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Avoiding Homework Headaches

The beginning of the school year is a good time to create routines that support learning at home. What is the homework routine in your family? Do you have a consistent time and space for your child to complete required homework or sit down and read with you daily? Intentional effort now can create a structure that helps you and your child all year. Parents and teachers are often frustrated with homework. Each expects the other to take a little more responsibility for homework. Interesting, isn’t it? Where is the student in all of this? What can we do to grow student responsibility? For families, it is hard to fit in with all the other evening activities in a family. Your child already did school all day so they may not be “excited” to do more “work.” Teachers want students to have a chance to practice the important learning from the day and communicate with you about what they are doing in school. When homework isn’t completed it can be disappointing, especially if the student is not prepared for the day.

The purposes of “homework.” Let’s think a bit about why we have homework.

  • To practice and gain more skill for things learned in class.
  • To explore new ideas that come from things learned in class.
  • To develop a practice or pattern of behavior and responsibility (when a child is developmentally able to do this).

Homework is not meant to:

  • Make students hate homework or school.
  • Create conflict at home.

Helpful Homework Routines

  • Find a Place. Where will your child be able to focus best? Is it the kitchen table in the middle of the family events or a spot in their room? They can help decide what helps them learn.
  • Set a Time. What time is best for your child? Do they like to come home and have a snack and break first? Does it need to be done before dinner or does after dinner make more sense in your family? You and your child pick the time and then stick to it as much as possible.
  • Work for a Reasonable Amount of Time. Homework is intended to be practice. For younger children, set a timer for 30 minutes and see how much gets done.
  • Support Learning. Your child should do the work themselves. Be a resource to offer help if needed. Asking questions is a helpful way to invite your child to reflect on learning and clarify expectations on the assignment.
  • Offer Encouragement Provide your child with statements that notice and appreciate their progress and effort. “I notice you completed all 5 problems in 30 minutes.” Or, “I appreciate your focus and effort tonight.”
  • Limit distractions. Social media has a strong pull, but as much as your student believes they can do two things at once, the brain doesn’t work that way. Help them figure out how to separate their need to be connected (all the time) with the need to do work. For example, using a timer to work for 30 minutes and then take “social media breaks.”
  • Help your student find a routine to ensure it is brought back to school. Help your child figure out the process for making sure it goes back into the folder or backpack so it is ready to go back to school in the morning.
  • Have faith in your child and their teacher. Let them learn from mistakes.