A guest post by Anthony D. Fredericks.
Mention the word “homework” to most students, and you’ll probably get a non-stop series of verbal reactions—most of which I can’t print in this post. Yet, from studies of effective learning, we know there is a positive correlation between homework as a learning tool and student achievement in the classroom. To that end, here are seven tips that will help make homework a more valuable experience for your child.
7 Essential Tips for Taming the Homework Monster
1. Develop responsibility.
Homework offers you a wonderful opportunity to help your child become a responsible learner. A common mistake is to help your child complete every homework assignment in order to stop the complaining. Instead, talk with her about consequences. Ask questions such as, “What do you think might happen if you didn’t do this assignment?” or “What do you think might be the consequences if I did the entire assignment for you?”
BONUS: I learned a neat strategy from my daughter as I watched her work with my granddaughter on a homework assignment a few years ago. She has a firm rule whenever she questions her daughter. That is, she does not accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Her daughter must come up with a complete response for every question asked. The academic (and psychological) results have been phenomenal.
2. Offer choices.
Give your child opportunities to make choices—to gain a sense of ownership in her work—and she will participate more willingly. For example: “Would you like to do your work at the kitchen table or in your room?”, “Would you like to work on your assignment before or after dinner?” By the way, even kids in first and second grade should be given these choices (“Pick one of the following two options:”). By giving them choices early in their academic career, you will be helping to grow a responsible learner.
One of the most powerful things we can do as parents is to encourage our children to self-evaluate. Ask questions such as, “How do you think you did on tonight’s math assignment?”, “How do you feel about turning this in to your teacher tomorrow morning?”, or “Why do you think this was an important assignment?”
4. Limit your involvement.
Homework time is an opportunity for children to develop self-accountability. Instead of doing the whole assignment with your child, do what a fellow teacher suggests: Limit your child to three homework questions a night. That’s it! After that, she needs to figure things out by herself. This obviously puts limits on the amount of time you assist her. But, more importantly, it gives her a valuable opportunity to make her own academic decisions (“Hmmm, is this a question I want Mom to answer, or is it one I can figure out on my own?”). She now has a chance to become more academically engaged in the learning process.
5. Maintain open lines of communication.
Demonstrate a dynamic relationship between your child’s teacher and yourself. Let your child know that you both are active partners in her education. Use email, texts, phone calls, or personal meetings to discuss your child’s academic progress. Share those communiques with your child to let her know that good teaching and good learning depends on everyone working together.
6. Watch your language.
Don’t complain about a homework assignment in front of your child. Don’t deride the teacher or challenge her competence. Statements such as, “This has got to be the stupidest math assignment I’ve ever seen,” or “What the hell is that teacher thinking—this stuff is impossible,” will leave a most negative impression on your child. If you have concerns or issues, keep them to yourself—never voice them with your child present. You’ll be undermining the value of homework and the scholastic relationship between your child and her teacher.
7. Be proactive.
Have discussions about the value of homework at times other than homework time. Talk about homework issues, schedules, responsibilities, etc. during dinnertime, while on a nature walk, at the park, while traveling in the car—in short, at times when your child is not faced with homework tasks. A continuing conversation about homework helps support the completion of that homework.
Homework doesn’t have to be the ugly “monster” it is often portrayed to be. Giving your child a sense of ownership, the opportunity to make choices, and the appropriate emotional support will go a long way towards ensuring her academic success.
Anthony D. Fredericks (www.anthonydfredericks.com) is a former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and professor of education (he’s now retired). He is also an award-winning children’s author of more than 50 books. His titles include Tall Tall Tree (2018 CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book) and Desert Night, Desert Day (2015 Grand Canyon Reader Award – Finalist). His latest writing instruction book (Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published) is being released to rave reviews (“This new guide for aspiring children’s book writers is candid, practical and unbelievably comprehensive.”).