Your home has been a homework-free zone, but summer is over. Although going back to school may free-up time during your day the thought of homework is an experience each year that is often met with uncomfortable expectation. If you are like most parents, you feel a mixture of emotions about homework. Some of them positive, but many of them unpleasant. Frustration, annoyance, boredom, confusion, and even anger are among the many negative emotions parents, as well as their children, express when it comes to homework. Face it, most of us did not like doing homework when we were kids and we probably do not like it any better as parents.
Homework, you are reminded constantly by your childís teachers, is an important component of the school experience. You are told that completing homework successfully makes for successful students. Homework continues to be an institution in our educational system. Even in well functioning families under ideal circumstances, homework can be one of the hottest parent-child crisis buttons. Parents are unsure as to the best time, place, routine, or system their child should use to complete homework. Many children rebel and parents feel overwhelmed by the pressure of meeting their childrenís school demands. It is not surprising that parents complain about homework almost as much as their children do.
Most children during their school career forget some assignments, lose homework, require assistance, or make mistakes. Some children have difficulty learning essential skills that enable them to complete homework independently. Some have trouble obtaining assignments. Some may be confused, overwhelmed with long-term projects, or rush through assignments. For children experiencing school problems, the challenges of homework are added to existing classroom difficulties. It is not uncommon for these children to bring incomplete class work home as well as homework. For them, and for you, there is the prospect of hours and hours of schoolwork at home, often with minimal long-term benefit.
Your childís ability to be successful with homework begins with the value you place upon homework. Success also requires helping your child develop essential homework skills, creating a working alliance with your child and teachers as well as learning to deal with common homework problems. In this article, we provide answers to five of the most common homework problems parents face.
(1)† Encourage your child to take responsibility for homework and donít allow yourself to get trapped in lengthy discussion or arguments.
(2)† Set up homework rules that you and your child can agree to follow.
(3)† Help your child make short-term homework goals that can gradually be extended. Keep in mind that some children are overwhelmed with the thought of too much homework.
(4)† Reinforce and praise appropriate homework behavior and avoid a negative pattern of scolding, nagging, or threatening.
(1) † Choose a pleasant, consistent place to complete homework.
(2)† Create an agreed upon schedule and routine for homework.
(3)† Have your child learn to make checklists of what needs to be completed.
(4)† Provide appropriate supervision.
(5)† Create incentives including pleasurable activities that can be accessed when homework is partially or fully completed.
(6)† Set goals and use a clock or timer to help your child to develop a sense of timeliness for required tasks.
(1)† Review homework assignments nightly, checking for thoroughness, neatness and accuracy. Encourage, but do not demand that mistakes are corrected.
(2)† Have your child underline or highlight important words or phrases in directions of an assignment as a means of cueing what needs to be done.
(3)† Emphasize that you want your child to do their best work, not their fastest work.
(4)† Help your child self-monitor by checking for errors in spelling, punctuation, neatness, calculations, correct headings, etc.
With patience, planning, insight, and empathy you can avoid singing the back to school homework blues this year and help your children experience homework success.
Drs. Zentall and Goldstein are authors of Homework Workbook: A Seven Step Plan to Hassle Free Homework (Specialty Press, 1999).