Scheduling for Success: Tips for Timely Homework
Wrangling your kids to sit down and do their homework after school can be tough. After spending several hours at their desks in school, asking them to sit down at home for another hour or two just seems cruel. Fortunately, there are ways that you can schedule homework time that will help your kids be productive and minimize their protests. Interestingly enough, setting your kids up for success depends greatly on parent attitudes and behaviors. Read on for our tips on how to help your kids have time at home for both play and work.
Give your kids time after school to decompress:
- Expecting your child to come straight home from school and sit down again to study doesn’t work for most kids. Even if you are able to get them to comply, they will likely take much longer to finish than if they were able to have a short break to relax. For children who have an extra curricular activity right after school, they may be able to come home after that and work, but depending on the type of activity, they may need some downtime as well. Talk with your child and agree upon a time limit for them to relax at home before they are expected to sit down and complete their homework.
- Once you have a set time for homework, do not change it. It is normal for kids to try to push limits and to test boundaries with their parents. By being consistent about the homework schedule, you demonstrate that any arguing, whining, or tantrum throwing is wasted energy and would be better spent on just finishing the task at hand. Soon enough, your kids will stop fighting you and start finishing their homework.
- This may seem as contradictory to the previous point, but it’s just as important. Respond to your child’s needs. Figure out whether he or she is just wanting to put off homework time or whether there is something else going on. If your child is feeling under the weather, has had a rough day, or had an early morning, be mindful of this and allow some wiggle room. If your child is older, it may even help to discuss your reason for leniency and reach a fair compromise on the set homework time (i.e. do homework together after dinner instead of before).
Work as a family.
- It may be helpful for your kids to focus if everyone is taking quiet time at the same time to do something productive. If you have other younger children who are not yet in school, try to set homework time around a quiet activity that they can also look forward to each day. In the same vein, if a parent or another adult is available, be ready and willing to help your child if they’re stuck. Helping doesn’t mean doing the work, of course, but giving your child suggestions on how to figure out the answer to their own question is a great way for your child to learn and for you to connect with them. You can offer help by assisting their search in a book, online, working through sample problems, or even by making sure they understand their homework instructions.
Replicate your child’s school environment.
- This doesn’t mean that you need to have a school desk for your child, but ask that they sit at a table to do their work, away from other distractions, like the t.v. Eating a snack or listening to music while working might be fair compromises, but research clearly shows that children learn better and work more efficiently when they study in an environment that is most similar to their school setting.
Provide positive reinforcement when they adhere to your routine and rules.
- If your rule is that homework must be completed before dinner, allow them to watch their favorite t.v. show afterward, play a game, or visit with a friend. If you have an understanding that abiding by the family rules means that they can earn a particular reward, it will help increase the likelihood that they continue following these rules. If you frame their behavior in a positive light — that your child earns certain privileges, rather than taking away an activity — you also help increase your chances of your new system working.
What did we miss? What has worked for you at home in getting your child to finish their homework in a timely fashion?
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Katherine lives in Kansas City with her husband, toddler, and 3 furry children. When she is not at home with her daughter, she is finishing up her Ph.D. in psychology or working on one of her multiple half-finished art projects. She loves ceramics, crafts, fitness, paper mache, and pretending to learn French and Spanish.