For most parents, having a child return home from school with a book bag full of homework is like being locked inside a cage with a hungry lion. Your child is typically exhausted from a day at school and you from a day at work. So why does it seem that children are bringing home loads of homework after having spent the major portion of their day in the classroom?
Some school systems, and a few teachers, require a certain amount of “homework” be assigned for students to complete on their own. Why? Because they believe there is not enough time during the course of an 8-hour day for children to learn the concepts and also practice them. They feel that homework plays a vital role in allowing children to practice and study key concepts learned while in school.
Why Children “Burn Out”:
Problem is, after spending 8 hours per day sitting in a classroom with little time for recreation and physical movement, a child needs time to be active. Tack on travel time both to and from school on the bus, car pool, bike ride or walk home, you’ve added another 60 minutes to your child’s “school day”. A lot of children participate in extra-curricular sporting activities such as football, basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming, cheerleading, dance, track, etc…These activities, which last on average one hour or more, provide a means for our children to remain physically fit through the obvious physical activities involved in each sport mentioned above. (Not all schools provide a daily opportunity for physical education or activities). These extra-curricular activities are wonderful opportunities for physical growth and social interaction for our children.
So, out of a twenty-four hour day, children spend approximately 9 hours devoted to school, another hour and a half or more to extra-curricular activities (including transportation), take into account most children require 8 or 9 hours of sleep (younger children require more) and you’re left with somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 hours of family time per day. Within this time-frame, children are expected to shower/bathe, complete their chores around the house, work an outside job (if necessary), eat dinner and complete their homework??? What about family time?
Make Time for Family Time:
As a former classroom teacher, I understood the need for families to have meaningful time together each evening after school. Time to talk, play, eat a family meal and engage in quality time doing whatever they elected to do – together. I taught a curriculum that allowed me to provide the lessons, key concepts, and opportunities to reinforce and practice those skills while in school so as to provide “family time” and “free time” once my students left the classroom. Now, this is not to say that I didn’t require assignments and homework to be completed outside the classroom, I just made certain that any assignment that I gave my students could be completed in class with my assistance eliminating the need for parents to spend their evenings dealing with a “burnt out” child. My students were assigned “1” assignment per evening which could be completed within 20 minutes should they not finish it in class. I realize my way of thinking and teaching is not very popular these days, but my students always scored higher on standardized tests, had fewer absences from class than other classrooms, were happy and well-behaved and hugged me coming and going each day, with an occasional exception.
Since I do not control how school systems and classroom teachers assign homework, I can offer a few tips on ways to make homework a more pleasant (or at least palatable) experience for children and their parents.
Five Tips for Making Homework Less Frustrating for Everyone:
- Allow your child 45 minutes of “free time” when he/she gets home from school. Provide a snack so that their “grumbles” are fulfilled and this will allow them to focus on the homework at hand.
- Review the assignments that are required each evening as well as any test/quiz dates that will require additional study time. Offer to study with your child if only to call out spelling words, or quiz him/her on a study guide. It is not wise, however, to park yourself next to your child for the duration of his/her homework. Make yourself available, but focus on other things that you need to complete.
- Provide a space for your child to complete his/her homework – it doesn’t have to be a huge desk or an office, but it needs to be a space personal enough that they can organize it with the necessary tools and supplies that they’ll need. Because every child is different and reflect different learning styles, you should take this into consideration when choosing a study place. For example, if your child is easily distracted by people walking through the room, the television blasting or cars riding by outside, you may want to consider an area free from these visual distractions.
- Establish a regular routine for free-time, study/homework, extra-curricular activities, meals and family time. Now, this is not to say that you cannot be spontaneous at all, but it should be somewhat consistent so that your child will know his/her time parameters. If necessary, place a clock in his/her study space along with a printed schedule of events, i.e. Monday – Friday, 4:00 – 4:45 Free Time; 4:45 – 5:30 Study/Homework; 5:30 – 7:00 Soccer Practice; 7:30 Dinner, 8:15 – 9:00 Bath Time; 9:00 – 9:30 Family Time/Game Time/Television, etc…
- Praise your child for his/her efforts daily. Children typically do not receive enough praise in the classroom due to the number of students and flow required to keep things moving along. Like adults receiving promotions or recognition for their efforts at work, children thrive on positive reinforcement. A pat on the shoulder, kiss on the cheek, words of praise, an extra scoop of ice cream on Friday night, snuggle time, what you feel is relevant and meaningful will prove beneficial to your child’s homework success.
None of us like homework – not children and not their parents. But like it or not, it will always be a part of the educational practices within our school systems. Although we, as parents, may not agree with the additional work our children are expected to complete during “OUR” time, we should reflect a positive attitude expressing “why” it is necessary for him/her to complete the assignments. By reinforcing independent functioning of our children, we are teaching the necessary skills to become successful adults.
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