I believe that 95% of homework is unnecessary. However, I also realize that homework in school is a fact of life. Far too many students drop out of school simply because there is too much homework. Here are solutions for parents and students to manage homework. I bring to the table 20+ years teaching experience, 22 years parenting experience and 10 years homeschooling experience.
Don’t force students to work on their homework immediately after school. Developing brains and growing bodies need break time. Many kids like to watch a little TV or play at the computer for an hour or so after school. Some like to go outside and play. Some even take a nap, rest or read. All these activities make good ‘brain breaks’.
Provide a nutritious snack after school. Worried that it will ‘spoil their appetite for supper’? Don’t worry too much about that. Kids come home from school hungry and need to eat when they are hungry. I’ve worked, taught and cooked around just about every schedule imaginable (and some we’ve invented). I worry less about when we eat, then I do about serving nutritious meals. Currently we have two college students who go to work immediately after school: one at 3:45 and another at 4:30. My husband works third shift and sleeps inconsistently. We also have a middle schooler who gets home at 3 p.m. I don’t plan to eat supper together as it would be impossible. But I do make sure that a hot, hearty meal is ready for my buffet-style eaters to enjoy when they can. Often, this ‘after school snack’ is really our supper, with a small bedtime snack later.
Let your children doing homework eat in their rooms. I know it’s not a perfect situation. Food dishes get left upstairs. But if your child can take her snack to her room, she can nibble while she does her homework. I sacrifice rigid rules for harmony at homework time.
Make time to help if you can. This part is tricky. As a certified teacher and former substitute teacher, I know the textbooks used in most every grade in our district. That helps. For those who don’t work in education, knowing how to help with homework is like learning a new language. Don’t worry. Fortunately there are literally hundreds of online resources. For more information about these sites, visit my blog Free Lesson Plans 4U and Free Printable Lesson Plans. Type in the subject you need homework help with and you’ll find lists of resources. Your older children can help and don’t be afraid to ask an older neighbor child for help if your child is comfortable with that.
Buy a wall calendar, dry erase schedule or planner for your child if she doesn’t already have one available. There are free printable planners on my blog Free Printable Activities, too. Click here for calendars and here for planners. This will help your child with organization.
Reward homework completion. Extra television or computer time, a trip out for lunch, a promised treat. And your kind words, hugs and sympathy mean a lot to a child, too. Let her know that you understand and care.
Let the household chores go on nights with lots of homework. Allow them to make up their chores or make a chore free night the reward for homework completed. We do the bare necessities (pet care, dishes, essential laundry) during the week and catch up on the weekends.
Allow and encourage her to work on her homework while driving places. Some parents may differ with me on this and I’ll be the first to say that working in the car isn’t ideal for reading, etc. But a long car trip can be a great opportunity to knock out some assignments, practice spelling words, math facts and quiz on test material.
Encourage your child to turn off the TV during homework time (you turn it off too). Listening to music isn’t so distracting, but the television definitely makes things worse. It has helped us to make a ‘family homework time’, when all noise and distraction is kept to a minimum. I’ve been blessed with children who are very responsible about their homework.
Make a computer or laptop available for homework. Computers are going to become more of a necessity as time goes by.
Be willing to purchase any supplies your child needs to do her homework. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs and your child often can’t do her homework properly without some investment from you. Our family policy is that if the kids say they need it, we get it and trust that they really need it. So far, our children have been very frugal with our money because they know we don’t hesitate where education is involved and that we trust them to be responsible.
Basically helping kids to do their homework is a game of give and take. Be willing to bend if the homework is getting done.