Make homework less of a hassle

Oct 3, 2013 by

Jessica Bliss –

Homework horror stories abound.

Threats. Screams. Battles of will.

Kids throwing tantrums on the floor. Moms locking themselves in the bathroom to cry. Dads threatening to take away television for a year.

Those are the extremes, but few kids actually enjoy homework. So how do parents engage children and make homework less of a chore?

Learning is a partnership between the student, parent and teachers, said Keith Nikolaus, professor of education at Lipscomb University, but the students have to understand that learning is their primary responsibility — their job — and parents and teachers are there to facilitate the learning process.

How can you best facilitate?

We asked experts and parents for a few tips to help avoid homework meltdowns.

1. Develop a routine.

No family schedule is created equal. Some kids get home right after school, others don’t walk in the door until later. The important thing is to create a regular routine. If your child knows what is expected and when, it’ll be easier for him or her to work more efficiently.

“It’s good to have something that is both predicable and pleasant,” said Wendy Kurland, executive director at Homework Hotline, a nonprofit that offers free tutoring by phone to students. “Something like: We always do homework at the kitchen table at 6:30 with television turned off. Not where mom (is) helicoptering, but mom is available, and where you’re working quietly and respected for what you’re doing.”

• Set up a space for homework, but don’t feel like you have to sequester your child. Shouting, “go to your room and don’t come out until your homework is done” sounds like punishment and is not likely to endear your child to it.

If your child likes to be alone, find a place in his room or the office and check on him periodically. If your child needs assistance, create a space where you can answer questions while also being productive (making dinner, doing dishes, answering work emails, paying bills).

• To study or to snack? As a mom of five, it took Jennifer LaCapra a little while to learn what schedule worked best.

“I was selfish,” she said. “I wanted them to do it right away because I wanted to get it out of the way, and it was like pulling teeth.”

The Spring Hill mom learned that with her children it was important to first get out some energy. Now, her kids, who range in age from 3 to 16, get an hour after school to play and have a snack. Then it’s time to work.

Other kids, however, are in-the-zone right after school and need to take advantage of that focus to get work done.

Every parent knows that when kids get tired, they get cranky.

Nikolaus suggests trying to get homework done before the sun goes down no matter what the daily schedule is like.

“I have definitely found the later you do it, you get less from them,” LaCapra said.

• Allow for breaks. Whether you set a timer to go off every 20 minutes or take a breather between subjects, let your child’s mind relax.

“We tend to want children to sit down and do the homework straight through because that’s convenient for us,” Kurland said. “But in terms of learning outcomes, that is not beneficial.”

2. If there’s rebellion, ask questions.

If every day seems to be a knock-down, drag-out fight, there’s a reason, Nikolaus said. “Go below the line and figure out the reasons why.”

Is the homework too hard? Too boring? Does it take away from too much play or family time?

Learning issues — perhaps difficulty reading, understanding or processing — can lead to frustration. In those cases, Nikolaus suggests calling your child’s teacher to ask what they see at school.

On the flip side, if they are bored, they may not want to work because they aren’t challenged.

And, sometimes, it’s just a matter of incentive. Reward charts or a learning contract can work, Nikolaus said, because they help clearly establish goals.

“What you want to do is move away from kicking and screaming,” he said. “You want the child to understand, ‘This is my responsibility; if I do this, then I will be rewarded.’ ”

But be careful what you say.

Saying, “ ‘Let’s get that homework knocked out and then we have time to do something fun’ implies nothing about school work is fun,” Kurland said.

3. Create a drawing, say it out loud, move around.

All kids learn differently.

Some are highly visual, some learn through hearing (auditory learners) and some like to move (kinesthetic learners). Parents have the best pulse on their child’s learning style and can use that to help engage.

Visual learners can turn notes into pictures, charts and maps or use flash cards when studying. Auditory learners may want to talk about or repeat what they have read. Kinesthetic kids may need motion while they work: rocking in a recliner, standing up or taking frequent breaks.

4. Make learning a game and tie it to everyday life.

Give math problems a visual spin: Add blueberries plus raspberries (or M&Ms plus Skittles, if you prefer). Teach your kids about the atrium, ventricle and heart valves by using rooms and doors in your home. After your child reads a chapter out of a history book, have him quiz you: Mom, what year did the Civil War begin? Dad, who was Robert E. Lee?

Learning is hard, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, Nikolaus said: “If you hit the right button with them, you can really turn them on.”

Once it’s fun, put it in context. Even if knowing the number pi isn’t relevant in your day-to-day life, some very cool people use it: electrical engineers, biochemists and aircraft designers.

If your child just read about immigrants, talk about your own family’s immigrant experience at dinner. “There’s a place near the Statue of Liberty in New York called Ellis Island where your great-great-grandpa came on a boat from Germany. He was a shoe maker. Want to see a photo of him?”

By showing how life is an expansion of homework, you can help your child understand it is not just a separate chore or extra work they are forced to do.

5. Show your kids that you love to learn.

Your kids are watching you. If they are in their room doing homework but you have the TV on waiting for the spaghetti pot to boil, they know that.

“It’s really helpful if parents do two things: One, if they consistently show an interest in their child’s work at school — what they are doing, asking questions,” Nikolaus said. “Even more importantly, if parents model a love of learning for the students.”

Try to make homework time learning time for everyone. Whether you are answering emails for work or just sitting down and reading, show that you, too, enjoy learning new things.

6. Facilitate confidence.

Failing — again and again — can really impact a child’s desire to continue.

“They can get frustrated if they miss five problems in a row and don’t know what to do,” said Zahraa Abdulameer, a 20-year-old Belmont University sophomore, who serves as a tutor for Homework Hotline.

“Go back to basics,” she said, and suggest a simpler problem they are likely to understand.

“Sometimes, it takes a good bit of motivating, so it helps not just to do the hardest problems,” Abdulameer said. “Give them confidence. There should be a lot of ‘Great job’ and ‘You’re doing it.’ ”

7. Allow for natural consequences.

A school principal first suggested that Debbie Knight should let her girls manage their own work.

“This is their time to fail, in elementary and middle school, and to learn to be responsible,” Knight recalled being told. “That’s when I started taking a hands-off approach a little bit.”

With so much emphasis on grades and school performance, this is tough for many parents.

“Some of the greatest lessons in life you learn when you fall on your face and fail,” Nikolaus said. “I think it’s a good thing to let kids experience natural consequences, whether you are talking about chores at home or homework, it can be used in an appropriate way.”

He added, however, “if you have a child who is consistently failing,” then be looking for other approaches, he said.

8. Try to keep a level head.

Kids are not the only ones who hate homework. Parents hate the constant nagging or fights. They hate the time it takes — cutting in to the family meal or just regular relaxation.

It doesn’t take long to reach wits’ end, but, Kurland said, “we find if you are kind to children and you help them, they are dying to do the work and dying to do it well.

“Really, the reward of your time for children is the most important,” she said. “Time without electronics and time without yelling. Spending time that’s enjoyable together.”

And don’t feel like a second-grader who hates homework is doomed to detest it forever.

“I don’t think you give up hope at any time along the way,” Nikolaus said. “For a long time, school may not click, but at some point, the light bulb comes on.”

Your assignment as a parent is to help facilitate that.

“There’s no manual for being a parent,” Nikolaus said. “No course you take. A lot is on-the-job training as you go along, and love for your child will keep you persisting.”

via Make homework less of a hassle | The Tennessean |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.