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Here Comes the Homework

10 Homework tips for maximizing academic success


Homework is an important component of a child’s educational experience. To help families make the most of homework time, educators offer these tips.

  1. Time it Right. To find the best time to do homework, consider your schedule and your child’s temperament and personality. Some kids need a break when they get home. Others lose steam if they don’t do their assignments right away. Try doing homework at different times to see where you have the greatest success. Then create a consistent routine based on what works best for your child.
  2. My Space. Children need an undistracted desk-like area for doing homework. And for some, that may not be a bedroom where familiar toys could divert their attention or a kitchen table situated around household hubbub. Find a consistent place away from distractions but still central to a parent so the child can be monitored if he has questions or needs help staying on task.
  3. Tuned in or Turned off? Some children enjoy listening to music while studying, but parents need to consider their child’s learning style and the type of media he’s tuning in to. While a small percentage of children do better with a little background noise, the majority need a quiet environment. If your child insists on having something on, refrain from TV or familiar tunes that might distract his thinking. Instead, choose unfamiliar songs without words such as soothing, classical music.
  4. Aid and Ally. Parents should be there to lend support and provide guidance when needed. Read together, help with directions and explaining the first few problems to make sure your child understands the concepts. Then let him work independently while remaining available for questions. Follow up by checking for quality. If you see several mistakes, encourage your child to make corrections. But don’t fix it for him. Teachers would prefer the work come back wrong rather than having parent make needed corrections. If the work is replete with errors, let it go and send a note to the teacher saying your child didn’t understand the work. Another thing that may help is a homework buddy. Encourage your child to partner with a classmate so they can be in contact with one another if either has trouble while completing an assignment.
  5. Rapid Review. Reviewing previous lessons is beneficial in refreshing a student’s memory, particularly with subjects like math where one concept builds upon another. Look at a couple of past lessons and have your child briefly explain the concepts to you. But keep it short so he’s still alert for the current day’s assignment.
  6. Tarry and Toil. If your child is working for an extended period of time, consider the cause. Is he tired? Unfocused? Doddling? Not understanding the material? If he’s procrastinating, set a timer or offer an incentive for completing the assignment on time. If, however, your child is diligent and still not finishing in a reasonable amount of time, have him stop. Then let the teacher know how long he worked.
  7. Pay Attention to Patterns. If you find your child frequently saying he doesn’t understand the work, it may be a clue he needs extra school support or a tutor. Likewise, if he effortlessly whips through his assignments day after day it may be an indication he’s not being challenged. Homework isn’t supposed to be overly difficult but students should have to put some time and thought into it. Look for patterns that something is happening, either good or bad. Then communicate with the teacher and ask for her suggestions.
  8. Relegate Responsibility. Encourage your child to take on the responsibility of starting and finishing homework by creating a system such as a check-off list. When he starts to receive long-term projects, help him map out the work by using a calendar so he learns good time management and organizational skills. Break down large projects into their smallest components of what needs to be done each day — reading “X” number of pages, for example. Then check with your child periodically to make sure he’s staying on task.
  9. Scope Out Sick Days. If your child is going to be out for more than a few days, contact the teacher and let her know. If he has to stay home due to a minor illness, the teacher may want to send a few things your way. But if your child is truly sick and needs to rest, she’ll probably suggest letting him recover and catching him up on the work when he returns.
  10. Constantly Communicate. Find out early on the best way to contact your child’s teacher —either by phone, email, note or other. Then if an issue arises, don’t wait to discuss it. Small problems can escalate if not addressed right away. Even if things are going well, occasionally touch base to make sure you’re both pleased with your child’s progress. 

Denise Yearian is a former educator and editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children. 

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