendly environment:

1. Create a Realistic Work-Life Balance

Just like anyone else, children need breaks between work periods in order to put in their best efforts.

"Finding the balance between work and play is essential for a child’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being," says Myers. "After a long day at school and before tackling homework, children should have some time (30 minutes to one hour) to decompress."

Encourage your child to get some fresh air and exercise outside, if possible. Let them choose their activities, like riding their bicycle, playing a sport at the park, or taking a walk. Alternatively, your child could do relaxing indoor activities, like painting, journaling, or reading a book for fun (try these series and read-alouds).

2. Set Aside Space and Time for Homework

"Having a designated space and time for homework will encourage children to work expeditiously to accomplish the task," says Myers. "This space may be a communal area such as the kitchen table, or if your child works better in solitude and needs fewer distractions, it could be at a desk in their room or in a corner."

Don't feel pressured to make the homework space fancy. The important thing is for your child to be able to find the homework that needs to be done easily when it's time to get to work. Plus, it's helpful for everyone for your child to have a set spot for their school supplies.

"Equipping the space with all the supplies and materials that your child will need will help them avoid wasting time searching for the materials they need to complete their work. Making this a routine will help them learn what is expected and they will be less likely to procrastinate," Myers says. 

Choose a time for homework that works well with your family's routine and schedule. "The designated time for homework could be before or after dinner," says Myers. 

3. Prioritize Achievable Goals

Setting realistic goals will help encourage your child to try their best and practice what they've learned, no matter the subject. This is doubly helpful for long-term or bigger projects that require more time investment.

"When children have a big project or assignment to complete, it is helpful for them to learn how to break the task into smaller more manageable parts," says Myers. "They will benefit from learning how to make a to-do list with deadlines. This should be posted in a prominent area in your home to serve as a reminder for you and your child."

Writing out a plan for their work will help them develop crucial skills. "This will help them learn how to manage their time effectively, maintain focus on the task, and persist through challenges that might occur," says Myers. As your child completes tasks on their list, they can check them off. 

4. Clear Your Schedule to Help if Possible

Make yourself available when they are doing their homework. You may need to be right there next to your child helping — or nearby in case an issue pops up.

"We all need help from time to time but may find it hard to ask," says Myers. "We struggle to reach out for help when we need it because we underestimate others' willingness to assist, we feel that we are a bother, or we may feel that it signals our incompetence. Children learn this at an early age; however, if children are taught that it is perfectly okay to ask for help when needed, they are learning an important prosocial behavior."

Check in periodically to make sure your child doesn't require any assistance. This will encourage them to reach out if and when they need to. "When children ask for help with homework and others willingly assist, children learn emotional closeness and trust by working toward a shared goal," explains Myers.

5. Encourage Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is your child's belief in their ability to accomplish their goals and succeed in challenging situations. Help build up their confidence by gently encouraging them to try more challenging homework problems on their own before asking for help.

"When children have a strong sense of self, they show up in the world as confident, capable individuals," says Myers. "As a parent, your role here is to monitor, motivate, and help children to manage their homework. Only assist when needed."

With routine practice in overcoming homework challenges, your child will grow confident in their own abilities and develop crucial problem-solving skills that will help them for years to come.

6. Stay Calm So Your Child Will Too

If your child has hit a roadblock, address it together as a team. Aim to show that solving a problem can be satisfying. While allowing them to express their frustration is also necessary, staying cool and collected will give your child space to express themselves and then calm their emotions to be able to look at the problem from a different perspective.

You could even encourage your child to take a little brain break for five to 10 minutes to move around, stretch, or otherwise clear their mind so that they can try again with a refreshed outlook. 

7. Incorporate Flexible Thinking

Flexible thinking means being able to translate learned information from one context to another where applicable. It is also having the awareness that there can be multiple ways to solve a problem. 

"Children who can think flexibly are more productive," says Myers. "They are more creative and are more open to learning new things. They are not easily stressed by setbacks. Flexible thinking is an adaptive skill that helps children mentally, emotionally, and academically, and it helps them understand how to manage challenging circumstances." 

For example, when practicing or explaining mathematical concepts, you can show your child that there are several ways to solve math questions. Similarly, you can explore different ways to interpret a reading passage, explain various accounts of a historical event, and showcase the many ways to draw scientific conclusions through observation. 

No matter what challenges your child runs into while doing homework, using the above tips will help set them up for success and grow their confidence.

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