Dodging homework, being baffled by an assignment, and procrastinating on projects to play instead are hallmarks of childhood, but good study habits are the foundation for academic success. Homework underscores concepts already taught at school, and making schoolwork a part of daily life is essential to achieving high goals. "Homework reinforces learning, develops responsibility and builds commitment to one's education. Remember, practice makes perfect," says Meline Kevorkian, Ed.D., author of Six Secrets for Parents to Help Their Kids Achieve in School. With the following guidelines, you can keep homework avoidance to a minimum and get your kids moving toward better study habits and better grades (like straight As!).
Establish regular homework time to increase the likelihood that it will get done. Of course, this schedule will vary for each child; some kids need to get study time in as soon as they get home and others may work better after they've eaten. For many families, there are after-school commitments to consider as well. Does your child need to do homework before soccer, because she's too tired afterward? Or do extracurricular activities enable her to have more energy to sit still and focus later? Some families may find one set time each day is essential for homework completion; others may find it best to utilize time blocks between activities if daily agendas changes. Notice what works for your child and your family's schedules, then make a plan and stick to it.
When creating a study area, consider your child's needs. Some kids have to be alone in their own rooms; others may prefer to work at the kitchen table as the family bustles around them. Whatever spot you decide on, set your child up for success by stocking the work area with necessary supplies. For younger kids, start with blank paper, crayons, pencils, and pencil sharpeners. As your child gets older, add lined paper, pens, a dictionary and thesaurus, and any other essentials. If a child requires technology, a laptop or tablet may be helpful, but computers can be a distraction, so set them aside if they're not absolutely necessary. If your child is using her own desk, keep all the supplies stored in drawers or on shelves; if your child is in a communal area, use a tote or organizing bins to ensure homework supplies won't get lost.
Once you've selected the time and study area, let your child decide the order in which he will complete assignments. Giving him control over the homework routine will allow the process to develop into an enjoyable pattern rather than a dreaded obligation. If he needs guidance, suggest that he tackle the more challenging homework first; if he loves to read, have him start with the math homework to get it out of the way. Once the arithmetic is done, he can then tackle the reading assignment. Although setting up a schedule and then handing the responsibility of maintaining it to the child is ideal, maintain some flexibility in case the schedule doesn't work out. Check after a week or two to make sure the schedule is being followed, and be open to making any modifications to ensure success.
As tempting as it is to hover over your child as she studies, give her breathing room. It can be helpful to stay close, in case a question arises, but work on your own tasks instead, whether cooking dinner or reading. Once the homework is completed, make time to look it over. When doing this, remember that assisting with an individual error or pointing out an unanswered question can be helpful, but doing homework for a child is not. Instead, be attuned to the progress being made and the areas of study need improvement. "Reviewing homework is essential and encourages children to share what they found difficult," Dr. Kevorkian says. "Encourage your child to tell you what was challenging." If you notice a serious weakness, contact your child's teacher.
A child may feel that homework is too hard or that too much research is required, but an experienced instructor has reasons for assigning certain materials. In school, kids learn to assume responsibility for their education. If a child has trouble understanding a concept, steer him toward asking the teacher first for help. If the teacher explains that an increase in homework is needed to excel in higher grades, this may be enough to motivate a child. But if a child continues to complain about homework, make time to speak with the teacher yourself. At the conference, stay calm and be open to hearing the teacher's side of the story. "Don't make education a battleground," says Resa Fogel, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Teaneck, New Jersey. "It sets the wrong tone for learning." With the right routine, studying can become an integral and peaceful part of your child's daily life.
Once homework is done, be sure to congratulate you child's efforts. Offering words of encouragement for small achievements and rewards for large projects can have a lasting effect on a student's relationship to her studies. Applauding a child's willingness to work is essential in developing her academic confidence. "For elementary [school]-aged children, get them excited about finishing their work by following [it] with a fun activity. When they are finished, praise them for their hard work and dedication," Dr. Kevorkian suggests. As a child becomes more able to complete work on her own, she will be more likely to begin doing homework without parental prompting.
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