Mom’s know how hectic afternoons and evenings can be. You pick the kids up, cart them off to practice, rehearsal or lessons. You coordinate schedules, meals and all the other activities that your family participates in while juggling your work day, chores, grocery shopping, exercise, car maintenance, bills and a million other things. We often forget to block time for one of the most important activities: homework.
Even if your children are young and don’t have lots of homework, they still need to practice what they learn during the school day.
Here are a few tips to make homework something you and your kids look forward to.
- Create a special homework space. Your child may not be ready for a big-girl or big-boy desk, but creating a designated homework space on your kitchen counter or dining room table makes homework time special. Make construction paper or foam board sign that you place at the seat during homework time.
- Decorate desk items for home use. Poster board, old cups and even boring crayon boxes can all be jazzed up with some paint, markers or stickers and transformed into colorful desk items that help give your child’s homework space a personal feeling and make it a place they want to be.
- Unplug. Unless you are working on the computer with your child, unplug your phone, laptop, tablet and every other device and give your little one your undivided attention. Engage with them, ask questions and encourage them to share their work and their school day creations with you.
- Let them lead. Look over what homework items they have been assigned, and let your child pick the order they want to complete them. This gives them a sense of control and empowerment and helps them feel trusted and mature.
- Set a timer. If your child gets easily distracted or bored during homework time, use a timer (let them pick one out) to keep them on task and to break homework blocks into more manageable chunks of time.
- Use a homework folder. Older children, especially those in middle and high school, can go weeks without sharing homework or school papers. Set up a homework folder that you keep on your desk or counter, and let your child place any papers you need to see or sign in there. This takes the responsibility off of you and puts it on them. It also reduces the chance of the blame game: “You didn’t give me the paper!” “You never asked!” The folder is a great way to communicate with your teen children when communication is tense or rare.
- Praise them. Whether they are in first or 12th grade, children crave praise. They want to know they are doing a great job. Make sure to praise their efforts, not just their outcomes. Slip little notes in their lunchboxes or place a simple note of praise in the homework folder to let them know you are proud of them.
- Make a mobile desk. The most common excuse for not doing homework is, “the dog ate it.” The second most common is, “I didn’t have time.” Take a spare backpack, a milk crate, a cardboard box or anything you can find, and fill it with the bare essentials for completing homework on the go. Using hard items like boxes allows you to store notebooks, paper, pens and pencils, and also provides a firm writing surface for homework done in the car. Make the mobile a desk a project you do with your kids or have them make their own.
- Take a break. Homework can cause frustration for you and your kids. If you find yourself getting undone or your child starts to shut down, take a break. Play a quick round of Simon Says or go for a ten minute walk to clear your heads. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… and a WAK mom a wacky mom.
The goal is to encourage homework by making it something your child looks forward to. The space, the timing and how you participate all set the stage for how your child views homework. So keep it creative and be flexible. Each child learns best in their own way. Explore different systems and settings until you and your child find the homework environment that lets you both be shining stars.