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Surviving Homework

Now that the excitement of the new school year has occurred, many parents begin the homework routine - or maybe dread it.  I believe that homework serves three purposes: To let parents know what their children are studying, to practice newly learned skills, and to build home to school responsibility.  Think of yourself as an assistant at homework time, but do not feel you need to do your child's work for them.  The teachers assign homework that should be easily completed by your child independently.


Here is an excerpted  article from that should be of help to you. It has been slightly modified for grades 3-5, and to reduce the length of the article.  The gist is the apologies for elements of plagiarism.  My thanks to Scholastic. LB


1. Do It as Early as Possible: Best for Everyone

On days when there are no afternoon activities, give your child a time frame — say, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. — to get down to business. This gives her some control over her schedule (some kids need a longer break after school, and others need to start right away to keep the momentum going). The only rule is that 5 o’clock is the latest time to start. If you work, that means homework duties will fall to the after-school caregiver. This way, the bulk of it can get done before your kiddo’s too pooped — and you can just review and wrap things up once you get home.


2. Create a Call List: Best for Forgetters

From kindergarten on, kids need a list of three or four classmates they can call on when they forget an assignment, says Ann Dolin, M.Ed., a former teacher and author of Homework Made Simple. The study buddy can read your child the spelling words over the phone, or his mom can snap a pic of the worksheet and text it to you.


3. Build Confidence: Best for the Intimidated

When kids don’t get something right away, they may feel like they’re stupid and start to shut down, says Sigrid Grace, a second-grade teacher in Almont, MI, and a member of Scholastic Parent & Child’s advisory board. You can short-circuit negative thinking by sitting down and figuring out the first problem together. That alone can help him remember how to do the rest. Then heap on the praise: “You did a great job on that one! Try the next one now.” 


Another strategy: Have your child show you similar problems s/he worked on in class. That may jog his memory so s/he can retrace the steps. Plus, it helps you see what he’s already learned.


4. Cut It in Half: Best for the Overwhelmed

That’s right — you can make an executive decision to lighten your child’s load for a night, if:

  • S/he doesn’t understand the assignment.
  • The assignment is vague or touches on a topic she’s not ready for.
  • S/he’s exhausted from a long day of school, gymnastics, and an argument with her best friend. 

If your child is completely lost, write your child's teacher a note for assistance. In the cases, shorten the assignment, says Cathy Vatterott, Ph.D., a University of Missouri-St. Louis professor of education and author of Rethinking Homework. What you can’t skip is informing the teacher. “Have your child write a note explaining,” says Vatterott.  Most teachers will be understanding if a student does this once in a while, says Grace, but if your child frequently fails to finish her assignments, there will probably be a consequence.


5. Change the Scene: Best for Daydreamers

Something as simple as a special place to work can boost a child’s motivation and, in turn, his/her confidence. “I let one kid at a time use my office if they are having trouble,” says Jennifer Harrison, of Sacramento, CA, mom of a 7- and an 11-year-old. “Being in the spot where Mom does grown-up work seems to help them focus. Maybe because I tell them that it’s my place to concentrate.”


6. Leave the Room: Best for Whiners

“Kids who drag things out are often doing so for your attention — they’re enjoying the interaction on some level,” explains Grace. “Avoid joining in. If you must stay in the room, have your child work in a spot that’s farther away from whatever you’re doing.”


7. Beat the Clock: Best for Procrastinators

Sometimes a child just needs a jump-start. If that’s true for yours, try Dolin’s “Five Minutes of Fury”: Set a timer for five minutes, shout “Go!” and have your child work as fast as s/he can until the timer goes off. At that point, s/he can take a short break or keep going — and many kids continue. “Racing against a timer gives kids an external sense of urgency if they don’t have an internal one,”(besides, it’s fun!). But it’s not an excuse for sloppy work, so tell your child to go over it before s/he puts it back in her binder.


9. Plan, Plan, Plan: Best for 3rd- to 5th-Graders

Many teachers will break down big projects into a series of deadlines so that children learn to budget time. If you child needs help with this, show your child how to “scaffold” the assignment. Together, divide the project into steps, then help estimate how much time each will take. Use the weekly/monthly calendar, and then write down which steps to tackle when — and for how long. To get the most out of your child's calendar, include everything — from basketball practice on Mondays to the reading log every night so you both can plan realistically. If you know which nights are going to be a problem, Ask for advance notice on assignments if needed.  Teachers will often work with you on this, but most parents are afraid to ask.


9. Let ’Em Vent: Best for Everyone

When your routine is upended — and your kid hasn’t even started his homework — ease frustration by letting him complain. Listen, empathize (“Wow, that is a lot of work”), and state his feelings back to him (“You sound upset”). Once your child feels understood, says Dolin, your child will be more likely to accept your suggestions — and better able to focus on what needs to be done.


Plus: Your Way vs. The Teacher’s

Your child’s tearing up over a long-division worksheet and you actually remember how to get the answer. But the teacher’s instructions are different. Do you show your kid your method — so at least she’ll have the correct answer?  My thoughts vary from the experts.  I believe that you graduated grades 3/4/5 and can help your child with a method that might work for him/her. 


But the experts say...hold off.  Your process may confuse your child even more. You can help by talking about what s/he remembers from class and move back to the textbook or math homework tip sheets. Still lost? Just have  write a note to the teacher explaining that your child doesn’t understand.

Posted by: Web Designer Published:10/16/17
Audience: Homepage and Homepage