Top Tips for Homework Success
By Debbie Verbeck
It’s that time of year again! And for most kids, back-to-school means a backpack full of worksheets, reading assignments, math problems, science experiments, and take-home tests.
Homework time is often a tension-filled event for many families, but it doesn’t have to turn into a battle, says Marcey Hall, a former teacher and tutor with One To One Educational Services in Warrenton.
“Starting a new school year can be exciting and stressful for students and parents alike,” Hall says. “So when it comes to homework, structure and consistency are the most important things to remember.”
Step 1: Get organized
“Parents and students are busy, busy, busy, so they should try to set aside a certain time and place for homework,” Hall recommends. “And then stick to it.”
Ideally, younger students should sit at a table or desk with materials ready at hand — a basket with paper, pencils, scissors, glue, or whatever the teacher requires at school. The study space should be located away from major distractions, such as TVs, or siblings playing computer and video games.
“The space should not be totally isolated,” Hall adds. “Because too much quiet can allow young minds to wander.”
Older students generally do well in a homework area they select on their own. And some students find listening to music actually increases concentration.
“White noise, or a soothing background noise, can be helpful to both younger and older students,” Hall says.
The general rule for time devoted to homework is about ten minutes per grade. (Ten minutes for first graders, 20 minutes for second graders, etc.) And parents should allow their kids to take reasonable breaks, especially when the kids become tired or frustrated.
“Weather permitting, a brief walk is highly recommended for clearing the mind,” Hall says. “Kids young and old need to get up and move around, whether it’s outside or inside.”
Step 2: Start communicating early
In order to provide constructive guidance and support, parents need to understand the teacher’s curriculum. Therefore, regular communication between parents and teachers via phone or email is essential.
Attending back-to-school functions and parent/teacher conferences is always time well spent for parents. And anytime your child is struggling, don’t let him sit and stew over a problem or task for too long. Encourage him to move on and then go back and try again later. Or if something just doesn’t seem to click, suggest he ask the teacher for further explanation the next day.”
If your child is consistently struggling with a certain subject or a particular concept, Hall says the best way to communicate with the teacher is to schedule a face-to-face meeting. And then keep the communication going on a regular basis, because follow-up is the key.
“My recommendation for younger students is for the parents and teacher to meet together first, and then have a follow-up meeting including the student to come up with a plan for success. For older kids, the students should be included in all meetings between the parents and teachers. Regardless of age, students need to feel comfortable voicing their concerns regarding their schoolwork.”
Step 3: Ask for help
When a child starts to get frustrated, loses confidence in himself, and/or falls behind in expected progress, it’s time to look for additional support.
“Losing confidence can lead to shutting down in class as well as at homework time,” Hall says. “Parents can’t expect themselves to be moms, dads, and teachers. A few sessions with a tutor can make a big difference in gaining knowledge and improving skills in a particular subject, along with bringing back the self confidence which is so critical to successful learning.”
Many schools and community organizations offer free tutoring services, and often older students will volunteer to help younger students. Call the front office at your child’s school to find out about available resources. In addition, outside organizations, such as One To One Educational Services (www.onetooneedsvs.com), can provide private, individualized tutoring services for a fee.
Step 4: Reward and praise
Another important thing for parents to remember is to allow an occasional breather from homework, and to always praise the student for homework progress, not just the end result.
“As the parent of two great kids, I often look back on those crazy, but wonderful, school years and think, what was I worried about?” Hall says. “We just love our kids and want what’s best for them. Most importantly, we want them to be happy and feel successful in their endeavors.”