At Smartick, where we insist that children complete their 15-minute sessions independently, we have wanted to make a helpful list to prevent parents from losing the entire afternoon to homework.
10 Tips to Help Children Do Homework Independently
- A specific place to do homework: It is not about all of us having a beautiful library where children, enveloped by an academic environment, do their homework. Keeping the size and characteristics of your house in mind, have a specific place for them to do their homework. It can be a table in the kitchen or living room or a desk in their room. But it always has to be the same space, with everything they need and them taking responsibility and knowing what they need. Parents should not be the ones that empty their backpacks and go looking for their homework.
- Routine: As with a place to do their homework, children should know that there is a determined time to do their homework. It is not when they feel like it, when they remember, or whenever. They need to know, for example, a good moment could be after their afternoon snack when they come home from school. In their place, at their time, and in a relatively calm environment. This doesn’t mean that they have to work in complete silence, but it would be reasonable to make sure that the TV or radio is not turned on or has the volume as loud as it can go. They need to realize that it is an important moment for concentration.
- Don’t begin with the most difficult tasks. Mental exercise is just like physical, it requires a bit of warm-up, which is why we shouldn’t begin with the hardest task.
- Take advantage to teach them how to work independently and love learning. An afternoon of homework can be a really beautiful moment for parents to explain things to their children, such as how to look up words in the dictionary or to use the time to talk to them and expand on the topics they are learning. Let them appreciate the time dedicated to learning and really take in what that means: the world will open up before their eyes in different ways, depending on the things that they discover. Which is what Smartick tries to convey with math.
- Use parent group chats in moderation. It is good to be able to talk to other parents in case someone’s jacket or books have been misplaced or to organize a birthday gift. But it should never become a child’s agenda or a problem-solving co-op for the whole class’s problems. Collaborative work is great for later on, but without parents acting as the ‘middle man.’
- Do not complain in front of your children. Yes, some homework assignments can seem a little absurd or that teachers don’t seem to understand that we as parents do not want to be doing our children’s homework. However, these are conversations to have away from your children, doing so in front of them would undermine the teacher’s authority. How would your child act towards them after hearing you speak poorly of their teachers?
- Use incentives. In an ideal world, your children would do their homework because it is beneficial to their learning, but that doesn’t always happen. There are many different variables that influence them and, while incentives work for some, such as having a soda over the weekend or some candy, punishment may work for others. There won’t be a half an hour of drawing if homework is not done; no time for computer games if homework isn’t finished, whatever you see fit.
- Independently: It is a reoccurring conversation between today’s parents: did our parents help us this much? And we shouldn’t help. There may be homework assignments that require help from a student’s parents, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Homework is done to review what they have learned in school, so that on their own they can learn more about countries, animals, etc. What do we achieve by helping them? This is the question we need to answer before sitting down with them, but at the same time make sure they know you are there in case they have a question.
- The ultimate threat. If all else fails and they don’t want to do their homework then very calmly, because that will work better than yelling, say ‘Alright then. I’ll write a note to your teacher now and tell them that you don’t want to do your homework.’ It usually works, but it is something that should only be used as a last resort.
- All of these tips can be summed up in the following: routine, calm, specific place, independence, and conveying that homework is important because it helps them learn. Everything else we will leave for parents to decide privately: if there are too many tasks, if the teacher isn’t selecting the right ones, or if the U.S. has more homework than other countries but performs worse on the PISA assessment.
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