9 Ways to Make Homework Time Easier

Homework is a fact of life for most students. I won’t get into my opinions, and the research that supports them, about how homework doesn’t really support learning or the need for down time after 6-7 hours of school. Let’s just talk about the reality of homework and how to make it an easier experience for everyone.

Homework time can be a difficult and traumatic in some households. Kids who have difficulties in school and for whom learning is challenging can find homework more of a punishment. It brings home the realities so apparent at school – the “can’ts” and “its hard” and “everyone else gets this” feeling that these kids live with all day long is now part of the home environment as well. They have worked harder than most of their classmates during the day.They are tired – inside and out – and now they are required to do more work, sit still longer, and demonstrate their difficulties once again and this time to the people they love the most and want to think highly of them. Frustrating, to say the least. So how do you, as a parent, facilitate homework time so that it is easier, less traumatic, and even a positive experience? Here are 9 ways to get you started. Use them as a springboard, be creative and modify them to meet your child’s needs.

  1. Simplify Homework into Specific Tasks – with your child so you both know what needs to be done. “I have math, science, reading and instrument practice.” can sound like a lot. But when you make a list of the specifics or a mindmap (picture) of what needs to be done and check it off as you go – there is a feeling of doability and accomplishment. Example – 1 page of math – 15 minutes, gather supplies for science experiment tomorrow – 10 minutes, read for 15 minutes, practice for 15 minutes. Wow, done in less than an hour! Not as overwhelming!
  2. Short Homework Blasts with breaks work better than trying to do it all at once for most kids. 10 minutes at a time is all some students can efficiently work. So just do that, take a 3-5 minute break and move on. Use a timer that doesn’t tick, or you time them so they are not distracted by the clock.
  3. Communicate with the Teacher about how much time it takes your child to do the homework and what expectations the teacher has. If they expect a page of math problems in 20 minutes and it takes your child 20 minutes to do ½ a page, communicate that. Assignments may need to be modified so your child can learn, and still get proper sleep and family time. Especially if your child gets the concept in ½ page, why do more if it takes so long? If they don’t get the concept by ½ page, then more help is needed anyway.
  4. Stop at Signs of Stress If your child seems to be stressed – their breathing changes (they hold their breath, for example) or they get very tense of “noodle-like”, there is a good chance they are stressed. Have them stop, breathe and restart after a minute or so. The break will increase the probability of efficient thinking afterwards. Without it, frustration and meltdown are almost certainly around the corner. It helps to bring their attention to these signs of stress so they can begin to regulate themselves.
  5. Be Encouraging! Acknowledge what your child IS doing rather than focus on what he/she isn’t. You don’t need major cheers, just an acknowledgment of the small wins along the way. When it is clear that the little pieces matter and effort is seen, it is much easier to keep going. Examples might be, “I notice you are really working on this project.” “I appreciate your attitude of cooperation.” “Wow, you just did 3 problems and you seem to be getting it.” Teach them to start acknowledging these wins as well.
  6. Mix It Up If reading is hard but math is easier, intermingle the two in your time schedule. Share the reading. Block off parts of a page so it isn’t so overwhelming to read and your child gets a feeling of accomplishment.
  7. Sitting down is NOT a requirement, Allow for Flexibility in how and where your child does homework. Let them do homework standing, walking, on the couch or at the table. Maybe sitting on an exercise ball or jumping while learning spelling words or times tables. Be sure safety and posture are attended to, of course, but it is often more efficient to do homework in any position other than sitting at the table or desk. See what really works for your child.
  8. If given, homework should be about Practicing what was learned that day. Be sure your child Understands What They Need To Do, do not assume they got it at school. Let them teach you what needs to be done. That way they will be doing the work not wondering what they need to do.
  9. Finally, doing homework is a skill to learn. It involves time management as well as integrating material, that may or may not have been truly learned in school. It also occurs at the end of a long day when they want and need to play and “breathe out.” So, Give Some Time Before Homework Starts, be involved in the process as a positive together time, and create a successful environment as much as possible.

I would love to hear your questions or comments about the homework experience in your house. I will respond personally or in the newsletter. Just drop me an email.

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