Fostering Skills That Will Last a Lifetime with Homework
The benefits of homework are debatable. The National Parent Teacher Association recommends 10 minutes per night for first graders, then adding 10 minutes per grade level for each succeeding year. High schoolers taking advanced or college classes may have more. Homework amounts vary per teacher and per school. And sadly, many teachers and schools do not follow the recommended guidelines put forth by the PTA; instead, even kindergartners are spending 20+ minutes a night on homework.
Homework, especially in young children, is hard to balance. Guidelines need to be set in place at the beginning of the year to help children reach a state where they are capable of doing most of the work on their own. Guidelines should be based on the child’s individual age and ability. Parents should assist them, leading by example.
Students need to understand that how they handle themselves in and out of the classroom can affect the amount of homework they have. In class, make sure the student is using extra time to work on assignments, following due dates, not waiting until the last minute, and over all paying attention and not goofing off. At home, limit distractions, set a schedule, and take small breaks when they feel overwhelmed. The earlier children learn the importance of their actions, the more beneficial it will be down the road. Homework, when assigned correctly, should help to foster skills that will be used later in life.
No matter the argument for or against homework, the fact remains: if given, it needs to be completed. It is important that the student understand that it is their homework – not yours. As a parent you want to help them and guide them, but NEVER do it for them. There are many steps that the student can take to help eliminate excess time spent on homework. They should write down their assignments, know due dates, and what is expected of them per each assignment. If they need clarification they need to write emails to teachers asking questions.
In theory, very young children shouldn’t have questions that need much clarification outside of school. Their directions should be very clear, and due dates should be clearly communicated between parent, teacher, and child. In the event they do need help, teach them how to contact the teacher by working together to write an email or locating the teacher’s website and looking for assignment information online.
Parents have to teach them these values from the beginning. The more we hold our children accountable, the stronger and better prepared they will be for higher grades and life beyond school. Let kids make mistakes, and allow them to learn from their mistakes. If a kid is completely overwhelmed and their self esteem is lowered because they are getting things wrong – help them – but don’t micromanage to the point that you are really doing the work for them. Help them help themselves. Create autonomy.
Organization is a small task with big benefits. Label folders and agendas, use different colors to write Test, Due Date, or Turn In, and organize and set goals – nightly, weekly, monthly, etc. Write these goals on a sticky note, place it on each week, and check off when an assignment is complete. Use a checklist to help your child get from day to day and week to week. Keep binders clean and free of clutter, and throw away papers that are no longer needed, thus making it easier for kids to find what they are looking for.
Let your child have a say in their schedule;, it will help keep them accountable. Ask your child for their opinion, and talk about times that they could get their homework done. Work with them for a few weeks; if it works keep that schedule. But if they seem to be putting off work and causing undue stress on themselves and the family, readjust and find a better way. Just don’t deny your children their voice.
Allow kids to come home and play for 30 minutes to an hour, have a snack, get outside, and burn off some energy. After they decompress, chat with them about what they have due, how much and when it is due, etc., and set a game plan for the evening. They need to understand it is homework time, so eliminate distractions – no cell phones, TVs, books, or games. The more they focus, the quicker they will finish their homework. With that said, allow for small, short breaks if the work becomes overwhelming; some kids may start to stall because they are avoiding or trying to hard, but what they really need is to sit back and clear their minds.
Remember, all kids learn differently, sometimes you have to tailor homework and goals for each child. Be realistic with your own kid, don’t push them too hard or too far. If you are constantly getting nowhere, your child seems overly stressed, or never has enough time to complete their homework – seek help. Talk to teachers, school officials, counselors, or consider hiring outside help. Sometimes there may be an underlying issue; consult your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Finally, if you feel the homework is unjustified or completely over the top, be your child’s advocate and speak out. School should be a safe place, a place that prepares your child for later. School should help teach them that not every road is easy but hard work does pay off. Your child should not feel so in over their heads that they cannot complete anything. Their efforts are not in vain, but to help prepare them for the future.
Interested in more back to school ideas? Check out The Supreme Back to School Guide and find everything you will need to know for the 2017 school year.
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