28 Oct 2015

Getting Homework under Control

One of the major challenges that parents face is getting their children to do their homework efficiently, with a minimum amount of stress.  This is difficult for many reasons.  Most important, parents can’t make their children do anything.  What we can do is find ways to make homework a priority.  We should talk to our children about their future plans, let them know that most people need a college degree in order to eventually earn the income necessary for a middle class lifestyle, and discuss the importance of working hard to learn and receive good grades.

Once children buy into the importance of working hard in school and on homework, many obstacles kick in.  Here are a few strategies to help overcome them:

Getting started is the hardest part.  Try setting everything up in advance and scheduling homework time and breaks.  Scheduled things are more likely to get done.

Work with your child to focus for ½ hour at a time with no distractions, and then have scheduled “distractions” for breaks and scheduled “free time” to reward homework completion.  If the phone must be on, keep it in airplane mode or “do not disturb.”

Time Management:
·       Predict how long each assignment will take and schedule time accordingly.  Then see how long assignments actually took to improve future predictions.
·       Work with your child to break down lengthy assignments into manageable chunks.
·       Schedule study time for a time of day or evening when student can focus best.
·       Use a timer to make homework time more efficient.
·       Check phone only during breaks.

·       Have folders and binders for each subject and make sure everything is filed where it belongs.
·       Have a separate homework folder and make sure homework goes there after completion.  Get help to improve study skills.

How Parents can Help:
·       Be consistent about homework time and set the space for focus without distractions.
·       Be available to help during homework time.
·       Be patient. 
·       Recognize your children when they are effective.
·       If your child is dishonest about finishing homework, check it regularly.
·       Find ways to make homework fun and interesting.
·       Work with teachers to coordinate homework.
·       Hire a private tutor or academic coach.

Since every child is unique, strategies that work for one child may not work for another. We need to be patient and help our children to limit distractions and manage their time better.  We can do this with timers, rewards, breaks, breaking down material, helping to make their assignments more relevant and interesting, and being generous with praise and spare with criticism.  We are more effective as our children’s cheerleaders and assistants than as their adversaries. 

If your child is still overwhelmed, talk to the teacher.  You may be able to get reduced or modified homework or help after school.  You can hire a private tutor to help with specific subjects or an academic coach to help with time management, organization, and motivation.

Ultimately, students will have to realize that if they want to succeed in school, they will have to come up with motivation and self control to resist distractions.  The students need to be working harder at school than their parents work to get them to do their work.  As a parent, you can help set up your child for success.  And remember, students’ brains develop on their own schedules. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, decision making, and self control, is the last to develop, and isn’t mature until age 25 or so.  Your child’s self management will improve over time.  Be patient.

Check out info-graphic we’ve created:

Feel free to print it and post it on your fridge or bulletin board as a simple reminder of our homework tips!

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