Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Complex Issue of Homework Part 2

This week’s post continues last week’s discussion about homework. Last week, I wrote mostly with the why of homework. This week is all about the who, what, where and how of homework.

Ideally, your child will just sit down and do his homework independently, with little or no prompting from you. However, as many parents will confirm, this is not always the case.
If there is more than one person available to give homework oversight, choose the person who is most likely to remain encouraging and unfrustrated. Someone who can see the positive in your child’s homework efforts. Sometimes, it helps to trade off.
Of course, there isn't always more than one person available. But if there are others to use, use them!
Dr. Harris Cooper, a psychology professor and director of the Program in Education at Duke University, has researched the issues surrounding homework. He provides these tips for supporting your child:
Be a stage manager. Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Make sure necessary materials (paper, pencils, dictionary) are available.
Be a motivator. Homework provides a great opportunity for you to tell your child how important school is. Be positive about homework. The attitude you express will be the attitude your child acquires.
Be a role model. When your child does homework, don’t sit and watch TV. If your child is reading, you read, too. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook. Help your child see that the skills he is practicing are related to things you do as an adult.
Be a monitor. Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. If your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers. If frustration sets in, suggest a short break.
Be a mentor. When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it. If homework is meant to be done alone, stay away. Homework is a great way for kids to develop lifelong learning skills. Overinvolvement can be a bad thing.

Developing organizational skills is one of the top ways homework can be beneficial. Some people are just born organized. Not me and not most people I know. You can really help your child by helping her learn how to approach homework in an organized way. Encourage her to consider these questions:
  • What would be the best order to do this homework?
    • Start with the hardest to get it over with?
    • Start with the easiest to get the ball rolling?
    • Arrange assignments to match availability of adult help?
  • Decide before you start – do I have everything I need to complete each assignment?
    • pens
    • sharpened pencils
    • notebooks
    • textbooks
    • a good place to work (see next section)
    • dictionary
  • Most important question: Do I understand each assignment?
  • If I don’t, is there someone I can ask?

The place where homework is done can be essential and is quite individual. Some kids like to work close to other people, some prefer to work alone. Some kids need supervision, some do best when allowed to be independent. Sue Hubbard, M.D. Pediatrician (aka The Kid’s Doctor)has these recommendations for creating a space for homework (edited slightly to shorten it).
A good study space is critical to learning. It doesn't have to be completely silent, and often that’s not even possible in a larger household. Determine how your child studies best and create a space around that. For younger children, make the space someplace you can easily supervise the work and be readily available to answer questions. For older children, their bedroom may offer a quiet place to help them focus.
Attach a fold-down table to a wall. Another great solution for a small home is an inexpensive fold-down table. Organize supplies in baskets or a wheeled cart and buy a folding chair or stool from a flea market or garage sale. When the study center isn’t being used, everything can be stored out of sight in a nearby closet.
Consider a bedroom makeover. Rearrange the furniture in your child’s room to make space for a study area. Loft beds are ideal since they have storage drawers built in, plus they offer open space beneath the bed perfect for a desk, chair and bookcase.
Involve your children in decorating. If you let the kids pick out wall art and choose accessories for their homework area it will make the space seem more personal and inviting.
Devise a simple way to stay organized. A calendar and dry-erase board will help your child keep track of homework assignments and due dates. If more than one child will be using the space use color-coded folders, bins and binders to keep projects separated.
Reduce noise and distractions. Locating the homework center away from the TV and family traffic will allow your child to concentrate better.
Light bright. Your child’s homework space should be well lit to provide good reading light, as well as to keep your child alert while studying. Placing your child’s desk near a window for natural lighting also will help brighten his or her homework mood.
Establish a routine. The first step in creating a positive homework pathway for your child is by primarily creating a routine. As long as everyone makes a good faith effort to abide by the designated rules, children can expect to have a time and a place to focus on their homework. By being consistent, parents help their child develop good study habits.

  • Right after school?
  • After a play break?
  • After dinner?
  • First thing in the morning?
  • A combination of these?
Consider letting your child choose when he works on his home work and then expect him to stick with what he says.

We’re all so individual as to how much noise (music, others’ talking, TV, radio…) we can tolerate when we work. Help your child figure out his best balance. This may take some time to figure out.

Resources used Homework: Be a Stage Manager

You may have noticed that there are different opinions about the best homework stategies. That's because no two students, parents or families are alike. The point is, it takes time to create the best plan for helping your child with homework. Hang in there!
This series continues next week with some tips on communicating about homework issues with your child's teachers. Until then, what are some of your ways of dealing with homework?

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