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Turn Homework from an Obstacle to an Advantage

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Homework. It is a big eight-letter word that often sends chills down a child’s spine. Parents have literally pulled their hair out trying to help their child complete this rigorous nightly routine. I have seen homework bring out the very best and the very worst in both parents and students. As a parent of three boys, there are times when I struggle with the daily homework ritual. However, there are a few things I have learned over the years that can help make homework go from an obstacle to an advantage.

1. Know the Purpose: Homework should serve as a review or reinforcement of skills taught in class during the day. It also teaches students how to be responsible citizens who are accountable for their own learning and promotes good study habits. Homework should not be a negative experience. However, when a student struggles, frustration and emotions from parents and children can foster a negative work environment. Always strive to keep homework a positive experience. Children will mimic your words and actions, and this may carry over into their work at school. Stay calm, encouraging, and refrain from negativity in front of your child.

2. Help, Don’t Hover: This may be one of the hardest things to do as a parent. Allowing your child to work independently helps build self-sufficiency and problem solving skills. Be nearby to lend a hand when your child has a question or needs assistance. Both parents and children need to remember that mistakes are ok! This gives the teacher feedback on what your child knows and what might need re-teaching.

3. Communicate: If your child is struggling with homework, or it seems to take forever, discuss your concerns with the teacher. Research suggests homework should only take about 10-20 minutes per night for first graders, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (For example, 20 minutes for second grade, 110 minutes for 11th grade). High school students may have more work, depending on their class load and assignments. Open lines of communication between parents and teacher gives the teacher a greater understanding of what he or she may need to reteach the following day.

4. Set a Schedule: Your child is incredibly busy throughout the school day. When the last bell rings, they are often physically and mentally exhausted! Parents know their child best, so set up a schedule that works for you and your child. Often, children need some down time after school. Let them have a snack and chill out for a short period of time. Then provide them with a quiet workspace free from distractions, but full of any homework supplies they may need. If you child is active in after school sports or organizations, planning is key. Set aside homework time when schedules are crazy. Education should be a priority, not an afterthought.

5. Provide Incentives: Let’s face it: As adults, we like to get compensated for our work. That’s why we get a paycheck! Children should also be rewarded for their efforts. This may be in the form of technology time, playing a special game, earning tokens toward a special toy, or for older students, it may be part of their weekly allowance. Incentives provide motivation and praise while fostering a purpose for learning.

Homework is a joint responsibility for students, parents, and teachers. Providing support for children helps foster responsibility while promoting academic success.

Danielle Kovach received her B.S. in Special and Elementary Education from Kutztown University and holds two Master’s Degrees in both Special Education and Educational Technology. She is currently working toward a doctorate degree in special education. Among many honors and awards, Kovach is the 2011 NJ State Teacher of the Year. In 2012, she was awarded The National Education Association Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. She has earned over $70,000.00 in grants and awards for exemplary teaching.

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