With one kiddo in his last year of elementary and one starting his first year of middle school, there is one thing that is certain to come in piles this school year – HOMEWORK. Last night, we had the first homework assignments that didn’t involve me filling out the exact same paperwork I’ve done on the first days of school for the past 7 years. The kids were excited to do their work and there were no arguments or need for harassment, but I know that the shiny of a new school year will fade and that will likely change, leading to days where getting homework completed is a frustrating challenge.
Handling homework battles is an ever-changing thing for us, as motivators and solutions change as the kids grow. We have tried many different techniques over the years to make it a bit easier to get assignments done without arguments or drama. Some have worked for a short time, others for a long time, and others not at all.
Here are a few tips that you can try in your home to help make homework time a little less stressful for everyone:
Make it easy for kids to keep track of assignments – Work with your child’s teacher to develop a system for writing down homework assignments if there isn’t one already in place in the classroom. When kids are in the habit of writing down their homework, they are less likely to forget that something is due.
Create a schedule and stick to it – This can be a tricky thing, as family schedules change from day to day throughout the school year. However, when kids know exactly when they are expected to do their work, you’ll be faced with less nagging and empty promises that “I’ll do it later”.
Consider each child’s unique needs – Some kids are more “on” when they first get home, while others need to decompress after school. One of my children needs to be closely watched to stay on track, while another struggles to focus if someone is “looking over his shoulder” while he works. Neither of my children works well when the other is in the room. You may want to plan for breaks after a certain amount of time or set up a reward system for completing their work. Take cues from them to help them find their most productive work environment.
Remove distractions and set rules – Make sure that there are no distractions or temptations in the room with your kids while they do their homework. Turn off the TV, put the screens away, and if noise in another room is an issue, silence it or move your child to a place where they can focus. Set rules for homework completion and age appropriate consequences when it isn’t finished in a timely manner. For us, it’s taking away Wifi access until everything is done properly.
Set up a designated homework space – Create a fun space that has all of the necessary supplies to get homework done and restock supplies regularly. This will save you from the stall tactics of “I can’t find a pencil!” and “We don’t have any more paper!” that have plagued my family many times. This space may be a desk in their room that has all of their supplies or even set up at the kitchen table with a bin of school supplies that are set out when needed. Find a solution that works for the space you have and your child’s unique needs.
Know your own limits – Educational techniques change and – let’s be realistic – we don’t always retain all of the information that we learned in school. Know when you need to call in help from older siblings, your math whiz best friend, or an outside tutor to help your kids succeed.
Understand school homework rules and consequences – Make sure that you understand the rules that your teacher has in place for homework and how they will affect your child. At elementary level here, the consequence for not completing homework is simply missing a few minutes of recess while they complete the assignment. For my middle schooler, missed assignments can affect their final grade for the class. Knowing how a missed assignment will affect your child at school will help you decide how hard you need to fight or whether to allow them to deal with the consequence on their own.
Communicate with teachers regularly – If your child is struggling with homework, make sure that you are in communication with their teacher. This is not to say that you should make excuses or demand special treatment, but a collaborative conversation can help your child and others in the class who may be facing the same struggles. Sometimes kids need alternatives to show their understanding or a bit of extra help to get through a particular lesson.
Homework is a necessary thing that shouldn’t be a struggle every day. Working together with your children will help them to learn how to adapt and find new and creative ways to get a difficult or tedious task done without procrastination or arguments.
What are your best tips for getting a handle on homework in your house?