Homework has to get done, so make it fun

Turn homework time into a positive experience by setting guidelines, creating an environment conducive to study, and, most importantly, working together with your child as a team player as she meets her education goals.

Here’s a few tips to help:

Homework expectations

Familiarize yourself with homework guidelines for each grade level. Most guidelines are published on school or district websites. Alternatively, contact your child’s teacher for specific classroom homework requirements. Share these expectations with your child.

Keep track of deadlines

Encourage your child to keep an agenda, making a note of nightly homework assignments and deadlines. Many schools now require students to keep an agenda, so that science fair project sneaking up out of the blue the night before it’s due is becoming, thankfully, a thing of the past.

Set the stage

Talk to your child and work together to create an inviting, well-lit and comfy study area. Turn off the TV; switch off the phone. Have school supplies set aside in a special drawer so no time is wasted searching for glue sticks or a pencil sharpener.

Set the homework schedule

Determine the time of day that works best for your child. It may be easiest for some children to do homework immediately after school. Other kids may require more unwinding, so homework time may be left for the evening, immediately after dinner. Make sure it’s a time when your child is still alert.

Be supportive

As a parent, you play an important role in homework time, so look upon it as a good time to bond. You are your child’s best teacher and can strengthen knowledge and enthusiasm simply by taking the time to sit down and work together on reading and other tasks. This is also your time to monitor whether or not your child is grasping the content she’s learning in school. Chicago Public Schools highlight the importance of parental involvement during homework time, starting with kindergarten, when parents are requested to read to their children for at least 15 minutes per day. By high school, parents are asked to contribute 180 minutes per week of parent involvement in “homework” activities, which could include cultural awareness trips, help with long-term projects, creative writing and reading. Dinnertime discussions related to current issues or events count.

Work on study skills

Study skills are not innate-they need to be taught. One method you can teach your child is the SQ3R Method (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review): First, take a general look at the overall topic of study (survey). For example, you could watch a movie or read a book that touches upon the area of study. Next, make a list of questions you have related to this topic, including several who, what, when, where, how and why questions. Then read actively from your textbook or study resource-highlighting, taking notes and answering your questions along the way. Periodically, recite what you’ve read-share your newly gained knowledge with a parent, sibling or friend. Finally, review what you’ve learned by rereading, requestioning, reanswering and re-reciting.

Make memorizing fun

Need to memorize the planets? Make up some fun acronyms, i.e. My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nuts (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune). Schoolhouse Rock, that old Saturday morning cartoon fave, is now available on YouTube, with fun videos and catchy tunes on conjunctions, interjections and how a bill becomes a law.

Create a reward system

Of course, good grades are usually the reward for a well-done homework job, but some children might need an extra incentive. Create a chart and place a sticker on each day of the week your child successfully completes her homework (on time and without badgering). For each week or month of on-target homework completion, reward your child with a trip to the bookstore or even something as simple as an ice cream cone.

Think outside of the box

“Homework” can also be completed in the form of family field trips, discussions and artistic endeavors. Be creative! Find out what topics your child is focusing on in school and brainstorm ideas for extending learning at home.

Homework is forever

Helping our children to become lifelong learners should be our goal as parents, so let’s show them that although we’re old dogs we’re still learning. Instead of sinking in front of your TV or computer while your child works on her homework, why not pursue a study interest of your own? It’s never too late to learn a new language or skill.

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