School is starting soon. Are your children ready to learn? Children who are ready to learn are well-rested, fed, and dressed appropriately. They arrive at school on time, with completed homework in their backpacks.
The easiest way to make sure that your children are ready to learn, every day, is to establish strong routines at home. A morning routine, evening routine, and homework routine are powerful ways to support your children’s education at school.
Last week we discussed the morning and evening routines. So let’s get right into solving the homework problem with a strong homework routine!
Most families have to establish a strong homework routine and incentive system to make the evening go smoothly. Some children can get homework done pretty much independently, and it isn’t an issue. Others, though, drag their families through three and four hours of crying and screaming every night. Life is too short for that!
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has an excellent homework survival guide for parents on their website. Go to www.nasponline.org, select the Families tab, find the Back to School section, and select Homework: A Guide for Parents. Peg Dawson, a school psychologist from New Hampshire, has a lot of suggestions about setting up routines and reward systems. Here is an action plan, based on Peg’s system:
- Set up a routine for where and when homework will be done. Choose a place and set up a homework center with supplies and a calendar for due dates. Remember that some children do best in a quiet spot away from the family, but others need to be near Mom or Dad for help and supervision. Do homework at the same time every day. Some children do best if they get it finished up as soon as they get home from school, but others need to play or relax first.
- Help your children set a homework schedule every day. Sit down with them for a minute or two and review their assignments, make sure they have all the necessary materials, set time limits for each assignment, decide in what order
- Set up a system of rewards for homework completion. Some children do fine if they just have something good to look forward to when homework is finished, like a favorite TV show. Others need something a little fancier, like earning points towards a bigger reward.
- Write a homework contract that states expectations and rewards.
Different children need different homework routines. Children need to be part of the discussion and planning for their own homework routine because you are teaching them to be responsible for their own learning. The big decisions are: Where will homework be done, when will homework be done, what are the rewards for completing homework appropriately, and what are the consequences for failing to complete homework appropriately.
It’s your job as a parent to provide the setting and structure your children need to complete homework. It’s also important to provide the supplies and organizational tools your children need. Supplies include paper, pencils, markers, ruler, calculator, and glue stick. A timer helps many kids keep on track. The most important organizational tool is a calendar. At the beginning of the year, write down school holidays and the dates report cards come out. As the year progresses, keep track of field trips, picture day, conferences, science fair, SAT dates, and due dates for assignments – especially long-term ones.
Some children are motivated and rewarded by grades. Others need external rewards and consequences. Adults like to talk about what “should” motivate kids, but the truth is that grades aren’t important to everyone. Start where your child is when it comes to rewards and consequences! Some children are motivated to do homework by the promise of TV or computer time after it’s finished. Others need the opportunity to earn points towards a bigger reward. Some children need immediate rewards. Others like to work toward a bigger weekly reward.
If you have a child who is struggling with homework, pick just one of these steps to get started. Look online for the homework policy for your local school, or touch base with the teacher. Set up a homework center, or get a calendar and write down assignments. Just get started, and add steps as you can. In the end, you’ll have a solution to the homework problem.
Strong routines at home are a powerful way for us to support our children at school. Pick the routine that will serve your family best and start working on it, one baby step at a time!