Homework time is probably one of the most dreaded times in every other household. I can understand children, after spending an average of 6 hours at school following directions, the last words they want to hear from their parents are ‘Let’s do homework’.
Last year, when my son started kindergarten, we both had to adjust to a new routine. Getting a 5-year-old boy to sit down for a couple of hours, to read, write, solve math and comprehension problems, wasn’t an easy task.
Luckily, that trial and error method last year, helped us develop simple ways to make homework time less hectic this school year. Here are some of the things we are doing to bear with homework time:
1. Set a Schedule and Create a Routine
Homework time is not when you want it to be, neither when your child wants it to be. Homework time is when you have planned for it. Set a schedule and stick to that same time of the day every day, or whenever you plan to do homework. By doing this, you create a mindset for both of you. Your child won’t be wandering around doing other activities, and you won’t be filling that time frame in your schedule with other tasks either. It’s homework time, no excuses.
2. Make Room for Homework
Having a dedicated space for homework time is essential. It is not necessary to have an entire room just for homework. In our case, the kitchen table works just fine. The important part is to create a quiet and distraction-free environment, a comfortable place where your child will sit every day to work for a couple of hours.
In my article 5 Back To School Organization Ideas, I rounded up beautiful and smart ways to help you create an organized and attractive homework environment. I loved idea number 3 so much that I did not hesitate to re-create this turntable homework station that you see in the pictures throughout this post.
3. Be Available
Assuming that your child is in his or her early learning years, like mine, it is important to be available for them at homework time. They will always have questions, don’t solve their homework for them but give them company and guidance. Be there to support and give positive feedback.
I understand that modern life is demanding and time is always of the essence. So if you have the urge to do something else while your child is doing homework, it’s totally OK, as long as you can be readily available when your child needs you. While your child is doing homework, choose to do a task that doesn’t take all of your focus or attention. Something like emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes.
Since we designated the kitchen table as our homework station, I usually start prepping dinner. I chop vegetables while he solves math problems. I am still able to stand up and stir a soup if I need to, without taking my full attention away from him.
4. Rewards are Better Than Punishment
I think we can all agree -or perhaps we don’t- that rewards are better than punishment. So, if you struggle with getting your child to start homework, do not threaten them with taking something away from them (like TV, electronics, or playtime) if they don’t obey. That only makes the thought of homework negative and dreadful. Instead, try saying something like: ‘ The sooner we get our homework time done, the sooner we can go outside and play with your new truck. I’m so excited to check it out, so let’s get to work!’.
While we all have our way of parenting our children, rewards always work best on children minds. Some children feel very motivated with a reward chart full of stickers, some others prefer a treat, like their favorite dinner or dessert.
5. Use a Timer
Last year, one of my biggest struggles was getting through one single exercise of writing sight words repeatedly. It was so tedious for my son’s mind, that he ended up daydreaming and looking around while holding the pencil in mid-air.
While I had no intent to rush him, because I wanted him to learn how to spell and write his sight words correctly, I was getting really aggravated with the fact of getting stuck on the same page for 20 or 30 minutes. So, I started the timer game.
We would set the timer for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, then ‘challenge him’ to get an ‘x’ amount of sight words written down. Paradoxically, the fact that he was running a race against time, made him focus and think faster.
A timer helps small children to have a better understanding of time (as in minutes and hours), and I have found that when I set the timer, he is interested to know how much homework he gets done in a certain time frame.
6. Homework Time = Snack Time
While some parents might not agree with me on this one, this is something that works for me all. the. time. It is proven that a healthy snack improves focus and sharpen your thoughts. After all, don’t we all grown- ups love to sip on a warm cup of coffee while doing our work? 🙂
In fact, many children -including my son- have ‘snack time’ in their classrooms while doing reading and writing.
It’s almost like killing two birds with one stone. By doing this, you are allowing your child to do something they want to do, while doing their homework, without one thing interfering with the other. My son loves to snack on apple slices, crackers, or peanut butter balls – as an example-, these little handheld snacks, keep him happy and focused.
7. Talk About Free Time
Since I am a planner by nature, I like to tell my son how much homework we have to get done in a given time frame, in order to have some free time later in the week. Our weekly schedule is packed with karate, swim, and religion lessons, so we truly have to schedule our homework time in advance and stick to it, otherwise, we would have to do homework over the weekend.
Let your child know why it is important to do homework ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’. This teaches them an early lesson on time management, and I am sure they wouldn’t want to miss their baseball practice or going to a birthday party over the weekend.
I wrote an article on how to plan your day using the time blocking method, where I explain how to manage time simply and effortlessly.
8. Break it Down
Whenever possible, break homework down by subject, or by a number of pages. At home, we receive a homework packet each Monday which is due the following Monday, so we try to cover a certain amount of pages each day, without going into the weekend. Breaking the packet down motivates my son to get homework done at a given time.
For him, it’s better to set his mind on let’s say 4 pages a day, as opposed to seeing a packet full of papers on the table without knowing how much I expect him to get done in that time frame. Everyone knows their children’s limits, so work at the pace that works best for your child.
9. Do Your Homework Too
Lead by example, and show your child you have homework to do too. I mentioned before how you need to be available for your child, but you could also use homework time to do certain tasks. Things you could do could be: meal planning, write a to-do list, or sort mail.
Performing a task -that does not take a lot of your focus- shows your child that we all have responsibilities and keeps them motivated. After all, our children look up to us.
10. Always Try to Make it Fun
Some kids may not find anything fun about doing homework, but sometimes I get a laugh out my son when I make ‘homework related jokes’, especially with math problems. Something like ‘Oh boy! I can’t believe it, there are not enough carrots for all these bunnies, we are going to have to go to the food store later! ‘ – ‘ How many carrots should I put down on my list?’.
That single comment makes him look forward to reading the next math problem, just to hear what joke I come up with next.