Friday, June 1, 2012

How to make homework less stressful

 Though I homeschool, I was a teacher for 6 years and my children have attended school on and off a number of times.  The one thing I do remember is HOMEWORK!  Also having our children at home with us all day, involves very similiar struggles when it comes to doing book work or writing activities with them.  Often I get asked by mothers of school going children, for ideas and thoughts on how to get homework done with less stress.  Seems this is a fairly common problem - and there is no easy solution.

Just to clarify, there is no one thing you can do to make it go away.  No homework fairy who waves her fairy wand (and NO, dressing up and pretending, won't do it either).  However there are a few things that I have tried with some or all of my children, that has definitely worked.  Each of these will need to be considered against your child's personality, age, learning style and even gender.   I hope that this list of tips will really make your homework time with your child more manageable and give you ideas that you may never have tried before.

1.  Do homework after a nap time
Children are known to be a lot less active and busy after a nap.  I know this sounds odd but they have had a full day and a quiet lie down for about 1 hour will give them some rest and they will be in the right frame of mind to tackle work again.

2.  Snacks
Snacks are vital to concentration levels.  And when I talk about snacks - I am not talking about chocolates, sweets and chips.  Healthy snacks are key.  I have a few ideas of my own on how to satisfy their hunger with some snack options.
3.  Start at the same time every day
This can be a challenge when extra murals are involved but I still encourage you to do this.  If you don't do extra murals, consider giving the children the same break time at home - children need a break from school too.  They have spent the whole day in a classroom and need the physical and mental break.'  Also you may find that if you child gets up at 5 in the morning (there are a lot more children like this than you think) - let them do their work then or even the work they couldn't finish the night before. It might demand more of your time but will create a less stressful homework session as you could divide your homework session to 2 smaller parts - one half at night and one half in the morning.

4.  Choose a space which is quiet
Don't do school next to windows with a view, a place where they can get distracted by their siblings or anywhere near to their favourite pastimes like Lego or books. In fact near anything they would rather be doing like toys. Now this may seem an impossible task as you cannot clear a whole room but even if its just a part of a room.  It also includes moving pets away from the area - because even pets can essentially become another excuse to stop.

5.  Take breaks
Work with a stopwatch and give them time limits to complete tasks.  Make it a bit like a competition - finish this section of work in 15 minutes and we can have a snack or read a book. Whatever works as a reward for your children (just not sweets!)  Also you don't need to finish an assignment in one sitting, you can break it up into parts.  You will know how long your child can sit for an uninterrupted period of time before they need a break.  If there are 20 sums - do ten, take a break, jump on trampoline and then another 10 (just an example)
 6.  Buddy System
Some children thrive on team work.  Get a friend who works well with your child and let them do their homework together daily.  They will motivate each other. You could take turns on a weekly basis to have turns. I would not recommend a daily change as this can be counter productive.

7.  Talk to your child
Decide together what you will do first and what will you do last.  When you co-opt your child in discussions, you often co-opt them in their participation as you will have real buy in from them. 

8. Make up a homework schedule
This helps to keep track of how much time is being spent on each subject and also ensures that excessive amounts of time are not being spent on one subject (unless there are specific difficulties around this subject)You also then have a reference point in terms of whether a specific teacher is overloading on a specific subject.

9.  Limit after school activities
Too many activities can mean school homework happens too late, and is just hard work and exhausting after a busy day.  See if you can't schedule your child's interests for the weekend or limit the number of activities they are involved in.  Also some activities are inclined to over stimulate your child, stay away from these.  Keep them for weekends.  You will need to make a sacrifice somewhere unfortunately.  If you want homework time to work you may need to rethink how you manage your weekends to have a more peaceful and less stressful homework time.

10.  Rewards/ Praise/ Positive Reinforcement
This is an  important part that we often forget.  We often want to focus on what has not been done rather than what has.  Get your spouse involved and get him to ask about homework when he gets home and make sure he praises and encourages your child when he sees what they have done.

11.  Homework to come home
One of my biggest challenges was trying to get my children to bring their homework home.  Often it would be left at school just because when the school bell rang at the end of the day, there was more interest in leaving school than packing bags.  I eventually made a list of things my son had to do before he left the class.  It was numbered and laminated and attached to his bag on a tag on the inside.  He had to work his way through the list and make sure that everything was done before leaving the class. 

