March is busy for us, what with the school science fair, both kids' birthdays, and family gatherings for Passover. And of course there is the reality of the volume of third and fourth grade nightly homework. Because kids need to learn to be responsible for their homework (and manage their time in the bigger picture of event and activities), we've been working on tactics to help our kids stay on track while we stay largely hands off. Here are 8 tips for helping your kids develop homework routines:
1. Start with physical activity. After a largely sedentary school day + a bus ride home, it's no surprise kids need physical activity before they settle down to work. I encourage my kids to get in at least 15 minutes (or more if the schedule affords) of outdoor play before they start homework.
2. Designate a homework station. Designating a specific place for doing homework is great for organization: my kids don't sleep on their math papers anymore! Stocking the station with fun office supplies can encourage kids' interest in working there.
3. Keep an academic planner at home. My kids misplace the planners given at school, so we have a planner that lives at the homework station. When they bring home an assignment, I remind them to enter the due date in the planner (ultimate goal being that they do this themselves).
4. Review the week in advance. Some teachers assign weekly packets of homework instead of daily assignments. Help kids get in the habit of budgeting their time by reviewing the week with them. For example, if they have afterschool or evening activities on Mondays and Wednesdays, they need to plan for extra homework time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
5. Use a timer to break up sessions. If your child struggles with focusing for longer periods of time, use a timer to break up homework sessions. For example, we like to alternate 12 minutes of work with 12 minutes of play (physical play or crafts, not screen time). Conquering these small chunks of time can be very motivating.
6. Be aware that everyone works differently. Some kids can focus for long stretches of times, others need frequent breaks. Some like to do their work alone, others like company. I let my kids stand, chew gum, put on music...whatever it takes as long as they get the job done and don't distract each other.
7. Think of homework as learning moments for all parties. When you're trying to catch up on your own work or get dinner on the table, homework interruptions can seem annoying. I try to look at these moments as an opportunity to learn something about my kids. What's easy or hard for him? How does she approach challenges?
8. Encourage dialog. Related to #7, if your child is struggling with homework, encourage them to share what is going on at school and ask questions about the assignment. Encouraging open conversation is important; sometimes kids get in a homework rut or become frustrated because they are fearful of asking questions or acknowledging that they don't know something. Remind them that the point of school is to learn new things and that they can't possibly know or grasp everything off the bat. The more comfortable kids feel talking about the work at home will help them in communicating with their teachers too.
Getting kids into a homework routine takes time and repeated effort. It will invariably be frustrating at some point for one or all parties! But keep at it; remember that effort you put in now will increase your child's ability to work independently as the workload increases. I don't know about you, but I want my kids to call home from college because they love me, not because they need help on a chemistry final!
Do you have other great tips for establishing homework routines with kids? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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