Homework doesn't have to involve a battle. Families shouldn't have to dread daily homework. Here are 6 tips to help alleviate homework frustration, and make homework time a more positive experience for both children and parents.
Timing Is Everything
Imagine spending a full day at work, only to come home and be forced to immediately begin working again. Our kids work hard at school, and need to be given time to decompress when they get home. Allow your child some time to play and relax after school.
After some designated playtime and a healthy afternoon snack, set aside a block of time that works with your family's schedule. Be as consistent as possible, allowing flexibility for evening activities when necessary.
Create an Environment for Learning
Minimize distractions during homework time by turning off the TV and limiting phone calls. Choose a communal space where the family can work together -- and where adults can be available for assistance.
Set an example by allowing your children to see YOU reading or working during this time. Honor any "no screen during homework" rules your family might have in place. If everyone in the house is going "screen free," your children will be less likely to feel as though they are missing out by having to complete their homework. Pick up a book or catch up on work as your children study. Your example can set your kids on the path towards life-long learning.
Focused seatwork is a challenge for many children. Providing short breaks can help alleviate frustration, adjust attitudes, and allow your kids to revisit more challenging problems or papers with fresh eyes.
Work with your children's abilities. Set goals that are reasonable for their age levels and unique learning needs. If your children cannot focus for 15 minutes, have them work for 10, and then allow a small break.
Be available to help without hovering. Allow your children space, and let them dictate when/if they need/want assistance. Be present without being over-involved.
While often well intentioned, hovering can be interpreted as a lack of faith in the children and in their abilities. Your children need to know you believe in them.
Point out what your kids are doing well! Be quick to mention their improvements and slow to remark on their mistakes. A word of encouragement is far more motivating than a negative comment.
Remember that homework for elementary school students is typically about responsibility and practice. Homework is a way for students to work on developing skills. In many cases, perfection is not expected. Mistakes let teachers know what skills and subject areas need more classroom instruction.
When your child is really struggling with a new concept, reach out to the teacher. Attach a note to your child's homework letting the teacher know your child had a lot of difficulty completing a certain section, or that he/she isn't comprehending how to do XYZ. While not all teachers will respond or take action, some will. If asked, some teachers are willing to give parents tips or tools to better understand the homework personally or offer additional help or support for the student at school.