4 Ways To Create a Winning Homework Strategy

It’s that time of the day that nearly every kid and parent alike dreads—homework time. As the kids have been in school all day long and they are tired of paying attention, the notion of doing homework isn’t exactly a winning one. Though they all know that they have to get their homework done, that doesn’t make the task any easier. Most parents also know that this task is usually met with resistance and even frustration as there is often a lot to get done in a short period of time. How can a parent ever create a winning homework strategy? How can this task become easier and more successful for both parties?

There are some simple and effective ways to break down the dreaded homework challenge, and even turn it into a positive. It’s a matter of talking through expectations with your child. It’s also about trying to keep the activities to a reasonable level, so that you’re not always trying to squeeze in homework at the last minute. As each new school year begins, it’s helpful for the parent and child to sit down and talk about how to tackle homework each and every night. Though it may never be something that kids love, homework can become much more manageable if you put the proper amount of thought into it. Planning ahead can make this so much easier.

Though parents may shudder when they see the homework folder come home, these tips can make this a more successful job. Be available to help your child, stay patient, and know that sometimes it may take a bit of time in working through the process. Here are the best ways to make homework more manageable and ensure that both parent and child come out ahead.

  1. Set up a place to do homework away from any distractions: This sounds obvious but so many parents tend to skip over this important detail. Your child needs a place that is designated just for homework. This might be the kitchen table, the office, or even a desk in their room. It’s away from the TV, loud siblings, or any other distractions that may get in their way. You want to be sure that it’s close to you or that you are sitting with them in this designated spot to help them. They need the structure of a homework spot for this will help them to focus and be successful without anything getting in their way.
  2. Set a time where you can sit down and help them with their homework: This is another important consideration, particularly as you are planning around extracurricular activities. It’s not always easy but you want to take a look at what each day brings and then coordinate in dedicated homework time. This is their time to get the homework done, and you are there with them too. You both put everything else aside at this time just to help them through the daily tasks, or at the very least to be available to help answer questions. Setting a time whether it’s after school or after dinner will help to keep things on track nicely.
  3. Have a designated spot for their school work, folders, and any tools they may need: Things can get lost really easily with kids, and this isn’t good for anything. Have a spot that is easily accessible where they can put the work that needs to be done, then pack it up in their backpack when it’s complete. Put any tools such as pencils, paper, or whatever other supplies that can help in this designated area too. Then they don’t have to rummage around looking for what they need, and this is all part of the homework routine.
  4. Stay ahead of it, get into a routine, and try to break things off a little at a time when possible: If there are bigger projects then break things down one task at a time. Try to stay ahead of most tasks and plan for them by breaking it down into smaller pieces. Do whatever you can to get into a routine for each night, but then break down the bigger tasks into digestible pieces. Then nobody is stressed out and no task becomes too big—and that’s really the way that it should be. If you follow these tips and really get into a winning routine, then homework will never overtake you again.

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    I wholeheartedly agree that when a proper amount of thought and planning are put into homework, the burden can be lifted and become a more manageable experience. In a typical school day, students are offered little or no choice in how they complete academic tasks. As such, it is important that they assume some sort of responsibility and autonomy over their homework. As you rightly point out, students and parents should tackle homework planning as a team. Allowing them to do so, will help them cultivate appropriate study skills and become independent learners. But, how do students manage it all? After spending approximately seven or eight hours at school, students arrive home hungry, tired and exhausted. While most children like to play and relax, many of them have between one to two hours of homework each night. How can students find time to play, relax, be creative, AND find the hours to reinforce concepts learned during the school day? What about the struggling student? A student that struggles with academic tasks and/or executive functioning skills? How do they complete their homework assignments AND manage to still be kids?

    For the past decade, I have been teaching elementary school. Throughout my experience in the classroom I have discovered that there are two kinds of learners: (1) those who complete their homework effortlessly, providing themselves enough time to engage in extra-curricular activities; and (2) those kids whose homework assignments consume their evenings. The latter are often left drained, overworked and have little time for peer socialization and play. In my experience, these students are most often the children who struggle in one or more academic areas, or need help with executive functioning skills (organizing, planning, prioritizing). For those students, the process of homework and establishing a homework routine can become quite complex and typically does not consider the critical time that they need to just “be a kid.” While many suggest the use of a checklist to help students organize their homework activities and manage the time they spend on each academic task, I propose a more global approach. Since, as I mentioned, struggling students often have difficulty finding time to relax or play, creating a checklist that organizes ALL of a student’s after-school hours would be valuable. This checklist could incorporate a student’s homework assignments, but also provide them time to engage in other, non-academic, activities. Students should schedule time to relax, play with friends, have a snack, complete an art activity, and pencil in time to complete their school work. It really is a delicate balance.

    But, how does one create such a list? Creating a checklist that manages how a student spends his or her after school hours involves research, conversations and needs to be individualized. Depending on the age of the student, either the child or parent, should talk with the classroom teacher and figure out how much time should be spent on homework. This answer should vary depending on the student and should be flexible, taking into account skills acquired throughout the year. After determining the amount of time necessary to complete school assignments and practice skills learned in class, parents and students should then spend time incorporating other non-academic activities into the student’s after-school hours schedule. It may take some time researching extracurriculars that appropriately fit into your child’s agenda, but it is important that you thoughtfully choose activities that will not consume an evening and be tailored to your child’s well-being and development. The list should be a collaborative effort between parent and child. Students should take part in managing their time, helping them to become independent learners and begin to take ownership over their educational journey. Creating a checklist that speaks to both the practice and enhancement of academic skills as well as play, relaxation and socialization will help reduce student stressed and allow kids to… “be kids!”

    It must be mentioned that Educational Therapists (ETs) can be helpful and supportive in assisting parents/students in creating effective after school schedules. ETs, who are skilled in helping students and adults with weaknesses in executive functioning skills, can aid parents and students in devising an after-school schedule that incorporates both homework and non-academic activities (such as play, relaxation and socialization with peers). Seeking the guidance and support offered by an ET, will provide students with strategies and tools that they can hopefully generalize to other areas of academics or support them with other life skills.

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