Tips for Managing the Homework Routine
Taking the Stress Out of Homework
Most parents have experienced it – the daily after school battle to get their kids to sit and do their homework. There are so many distractions – TV, social media, phone apps, texting. The problem often becomes worse if a child is struggling in school to begin with.
Providing a child with a sense of control over his homework situation can help. Creating a visual schedule and a “to do” list creates a feeling of ownership of a set of tasks. Completing this list of tasks instills self-confidence and a feeling of capability and accomplishment.
Establish a set time for homework, after some quality movement time, and keep it consistent, helping to build the child’s internal sense of time. Organization is critical. Set aside a special place in the house for homework. Make sure this location is kept tidy and that all needed materials, pens, pencils, etc., are available. If a child is older, they can organize their own materials, helping to build executive function skills. Make sure the child is sitting at a desk that is appropriate for their body. Their feet should be flat on the floor or step stool, keeping their ankles and knees at 90 degrees. Shoulders should not be elevated and elbows should be at 90 degrees for proper ergonomic positioning. If a child is looking at a computer screen, his eyes should be looking at the center of the screen. Having to look up or down for a prolonged period of time can cause neck fatigue.
If a child struggles to keep track of homework assignments and related papers, creating a homework folder that goes back and forth with them to school can help. Making the teacher aware of this kind of folder means that everyone is working together on behalf of the child, with the ultimate goal of helping the child become independent with homework tasks.
Breaking up the homework time with a fun, healthy, crunchy snack wakes up the brain, helping to keep your child alert and on task. When a child is frustrated it is important for him to see that the parent or caregiver does not lose trust or sight of the end goal – completion of the task and success for the child. A parent or caregiver’s availability during the homework period can be beneficial to a child that is struggling, providing a wonderful opportunity for a parent or caregiver to help motivate the child to develop resilience, focus and perseverance when challenged. Joining the child on a walk outside or a card game during a break can provide an opportunity for the child to communicate difficulties he may be having.
Encourage children to read for 30 minutes a night. Be aware of visual distractions, sound or auditory distractions, and get the child to work with you to locate a physical space that helps their body feel calm and their mind focused. Set a timer so they experience the success of completing the task. Big beanbag chairs are often a great place for children to feel calm. Make sure the lighting is adequate to avoid eye strain. If a child is rubbing their eyes, blinking consistently, has watery eyes or is regularly losing their place on the page, a developmental optometry assessment may be required.
Parents should try to remember that homework is for practice. It allows a child’s teacher to know how a child is doing with his learning. It is important that a parent, who feels that his child doesn’t understand what is being asked of them or is struggling in some way, communicate that to the teacher. Resist the urge to do a child’s homework for them – it’s not helpful in the long run.
If a child seems to be consistently struggling at school or with independent homework, then seeking out a professional assessment with an Educational Therapist could be key to identifying a child’s particular learning style, strengths and weaknesses.