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Win the Homework Battle

Fill Your Arsenal With These Useful Weapons

     At Debbie Abrams Kaplan’s house, her children, who are both in elementary school, must finish their homework and practice their instruments before they can turn on the computer or play video games. Sometimes they don’t want to study, but they know the drill.
     “I always feel like the bad guy, making them do homework before they can do the fun stuff, but it’s important for them to get into the habit,” says Kaplan, who hosts the blog Frisco Kids. “Once they finish those ‘must-do’ items, they have the rest of the day to do what they want.”
     If when you mention the “h” word at your house, you’re met with whining, procrastination or just ignored, your child may have valid reasons why he’s rebelling. He has just switched into a vastly different environment when he gets home, says Keri Guncheon, who teaches third grade at Strandwood Elementary in Pleasant Hill, and you’re asking him to return to the school atmosphere.
     “Getting back into the school mode is hard when there are so many more engaging and exciting things to do,” says Guncheon.
     Your child might rebel, too, if he doesn’t understand what he’s supposed to do, says Sarah Eisenberg Hauser, M.Ed., director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Piedmont.
     Homework should be practicing and repeating what they’ve learned in the classroom so they will remember the lesson. It should never be the time to introduce new skills.
     An example, says Hauser, might be that the teacher asks the class to read chapter seven of the social studies book at home. But first the teacher tells students what the chapter is about. The teacher shouldn’t insist students read a new chapter and then figure out how to do problems presented in that chapter.

Lessen the Stress
     Parents need to set the expectation that homework must be done and it’s not a choice, says Hauser. Stay on top of where your child is academically. If he’s behind, work with him and the teacher to get the student caught up. Otherwise, he won’t ever be successful with his homework. Catching up the child also helps build his self-confidence. To make all this easier, your child needs his own space.
     Make sure he has a specific place set aside for working on homework. Most kids thrive on structure, so read over the assignment directions with him and then have him try to do the work alone.
     “Walk away! Don’t sit next to them the entire time,” says Guncheon. “Homework is meant for them to do independently.”
If the child has questions or can’t complete a question or problem, suggest he circle it and then review all the circled items together when he has finished the rest of his school work.

Tick-Tock
     Provide the necessary amount of time needed to complete the assignments and have a regularly scheduled and logical time for studying that makes sense. Starting homework at 8 p.m. won’t work, says Hauser.
     When your child takes a long time to get through his assignments, Guncheon suggests breaking up the study time. Have your child work for 10 minutes and then take a mini break. If the time needed continues to seem lengthy, let the teacher know.
     “Most teachers are willing to modify assignments, because we want our students to be successful, not frustrated,” says Guncheon.
     Guncheon plans an average of 40 minutes a night for her third-grade class this year. That includes 20 minutes on homework and 20 minutes of independent reading. If they have an additional project like a book report, Guncheon says, then they may need more time. Other teachers and especially other grade levels may have a different amount of time allotted for studying at home.

Why Not “Just Do It”?
     Frustrated parents may give up and do the homework for their child, but that doesn’t help solve the problem.
     Parents can get involved and even assist with larger at-home projects, but when they make the project a competition, it doesn’t help their child. Too often the parents in higher-achieving communities do the child’s homework for them, says Hauser. Even if the parent does it all correctly, the student’s frustration is heightened.
     Don’t be completely hands off either. Reviewing daily assignments with your child sends a message to his teacher that he has the support at home that he needs.

Talk Is Cheap — and Helpful
      Homework shouldn’t be a huge struggle, says Guncheon, so if you have a hard time getting your child to do it, talk to the teacher and tell him or her what’s going on. But most importantly, talk with your child. Try using a sticker chart to show his achievements or offer mini breaks. Ask why he wants to avoid at-home assignments. Suggest the child come up with ways to make homework easier. Most kids love problem solving and generally have good, imaginative ideas.

 

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