12. Be disciplined
If you aren't disciplined, your children won't be either. Be careful of giving in to whining, complaining or arguing as these will then become identified as successful tools of avoidance or delay.  Have a no nonsense attitude when it comes to getting the work done.  And ensure that there are consequences for a stubborn or disobedient child - such as removing privileges, not allowing friends to visit etc.

13.  Doing work on the computer
Some children have the capacity to concentrate for large quantities of time in front of a computer.  Speak to the teacher and find out whether answers, essays or assignments can be completed on a computer.  They can then print if off, cut it out and paste into their books.  I know it might take longer (lack of touch typing skills) but the concentration will be there and a real sense of accomplishment when they see their printed work.  Some of my children loved this, others got impatient because they took so long to type - you will need to test this and decide for yourself.

14.  Do work together
Work always feels better when someone else is working with you.  I know that when I work alongside my children, even if I am doing different work, they feel like I am in the trenches with them.  I used to do my accounting work, slips, administration - anything that I needed to do too.  And by doing this I got twice as much done -my work, supervising and helping when needed.

15. Get the Equipment

You would be amazed at how stationary can make a child work.  I bought my children click pencils because I got tired of them writing with blunt pencils which make work look untidy and illegible.  Well I couldn't believe how much they just liked to do work so that they could show me how nicely they were doing their work.  You may need to rotate or update the stationary because they do lose their initial appeal but put them away and bring them out at a later date and it will feel like new.  Pencils, pens, glues - if you can buy a variety. Some of the cheaper $1 stores often have cheap varieties but that's fine, most of them have lots of aesthetic appeal to a child.

16.  Get Help
How often I have seen how well my children have listened to others but not to me! I know this shouldn't be the case but aren't we all like that, we behave better with strangers than with our own famil?. Consider getting an older child/ student to do homework with your children for a few hours a day.  You might have to make a financial contribution to their pockets but it will definitely be worth your while.  There are always students or teenagers looking for part time work. You might help them and they will definitely help you.

Siblings are also a good option.  If there is an older or younger sibling, why not give them pocket money for helping?

17.   Write for them
This may sound like cheating but again the most important aspect of homework is to show that learning has happened.  If there is a worksheet to be filled out to test the understanding of a social studies subject like geography - let you child read the book and tell you what answer to write for each question.  Again you will need to OK this with the teacher but if your child understands the content and they answer the questions correctly, then the fact that you are writing their answers down should really make no difference.  Obviously in a situation like English or Spelling, you might not be able to do that.

I have done Maths like this with my youngest son.  I don't do it all the time but when I see he is tired but quite capable I will write for him while he tells me what to write and where to write it.  He loved it. I didn't correct his mistakes while he was doing a calculation because then it would be my work not his, but I told him when it was right or wrong.  He then had the opportunity to re-calculate the sum.

18.  Chat to the teachers with your child present
You should think about having this chat with your child present.  You might find out through an open conversation like this, that the reason your child has so much homework is because they are not cooperating at school or not doing the work they should during school time.  This then needs to be addressed as a discipline issue.  By having both teacher and child present, it removes the whole "he says"  "she says" and will ensure that both parties are entirely honest.  (this however takes courage, because you may not like what the teacher has to say)

19.  Supervise
With children who struggle to get homework done, be close at hand.  Don't keep disappearing down the corridor to get your own things done.  Be there.  They need constant encouragement, reminders to stay focused.  This will ensure that tasks don't take longer than they should.  I remember my boys used to love "going to the toilet", "going to sharpen pencils" and "going to quickly look at something". All of these eventually became distractions and they would disappear with all sorts of 'very good reasons'.  

20.  Let them attend after-school sessions
Some schools allow for homework sessions after school. Most parents who are able to, want to fetch their children from school and get them home. However for your child, this kind of environment is exactly what they need to get their work done.  It also means that when they get home they are able to enjoy being at home, without the added burden of homework still to be completed.

Now it's your turn - what works for you during homework time?  Do you have any tips for us that have not been included?  I would love to hear what your ideas are?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go ahead, leave a comment! I would love to hear from you!