Regardless of where you stand in the debate on homework, it’s not going to go away. So the question is, “What can parents do to help their children complete and maximize the benefit of homework?” Here are some simple steps you can take to help children learn and retain information.
Ask: What’s my child’s learning style?
We teach our children the way we were taught or how we learned as students. We might wonder if there is something wrong if our children learn differently. Observe your child’s natural way of learning, use online learning style inventories, and become your child’s learning style detective.
When should homework be done?
Some children need to start homework while they are still in school mode. Is your child the type of student that walks in the door from school and immediately sits down to do his homework? Or, does she need to decompress from the school day and play, physically, before tackling more schoolwork? Some children re-energize with a much needed break and snack after school. Physical activity oxygenates the brain and supports learning.
Together with your child, come to an agreement about when homework will be tackled. For example, you and your child might agree to 45 minutes of play time and a snack right after school. Set a timer. When the time is up, it is time to do homework. In essence you are creating a schedule and a routine with your child’s input that will help make homework go more smoothly.
Where should homework be done?
Where is your child best able to focus and learn? Does he like to sit at a table, lay down and sprawl out on the floor, or stand at the kitchen counter to do homework? My daughter sat at a table while my son preferred to sit with his back on the seat and his feet on the back of the chair!. As adults, we know what type of environment best enables us to complete tasks. I, personally, focus better at a standing station. Help your children figure out what works best for them.
Does homework require perfect silence?
Some of us need quiet to read. Others prefer to have some “white noise” in the background to help our focus. Research points to Mozart and Baroque as supporting the learning process. The key is figuring out whether the background noise is supporting success or causing distraction. TV for example, typically creates distraction.
Homework strategies that reduce tears.
The internet library has revolutionized teaching and learning. Students have so many more tools and resources available to help them understand the information presented in class as well as in their homework. They can use flashcards – paper or digital, mind mapping, audio books, and speech-to-text or text-to-speech software to read, study, and complete assignments. Find and use strategies that support your child’s learning preference.
Does it have to be the way the teacher assigns it?
I’ve negotiated with my child and with the teacher. If I know that the homework assigned is not in sync with how my child learns, I’m going to adapt it. Rather than have him write the vocabulary words three times each, I had my son write them twice on paper, per teacher requirements, and once on a color- coded, picture enhanced flash card. Because many youth learn words by their shape, I’d also have him border the words in the shape of the word.
Tap into your child’s learning style and adapt homework in a way that it will provide the best opportunity for success. Stick to what the teacher is expecting of them, but supplement the assignment so your child gets the most out of the experience.
Homework has benefits
Homework is an opportunity for children to bring what they learned in school that day back into their working memory. When approached as a collaboration, it can promote communication and problem solving. In the best of circumstances, it provides families with a positive way to be involved in their children’s education. Parent involvement is a key factor in children’s school success.
For more information about study strategies for your student, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Please Help Me With My Homework. Available in both print and electronic versions!