How to Encourage Children to Do Homework
At the beginning of a school year everyone gets excited when they purchase new books, pencils, pens, highlighters, and a plethora of other accessories. Your daughter HAD to have that Elsa book bag. Your son HAD to have a rainbow of markers. Then there are the pencil boxes and cool binders and folders with their favorite comic book hero. You, the parent, are so excited, maybe more than the child: "YES! I got him/her everything they wanted so they can be encouraged to do..." HOMEWORK?!
The first few weeks of school are great; then somewhere along the line your child is frustrated. The Ironman folder is ripped, the Elsa book bag smells like spoiled milk, and now your child doesn't want to do homework.
Just about everyone who has a child will know that there are moments when getting homework completed can be an exasperating task. Many of us parents have received those notes or calls from a teacher about a missing assignment. So first, breathe a sigh of relief because you are not alone. It’s not just your kid.
The fact of the matter is that in today’s society there are so many distractions and so many other “fun” things that kids would rather be doing than their homework. I've raised three children (now all in their 20s). So, let me share with you my top ten ways to encourage children to do their homework. Here's the best part, it doesn't require you to buy one more school supply.
Top 10 Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Homework
- Re-group before starting homework: First, when the child gets home from school, give them a little “re-group” time. For 15-20 minutes, let them relax and unwind before they get into the homework routine. This helps reduce the stress and anxiety of the day before they tackle assignments. Yes, children get stressed out and anxious too after a full day of school. If they are relaxed when they approach their homework they will be more likely to complete it and complete it well.
- Have a conversation with your child: Have your child talk to you about their day. Ask them what was great, what was bad; what did he or she learn in math, science, etc; what are the homework assignments? Talking with your child about these things shows that you are interested in their learning. If you show interest, so will they.
- Snack: Give them a healthy snack to eat before or during homework. Children (and even adult students) need the brain food to give them the energy to complete the assignments. Fruits, cheeses, peanuts, protein, and raw vegetables are great. Fruits will give them a sugar boost they need. Avoid chips or heavy carbohydrates which will give them the initial boost but then will make them “crash” too soon.
- A special place: Create a special space (just for the child) where he or she can be focused and not distracted. You may even want to decorate the area to make it an appealing place for him or her. Make it a space they will want to be in. Make sure it is comfortable to avoid any fidgeting.
- Time for breaks: Give the child breaks between assignments or subjects to stretch, shake off any tension, tell a joke, etc. During the breaks you two can talk about the assignments and determine the level of difficulty and whether your child needs assistance from you. This helps to keep anxiety levels down and energy levels up!
- Music: Allow the child to play music during homework (low volume). Listening to their favorite music can help motivate them to complete their homework. For some children, this may be too distracting, but try it with your child and see how it works for him or her.
- Organization chart: Make a daily chart/schedule for the child, which includes daily chores, play times, homework times, etc. I’m a big fan of setting up a time for just about everything. It ensures completion of tasks. Let the child check off the items completed. Get creative with the chart; you can even use gold stars/stickers for completion of tasks, etc.
- Check the homework: Review the completed assignments with your child. This is great bonding time, a wonderful way to reinforce what he or she has learned, to show you are interested in what they are doing and the quality of their work. Give praise where it is due and guidance where necessary. It also makes them accountable.
- Rewards: Reward systems can be a good thing but use them carefully. In the adult world people get paid to do a job. They get bonuses for going above and beyond the expectations. Rewards can be simple and appropriate: extra TV time, video game time, or bubble gum (whatever you decide). A particularly good week in school might merit a family outing like a movie, trip to museum, trip to a special park, or a sleep-over with friends.
- Set the example: Be the example. Maybe, just maybe, when your child is doing homework, you should do yours too (i.e. no laying around on the couch for you while they're working). Show them you have your own homework to do: housework, cook, read a book or newspaper, taking an online class, or working on a hobby.
How much homework is too much?
According to the National Education Association guidelines children should spend approximately 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter. So while 20 minutes is about right for a second grader, high school seniors will probably have to devote two hours per night to homework. Depending on what classes high school students are taking, it might even take longer.
Rather than dreading this time of the day use it as the opportunity to find out what your child is learning and encourage the importance of education.
What is the point of homework?
The NEA provides important insight into the purposes of homework, "which falls into one of three categories: practice, preparation, or extension."
"The purpose usually varies by grade. Individualized assignments that tap into students' existing skills or interests can be motivating. At the elementary school level, homework can help students develop study skills and habits and can keep families informed about their child's learning. At the secondary school level, student homework is associated with greater academic achievement. " (NEA)
Jennifer Atkinson, a teacher at Metz Elementary School in Texas, shared her own perspective in what she hopes homework assignment provide for students and families:
- Homework is an activity that creates an opportunity to connect with parents.
- Homework encourages independent learning.
- Homework encourages self-reliance.
- Homework reinforces what children learn in school.
Share your opinion
Do you believe parents should do homework assignments for their children?
Your children need your time and attention. Homework time is the perfect opportunity. Your children will grow up encouraged and value the learning process. They will also feel loved because you took the time to get interested in their studies and what they are doing but more importantly, because you set them up to be successful.
Special thanks to Shil1978 for inspiring me to write this hub.
Atkinson, Jennifer. "Homework: Why It Is Important." The Homework Dilemma. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/jennifer-atkinson. Accessed 12/1/2014.
National Education Association. Research Spotlight on Homework: NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education. http://www.nea.org/tools/16938.htm. Accessed 12/1/2014.
By Liza Lugo, J.D.
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