Top 10 Tips for Doing Homework without Tears
Is homework time an unhappy time in your household with nagging, yelling and crying? It doesn’t have to be that way if you can develop a system with a few simple guidelines to make this time as stress-free as possible. Vijay Naidoo, principal of the Kip McGrath Education Centre Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast, gives us her top 10 tips for stress free homework.
- Replace the word “Homework” with the word “Study Time”
For as long as we can remember, homework has always been the dreaded word. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards pleasure instead of pain so we would rather play games, watch TV or socialise instead of being bogged down by what is considered to be more “boring, school stuff”. The other challenge is that most kids say that they have “no homework” for the day. Call this time, STUDY TIME. In this way, if they don’t have homework from school, they can still engage in a study activity like reading, engaging in some research or handwriting activities.
2. Set a regular, study time.
When the study time fits into a structured time frame, the children are expecting it and therefore don’t kick up a fuss. Stick to this time slot for a month and it will become a habit. It will be hard work but persist and your child will see that you value education. They will get ready for this time just like they know when it is breakfast or dinnertime. It’s not advisable to do it straight after school as the kids need a break from academic activities. Choose a time together with your child that they would feel rested and enthusiastic to study. It could be after dinner, before dinner or for some kids in the morning. Whatever it is, it must be the same time every day. Remind your child to start getting ready for this time by announcing “10 minutes more before study time!”. As a rule of thumb, Grade 1 kids should do 10 minutes a day and then add 10 minutes more for each school year. So a child at Grade 6 should be doing at least an hour.
3. Create a learning environment that is free of distractions.
Show your child that this is an important time so clear out everything that may distract your child: turn off the tv and the radio, put the family pet in another room, a little sibling should preferably be out of the way. Ensure the learning space is not in front of big window that looks out on the other neighbourhood kids playing. As far as possible block out this time to invite visitors, turn your facebook and email alerts off and put your home phone on answer service. Study time is a family commitment so don’t expect your child to study while you watch TV or have a long chat on the phone.
4. Create a special study space.
This should be a specific space that is used for study time every day. It could be in the child’s bedroom, on the dining room table or on the kitchen bench. It doesn’t matter where it is as long as it is quiet, clutter-free, without distractions and is the same space used for study time. The child can choose the study area – they just do not get an option whether they have to study or not.
5. Have the right equipment at hand.
If all the equipment your child needs is at hand, it will go a long way to minimise distractions and will actually help your child to concentrate and to focus on the task at hand. Take your child on a shopping spree and get stationery that they love to work with like coloured gel pens, trendy coloured pencils, pens, erasers, novelty sharpeners and rulers, calculators, and other bits and pieces like scissors, stapler, paper clips, sticky tape, usb’s and whatever else your child might need to make homework, sorry, I should have said study time, as much fun as possible. After study, get your child in the habit of putting all equipment away and clear the study space so it is ready for use for the next day.
6. Be a positive role model and provide a supportive role.
Be patient with your child and let them to do the study. It is their job to study and you are there to provide a supportive role. If they do not understand a task, don’t try and do it for them. Rather, encourage asking instead of telling. For example, if your child doesn’t understand a question, you could help by asking: “ So, which part exactly do you not understand?” or “ Do you want to check in a dictionary what that word means?” or “Do you want to google it to get some clarity?” Remember, children need to go through the process of learning but many parents are tempted to give their children the product of their learning by doing it for their kids. Teach your child how to access information instead of telling them the answers. Encourage your child to problem solve instead of providing solutions for them. It’s a good idea to be nearby and do the tasks that you don’t look forward to doing like the laundry, the bills or even catching up with your own reading. In this way, your child will realise that you have your own work to do and will not be expected to get help every minute they are faced with something that is challenging. It also helps the child to work independently.
7. Plan study tasks to minimise stress.
The best investment you can make in terms of your child’s learning is to get a year planner that is put up near the study area. On this planner, you can enter important events like tests, exams, due dates for assignments, dates for oral presentations and school term opening and closing times. When you are aware when something is due, it allows you to plan and thereby to minimise stress for the whole family. For example, if your child needs to complete reading a novel in five weeks and there’s 300 pages to read, this can be broken down into a weekly reading goal of 60 pages and then a daily goal of 12 pages (if we study just on school days). Similarly, oral presentations, projects, essays and long assignments can all be completed on time without undue stress if the time is managed well by breaking them into bite-sized chunks.
8. Communicate with the class teacher.
It is good to work with the class teacher and ask them what you could do at home to support your child’s learning. Learning usually occurs in three phases: firstly, learning a concept; secondly, consolidating that concept with an exercise and thirdly, applying that concept. So, for example at school, your child could be learning about measurement and they could be working on volume. The first two phases are usually handled by the teacher in the classroom when they explain the concept and give an exercise on unit conversions but often the last phase is not handled at school because of time constraints and this is a perfect way for you to become involved with your child’s studying by exploring this concept further and applying it at home in the form of cooking like using 250ml of milk or a litre of water for a recipe. Teachers are usually quite happy to email you a list of topics they would be handling for the term. If they are doing the federal government structure at the end of the term then you can plan ahead and talk about this topic with your child when they appear on TV or other print media. Sometimes, a teacher will assist by giving your child homework that is more in keeping with their ability level especially if your child is a high-flier or a struggler.
9. Reward your child’s efforts.
Acknowledge your child’s good efforts by telling them how proud you are of them for putting the effort and completing their work in time. Replace extrinsic rewards like money and a trip to the movies with encouraging words of praise like “You took a lot of time with your handwriting and look how neat your work is presented” or “Your essay is bound to achieve a high grade because you took the time to proofread and edit your work on your own.” External rewards are short-lived and only works when you are around. The aim of putting good study habits in place is to foster a love for life-long learning. Threats like “Do your homework or you don’t get to watch TV” or “You are not going to your mate’s house, if your homework is not done” does nothing to nurture good study habits. If you have to discipline your child about not committing to their scheduled study time, let them know about their consequences before you start the study program and not in the heat of the moment.
10. Seek help if your child is frustrated
Sometimes, we can provide the best support but our child still gets frustrated. As parents we have an intuitive feeling that there is something “wrong” when our child still bursts out in tears because studying “sucks”. It could be that the child has an underlying problem with reading, maths or essay writing. In this instance, it is advisable to get professional help because when the underlying problem is taken care of, study time can prove to be an enjoyable time.
Remember, study time is not negotiable. Your child must commit to it. However, we as parents can assist with strategies to make this time as pain free as is practical. The earlier you get your child used to good study habits, the less tears you have to contend with. It’s not easy but persist and you will reap the benefits of a happy, successful child.
Vijay Naidoo – Kip McGrath Education Centre Mudgeeraba
Professional tutoring in maths, reading and English
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