November is right around the corner which means the end of the first nine weeks of school cannot be far away. That signals time for report cards and the first Parent-Teacher Conference Day of the school year.
One of the most frequent discussions between teachers and parents at all levels (kindergarten through twelfth grade) will be about students either not doing their homework or of losing it before it gets back to the teacher for review. There will also be comments from a host of students about why they consider homework a waste of their time. The simple translation of those conversations is that most of the students making these comments would rather spend their time playing video games or socializing with their friends.
That being said, how do parents help their children become more organized when it comes to not only getting their homework done but also in getting it back to the teacher the next day? Suggestions adapted from Additude: Living Well with Attention Deficit are noted below. (Your child does not have to have ADD/ADHD to benefit from these suggestions.)
- Set up a homework station: Children of all ages need a predictable routine for homework. Set up a special spot where your child does homework every day. Keep it stocked with pencils, paper, and any other supplies your child might need.
- Keep a calendar: Big, hard-to-miss reminders help keep kids on track. Get a giant wall calendar and put it somewhere your child will see it many times a day. Put it on the kitchen wall or near her designated homework area. Use color-coded markers or notes to show upcoming assignments, field trips and school vacations.
- Work with Teachers: Meet with your child's teacher to set up a plan to ensure your child, the teacher and you are all on the same page when it comes to your child getting homework done and returned to the teacher on time. It's ideal to do this before the school year starts, but you can do it at any time. Ask for a schedule of upcoming assignments, either on paper or online (many schools have a Parent Connection or require teachers to have blogs listing all assignments), and for your child to use free periods for homework. Stay in touch by email. Knowing that you and the teacher are working together helps children realize they cannot play one against the other.
- Stay on Schedule: Having a daily schedule is key for most kids. They need set times for doing homework, eating dinner, and going to bed. If you get off schedule, start again tomorrow. Sticking to a schedule will help your child -- and reduce the pleading, nagging, and conflict which often occur in conjunction with getting homework done.
- Use Rewards: If homework is a struggle, offer rewards for finishing it. They don’t need to be big; however, they do need to be immediate. As soon as your child tucks his homework in his bag, offer to read a story. Give him a sticker. Allow TV or computer time. Build the rewards into your after-school schedule and keep it consistent (and age appropriate).
- Break up Big Tasks: When your child starts getting bigger assignments -- dioramas, book reports, or term papers -- that can become overwhelming. Break it up into a series of smaller tasks, each one with a due date. Even teens may need help with scheduling big assignments and projects. Use the calendar noted above when assigning the due dates for each part of the assignment/project.
- Use Timers: Many students lose track of time. Use kitchen timers or alarms on watches or phones to mark time. Have your child set a specific amount of time for a piece of homework. The alarm will also help get her back on track if she gets distracted. It can also serve as a sign to you that your child is struggling with an assignment but, for whatever reason, has not shared that with you.
- Get Organized: If your child forgets assignments at school or has a backpack overflowing with crumpled papers, help her get organized. Make it visual. For example, get brightly colored folders for each subject. Have a backup plan for when assignments don't make it home. Keep a list of other kids in the class to call. Or, as noted above, know how to contact the teacher directly.
- Praise Effort: Children thrive on praise. It encourages and motivates them. So notice their successes, even the little ones. Praise them for effort and improvement. It feels good to you both. Small wins often lead to bigger ones.
- Strategies for Hard Assignments: Does your child breeze through homework in some subjects but get bogged down in others? That is not unusual. Have him switch between subjects. Start with the easy assignment, then shift over to the harder assignment for a few minutes. Shift back to the original assignment. Alternating may help your child feel less overwhelmed, thus making it less likely he will go into shutdown mode prior to completing his homework.
- Write Out Directions: Does your child need help understanding how to do his homework? Explain the instructions. Next, have your child explain them back to you. Then, write out the step-by-step instructions and post them on the wall. For many kids, it helps to have a visual reminder.
- Mention the Obvious: When helping your child do her homework, include steps that might seem obvious to you. For instance, the last two steps should always be "put your homework in your folder" and "put your folder in your backpack." The more specific you are when giving instructions, the better.
Doing homework, as assigned daily - and turning it on time - in will not only improve your child’s grades but will also teach them responsibility.