One of the most difficult aspects of the transition from summer vacation to the school year is homework. Having grown accustomed to plentiful free playtime, kids naturally rebel at the thought of having to do homework during their scant after-school hours. We can certainly sympathize, and yet it is our job to make sure that they sit down and tackle that homework.
It’s a set-up for endless nagging, which is not a prospect that anyone welcomes. In order to avoid painful homework battles, our best hope is to establish good study time routines.
When setting up a routine with your child, here are questions to consider together:
Where is the best place in your house for homework to happen this year? This depends on the child’s age, ability to focus, and on other members of the household who may be likely to interfere (younger siblings are notoriously distracting). Some children do well at the kitchen table where they have easy access to an adult for help on sticky math problems. Others prefer to go into their rooms where they can get away from distracting sibs and pets. That is fine too, but an adult should check in regularly to make sure that homework is actually getting done. Having an attractive desk area may entice some kids to sit down and work, but all that’s needed is a clear surface, sharpened pencils, an eraser that works, and, if needed, a computer already logged in to the required program.
When is the best time of day to do homework? This is something to gauge according to the child and to talk about together. Some kids really need to run around at the park and blow off steam after school. Others prefer to sit down immediately and get the homework out of the way. The timing may also vary according to your child’s afterschool schedule. Indeed, the routine may be slightly different each day of the week. (Last year, for instance, my daughter always did her Monday night reading while sitting in the hallway of her music school waiting for her piano lesson!)
Does a snack help? Many young kids seem to like to snack on pretzels and grapes or some similarly non-messy snack while they are reading or filling out worksheets. Having a simple, healthy snack on hand may be just the thing to lure your child to the homework table. Other kids need to eat a heartier snack before they are able to concentrate on homework. Either way, we do find that trying to get hungry kids to work is pretty much impossible.
What about play dates? Play dates are wonderful bonding time for friends, but they are also disruptive of the homework routine. We’re had some success in having the kids do their homework together. It turns out that even first-graders like having study buddies!
Once your child gets into a good routine, everyone discovers that homework isn’t so bad. The key is to get it done! And when no time’s wasted on postponing, fretting, whining, and nagging, then you’ll be amazed at how quickly it goes.
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