Learning to manage study routines can be challenging for parents, let alone young students. Setting your child up for success will reduce stress for everyone and free up extra time that is often wasted away due to inefficiency, lack of planning, and the dreaded homework drama of whining, tears, and a tired student! The younger the child, the more guidance and direction needed from parents. However, don't assume your older student has homework study skills nailed. Almost everyone can reduce stress with a few adjustments to the homework routine.
1. Create a study space. This doesn't have to be an entire room dedicated to homework, but rather a small place in the home with a writing surface, comfortable chair, and good lighting. Keep it away from distractions such as the TV, but close enough for your student to get help from mom or dad when needed. Try to find a place that won't be used for multiple purposes so that it's always ready for doing school work.
2. Keep supplies on hand.There's nothing so frustrating as not having what you need to complete a task! Make sure you have all the basics and plenty of refill items. Not sure what to stock? Take a stroll through an office supply store for inspiration. You'll need the basics such as pens, pencils, erasers, scissors, and colors, but don't forget a hole punch, ruler, white out, stapler, highlighters, scratch paper, colored pencils, and glue sticks.
Whether we realize it or not, God is orderly and consistent for a reason. And since we are created in His image, we function best in an organized environment. Keeping supplies well organized and easy to reach will help eliminate "mess stress"! Spend some time making the homework area an inviting place to work.
3. Provide a snack. Growing bodies and brains need fuel! Plus it just makes homework time more enjoyable. Create a list of favorite healthy snacks to keep on hand such as apple slices with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, grapes, or carrots and ranch dip. In cooler months, most students enjoy hot cocoa or hot tea. Try water with fruit slices in the warmer months. If younger students are still messy, just enjoy at the beginning, then hit the books!
4. Set clear goals and expectations. After a long day at school, students need to know their study sessions won't last forever and consume the entire evening. Before beginning homework, review what needs to be accomplished with your child and prioritize tasks. Have your older student walk through these steps out loud so he can think it through while giving you an opportunity to "coach" him with suggestions.
Two theories prevail when deciding which assignment to complete first. Some feel tackling the hardest task at the beginning is best while the student still feels fresh, making the rest of the homework a breeze by comparison before they tire - great for "sprinters". Others find it encouraging to start with the easiest assignment first, gaining momentum as they go - these are the "long distance" runners. Observe your child and help him discern which works best for him.
At each homework session, be sure you clearly communicate to your child what you expect them to complete, how long you intend for them to study, and what the plan will be if they are unable to finish. This should differ based on whether or not they were diligent, staying on task. Using a timer helps most students know time is passing (get'er done!) and that school work won't last forever. Some even find it a challenge to see if they can "beat the clock". Just make sure they understand homework must be done to the best of their ability.
5. Plan activities for siblings. Younger children at home? As cute as they are, toddlers can make it difficult to concentrate. Give the little ones their own homework task such as coloring, playing with puzzles, or some other quiet educational toy or book they can do independently. Use the high chair for these activities when appropriate as it will keep them from getting up often (a major distraction for older siblings) and will help develop great sitting skills for the future!
6. Reduce distractions. Televisions, iPods, music, texting, talking adults... all these are great at the right time, just not during homework. Even some classical music may interrupt concentration skills for certain students. However, many find it soothes while helping them to focus. And there's good research to back up music for increased learning. Have a plan to help your child create an optimal enviroment for success by designating a place for parking electronic devices when studying unless you can closely monitor for Mozart and friends only!
7. Develop a routine. Routine is code for "consistency"... the hardest thing to achieve as a parent! While each day differs, the more you can establish a regular routine, the less stress on the family. Think through your day and schedule time for homework on your agenda just like you schedule other activities. Allowing your student to have a break after school before beginning homework helps him to think better. A good bike ride can really wake up the senses as well as the brain!
Working on assignments while mom or dad cook dinner is often ideal in most homes. Avoid right before bedtime as children need to unwind before sleeping. However, an exception might be to save an enjoyable reading assignment for later in the evening. Don't forget to utilize the dinner hour to have your students retell what they've studied during the day. This reinforces lessons and helps drive concepts and ideas into his or her long term memory. You may need to help your child draw out these thoughts by asking questions. As students get older, it can really be fun as a family when teens and parents can take a homework concept and civilly debate an issue, challenge an idea, or search the Scriptures together for answers.
The Purpose of Homework
Teachers don't send additional work home in order to make life hectic for students and their families. With so much material to cover each day, it's hard to do it all between 8:30 and 3:30, especially when schools add in all the enrichment activities students need. The goal of homework is to finish incomplete assignments, reinforce concepts, or practice skills that need extra work and occasionally a project or report that gives the student an opportunity to apply what he or she has learned in a creative way.
With just a few simple changes, you can help your child reduce homework stress while making the most of study time. And the pay-off is clear; a happier student who is achieving academic success and learning life-skills in managing studies and work!