Help your child develop the homework habit
Time spent together is precious. As well as homework time to practise skills they are learning in school, children need time to play, read, chat with you and with their friends, help out in the house, and have free, unstructured time to explore and enjoy their world. Homework time when you sit down together might be one of the precious moments you have with your child over a busy day.
I definitely don’t think they should watch lots of TV or video games or be on the net for long periods of time. I challenge you to check how much time your child is spending in the virtual world this week. Count the hours – they might dismay you. Then do something to change that. Give them more homework perhaps! Homework does not all have to come from the school, you can create it too. Just make it relevant to your child’s interests and skill level.
Homework and what it is and does. Some of you think that homework isn’t important at all. Research has shown that families who help their child practise the skills at home that they are learning at school are making a positive difference in how well they perform in the classroom. If they are not getting much from their teacher, I suggest you create some regular practise time for them at home. Perhaps your definition of homework is too limited. It is not all about drills, although some of it might be. Include reading interesting books together, writing stories that get published and read by family and friends, completing regular revision of maths they are learning in class, cooking, building structures and machines, and exploring their environment whether it is an urban or rural one, with them. Here are some suggestions on ways you can work respectfully and successfully with your child.
I guess we all agree that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to spend on homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each year level – but I personally think homework should be capped at about an hour for children under the age of 12.
Regular homework can change their lives. You might begin the homework habit with them and then let it drop as your life becomes busy again, or when a child becomes sick or when you are all tired for a few days in a row. In fact, you might be the one who does not carry through with homework. I encourage you to persistently pick up the homework habit again when you let it drop and continue adding value to your children’s present life and their future ones. As I have heard from many parents who persistently encouraged their children’s interests and skills, those children have later been able to create future work or wonderful past-times because of the childhood interests you encouraged during homework time. Here are more ideas to organise for successful homework times.
Ideas to discuss with your child to make homework time pleasant.
Have established homework routines. Establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done. Daily routines not only make homework go more smoothly, but also foster a homework habit your child will continue to use later at high school and university.
Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom where it is quiet and they can concentrate easily. Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better where you can monitor them easily. Work with your child to decide on a mutually agreed upon location.
Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework right after school while they are still in school mode. In general, it is a good idea to get homework completed as soon as possible, either before dinner or straight after, so they are not too tired. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the slower the homework gets done.
Simple incentive systems. Some children need to receive some sort of external reward because the pleasure felt when work is completed is not quite enough for them.The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or face-time, or playing a game with a parent. Use a ‘when and then’ sentence. Tell them, “When you have finished….homework then you can….”. Having something to look forward to is usually a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. The simple incentive of fun times after the work is done are usually enough, but some children need a little more incentive than that to complete homework.
More complex incentive agreements. These involve more planning and more work on your part and work best when you and your child develop them together. This gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. Your child will usually be realistic on deciding rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process. Here are some ideas how to create win-win deals with your child. The agreement might include a system for earning points that could be used towards accessing a privilege or reward, or receiving pocket money, or gaining access to the internet, or saving towards buying something expensive they want.
Build in breaks for when they need them. Discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks. Keep them short. Here are more ideas on creating breaks when your child is reluctant to work with you.
Build in choice. Check out more ideas on offering choice. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.
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