07 Oct 2022

Streamlining Homework

Now that school has been in session for a couple of months, this is a good time to assess what is going well and what can be improved. While parents do not have access to what is happening in the classroom, homework is right in front of us. Is homework too easy or too hard? Does your child understand what is expected in assignments? Is your child getting frustrated? How much should you help?

Attend to Homework Frustration

If your child is totally frustrated with homework or is avoiding it, you need to find out why. Sit down and do assignments together to find out where the obstacles are. Maybe the instructions are not clear, your child doesn’t understand the topic, it takes them too long to complete certain assignments, or the assignments are not interesting. Once you and your child figure out what the problem is, you can work together to find a solution. This may involve a meeting with the teacher to form a plan. Before you meet, keep a daily record of how long it takes your child to complete each assignment. It may take longer than the teacher expects. Also note how focused your child is doing homework. Minimize distractions like a phone and noisy siblings.

Long Term Projects

Some students either become overwhelmed or avoid long term projects. You can help your child find strategies to keep these projects manageable. It is best to begin them the first day they are assigned, even if for only a few minutes. The first day, go over the assignment and make sure the instructions are clear. Then schedule a day on a calendar to complete each part of the project. For any big assignment, breaking it down into smaller chunks will reduce stress, improve concentration, and boost the outcome.

Tests and Quizzes

Many teachers count quizzes and especially tests much more towards grading than daily homework. This means it is important to spend the time and learn strategies for acing quizzes and tests. The teacher can give the best guidance on how to study. Some teachers offer a variety of methods, including online videos, to learn the material. If you pay attention and take notes in class, you will catch what the teacher thinks is important. If you struggle with reading textbooks, focus on titles, subtitles, topic sentences, skimming, and scanning. In general, active studying like writing and answering questions and creating and completing a study guide are much more effective than passively reading over material. For math, it is helpful to do sample problems and check the answers. The more days that are spent studying for a test, the more your brain will absorb the material, both short and long term. Cramming may work temporarily, but the information is usually forgotten shortly after the test. For free online practice quizzes, go to Quizlet.com.

Set Daily Homework Schedule

Some children come home from school and say they have no homework, or they did it in school. Parents may later discover that they actually had homework and didn’t do it. Set homework time every day regardless. Any time left over can be used for independent reading, which is as important as homework and for many elementary school students is part of the homework. Decide together when homework time should be – right after school, after dinner, or in the morning. Also, work it around extra-curricular activities. Many families find it helpful to have a giant calendar for extra-curricular activities, and you can add homework to this calendar, too.

Extra-Curriculars are Important

Help your child find something to do that gives them joy, like sports, music, or theatre. Do not take away extra-curriculars to make room for homework unless there are just too many. In that case, let your child decide which one to drop. It is important for everyone to get joy and excel in activities of our choice. Furthermore, busy and well-rounded students usually achieve better grades than those who are always home. It is easier to focus on a task with limited time than with endless time.

Getting Started

For some students, the hardest part of doing homework is getting started. Try opening your notebook, reading the instructions, and doing the first problem. Then have a snack or play outside for 1/2 hour. When you come back to your homework, you can quickly get going.

Be a Consultant

If your child seems to be completing homework independently, go to another room and be an as-needed consultant. Do not get stuck in the weeds.

Negotiate Homework Reduction with Teachers

Many counties, like Fairfax County, have guidelines about how long students should be spending doing homework. From Fairfax County Public Schools web site: “It is recognized that students vary significantly in the amount of time they need to complete given assignments. Teachers should estimate the amount of time the average student would require to complete an assignment. In general, homework across disciplines should not exceed 0.5 hour in kindergarten through grade three, 1 hour in grades four through six, 1.5 hours at the middle school level, and 2 hours at the high school level.” If your child is spending significantly more time doing homework, you can meet with the teacher and possibly work out a reduction, such as fewer math problems.

Do not Fight with your Children about Homework

It is not worth your relationship, and nagging your children to do their homework usually doesn’t work. Research has shown that children perform better when respected, trusted, and given space to do their homework independently. For students who struggle or ask for help, many families hire tutors and academic coaches so that they can keep their relationships with their children positive.

I hope these tips help. If you need assistance, we have tutors available for all subjects, both in-person and online. Get started.

By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.

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