For some parents, they eye the school year as going back to normal, following a more disciplined schedule and putting an end to a hectic and often expensive summer holiday. For others, they see homework just around the corner and they feel a panic attack coming on. All they can remember are the crying fits, the frustration, the yelling and the exhaustion related to hours of work. As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to lighten up the load for parents by sharing some helpful tips with them. I consider the following tips valuable in helping you know how to deal with your child’s homework.
- Time is of the essence. There is an unwritten rule that says that from Grade 1 to Grade 6, homework should not exceed 10 minutes per grade level. As an example, a Grade 1 student should not exceed 10 minutes while a Grade 5 student should expect to have enough homework to fill up 50 minutes. If it takes longer, something is definitely wrong. Never work about an hour a night with a Grade 2 student! The most extra time that you can expect to spend with a student that needs some extra time is an extra 10 minutes. So a Grade 1 student should never exceed 20 minutes to complete his homework. If you feel he would need more time than that, ask the teacher for some suggestions or to adapt the load to his needs by either lightening it up or making the necessary changes. Believe me, your child has worked hard enough at school; he does not need to feel overwhelmed by the load of homework at home, too.
- Your child needs a break when coming home. Your child should never do his homework as soon as he arrives home. Like you, he needs a break. After all, he worked hard all day, just like you. His mind needs to be refreshed by relaxing after school.
- Drink before doing any work. The first thing that your child should do before starting his homework is to get hydrated. You see, water makes up 80% of the human body, so when thirst is coming in, concentration is walking out. Your child will not be able to concentrate well if he is thirsty. Ensure that he drinks first!
- Hunger makes it hard to focus. Food is one of the main fuels that your body needs to function well. In fact, a large percentage of the energy provided by food goes to the brain. In order for the brain to be able to focus on the task at hand, your body’s fuel needs to be replenished regularly. So, your child should never complete his homework on an empty stomach. If he does, the lack of focus will cost him in time and cause frustration.
- The atmosphere is important too. Study your child and notice the best conditions for him to work in. For example, some will prefer to work with music while others need a quiet place to make it easier for them to focus on the tasks at hand. You may be surprised by the conditions that are the most productive for your child. Don’t forget that what seem to be good conditions for you may be nightmarish ones for your child.
- Don’t fall into the trap. No matter how tired or frustrated your child is, never give him the answers or even worse, write it down for him. It is better to give him a 15-minutes break than to do the job for him. Don’t forget that the purpose of homework is to allow your child to complete assignments, practice his reading or understand and practice a concept taught in class. You already learned it all; it is his job to do it now. Once I had a parent that was always doing his child's homework for him. Of course, she was confused that his tests or assignments done in class were never even close to the ones related to his homework. Unfortunately, I had to put a stop to it so I said to her: “By the way, I want to congratulate you. Your homework was excellent! Now, let’s talk about what your child actually learned from it.” It never happened again.
- Ask questions about the homework policy. If you disagree with the homework load, talk to the teacher first. If no agreement is made, ask the school administration about the school policy. If you are still unable to come to an agreement, you should contact the school division and ask them about its homework policy. You could be surprised! You see, some teachers are using traditional ways and send home new assignments as homework. In fact, homework should only include: completing an assignment or a project that had more than enough class time to be completed at school, reading, spelling and some math facts such as time tables. Anything else should be completed in class, as these are the unwritten homework rules!
I encourage you and anyone else guiding your child through his homework to follow these tips closely in order to make homework time a better experience! Please note that a homework policy and the time allowed for homework are mainly concerning students ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 6. Let’s trade the nightmare for a learning experience!