Now that we have the first day of school in the books, it is time for our students to hit the books. When I started teaching first grade, I loved family homework activities. I found joy in sending home instructions to design the perfect Thanksgiving turkey to display in the hall and can still feel the excitement of science fair projects. I assigned these activities with all the intention to enrich the student’s educational experience to include their family, until I had kids. I dread those assignments and loath homework. Not because I do not see value in the assignments, but because homework time means I am going to have to physically wrestle my kid to give me the book bag and spend hours working through one assignment that a cooperative child would have finished in 10 minutes. So, I do apologize to all those parents who felt the pain of my Thanksgiving turkeys or 3D habitats. I learned early on how to make this time with my child more organized, efficient, and tolerable-maybe a little fun!
Homework Hack #1- Clothes line
I have a very hands-on child who will look at a stack of books and completely shut down. To elevate this, we created a homework clothes line. Every day, we would empty his book bag and hang each assignment on the cloths line in the order that he chose to complete the assignments. Having him prioritize his work made it his responsibility to complete it. Clothes pins with a blue dot meant that the assignment had to be done that night, clothes pins with a red dot meant we had to work on that assignment a little every night until it was due.
Homework Hack #2- Homework Caddy
At the beginning of each school year, I would buy a cheap plastic caddy or plastic tote and label it the “Homework Caddy”. I found out early on that searching for a glue stick in the middle of a homework session was just enough distraction to make it nearly impossible to get back on task. To alleviate this, all necessary supplies are organized in the homework caddy specific to each one of my kids. This way scissors, crayons, glue sticks, pencils, pens, etc. are right there and ready when needed. I even included a pencil sharpener because the toughest kids know how to stall by breaking off the pencil point.
Homework Hack #3-Personal Space
Arrange an area where each of your children has their own space to work without the distraction of a less than cooperative sibling. If they are working at the dining room, create dividers out of cardboard boxes, folders, or presentation boards where they have a private place to work and pin up some resources to assist in the homework process.
Homework Hack #4- Homework Aid Travel Kit
Have you ever pulled into the school parking lot to drop your kid off for a wonderful day when they notice a wiggly eye is just hanging from their homework masterpiece? Never fear the “Homework Aid Travel Kit” is here. Simply pull that resource right out of the glove department, whip out a glue stick and surprise-crisis avoided. Store crayons, pens, Band-Aids, glue sticks, Kleenex, etc. in this kit for any emergency that might arise in that five minute commute.
Homework Hack #5-Parent In-Box
Nothing is worse than a kid waking you up just as you fall asleep to remind you that you did not sign their test paper. To ease this frustration, have a parent in-box in a central location for all forms, permission slips, newsletters, etc. can be dropped off and ready to review prior to completing the day. Keep a calendar close so that you can mark important dates down as they are issued in the school notices.
Homework Hack # 6- Routine and Position
All kids need structure and having a specific time period to complete their homework is a must. Maybe it is right after school, before dinner or right before bed but establish a time to complete these tasks and have a back-up schedule on days that include extra-curricular activities. Along with this, there is no written rule that a child has to be seated at a table to complete their work properly. Remember, their little bodies have been seated for most of the day. Having them stand and move around while working is okay. They are comfortable and completing their work. What more could we ask for?
Homework Hack #7- Music Anyone?
It is a misconception that homework time is only successful if completed in a quiet environment with no distractions. I find, myself, that a little white noise in the background makes learning pleasurable…or tolerable. I don’t mean the “Cowboy Boogie,” but a little classical or instrumental music is fine. Nothing too busy or they will start to dance to or sing. It is worth a try.
Homework Hack # 8- Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
A child’s memory seems very short when it comes to remembering what they have to complete. Use a mirror located in their room or bathroom and with a dry erase marker, jot down notes and reminders that are looking right back at them. If you do not have a mirror, sheet protector are awesome. Simply slide a paper in the sheet protectors and “viola”- dry erase board. This could be pinned up on the refrigerator or other common area so when a task is complete, they can find the joy of crossing it off.
By: Dr. Jessica Scott