By GALTime Parenting Pro Michele Borba, Ed.D.
Homework time in many families can be very stressful and tension-filled for both child and parent. According to a survey by Public Agenda almost half of all parents of school-age students said they have arguments involving tears or yelling with their kids about homework. And one third of parents admit those school assignments cause repeated kid meltdowns.
There is some controversy about the effectiveness of homework in enhancing achievement in the younger grades, but research does say that the right kind of assignments do help kids acquire essential skills for success in school and life such as organization, self-pacing, problem solving, internal motivation, concentration, memory, goal setting, good old "stick-to-it-ness."
So, how much is too much …. or what is the right amount of homework for kids? Research at Duke University reviewed over 60 studies and found "that more is not necessarily better" especially when it comes to younger kids. The researcher came up with the "10 minute Rule" based on study findings that show 10 minutes of homework a night per grade level as the optimum amount for learning. Using that formula, a first grader gets 10 minutes a night, fifth grader gets 50 minutes…and so on. The idea is to gradually increase the work load as kids mature and develop the skills for independent learning. By middle school and high school the amount will vary by subject or research projects.
Here are nine tips I share with parents to make homework time more successful this year for your child and YOU.
1. Know the teacher's expectations. Be clear as to each teachers' homework policies so you are all on the same page from the get-go. Find out how long homework should take on average per night. That answer will help your determine if your child has too much work, is a procrastinator, has a learning disability or lacks study skills. Then talk with your child so he knows you are not only aware of the teachers' expectations but also support them.
2. Praise effort and not the "end product." Kids needs to learn the importance of hard work and effort. Homework provides a great opportunity for you to reinforce your child's perseverance. You might start a family motto such as "Never Give Up!" or "Don't quit until you succeed" or "In this family, we finish what we start." Perhaps the most important trait that doing homework instills in our children is perseverance. And the only way they'll learn to value effort is by our steady emphasis of "It's not good enough just to start; you have to finish." (Research at Columbia University by Carol Dweck found that when you emphasize effort - "You're working so hard" - over smarts - "You're so smart, you can do it!" - you actually will increase your child's persistence).
3. Be a guider not doer. Insist homework be your child's responsibility not yours. Resist the temptation of always sitting next to her and offer your help only when it's really needed. If your child is having difficulties, help her understand the work by making up similar problems and showing her step by step how to do it. Then watch her try to do one on her own. That way you won't be doing all the work for her. Asking her to show you her completed work at the end of each row or section is another way to ensure she's following the directions correctly but not relying on you for every detail. You can start "weaning" a child from having you sit right next to her by saying: "You do the first one. We'll do the next together." Then the next week: "You do the first row. I'll check the next row." The next week: "You do the first half. I'll come back and check the second half." You'll be using the baby step model and will slowly wean your child from always needing you to be there. You goal is to merely check completed work. If you always do it with your child you'll never be able to help the child do the task alone at school. Right?
4. Make homework be required…not a choice. From the beginning of the school year maintain a firm, serious attitude about homework. Your kid needs to know that homework is not an option. Enforce the "work before play" rule.
5. Develop a weekly homework reminder. Teach your child to create a simple reminder of daily or weekly assignments as well as a long-term projects and reports. A white board or chalkboard is preferable because it is reusable. Just be sure to hang it in a central place. List the days of the week, and then help the child jot down regular daily or weekly assignments. For instance: Monday: Sharing; Wednesday: Library; Friday: Spelling Test. Use photographs or icons for non-readers (for example, a picture of a book for Library Day). The ultimate goal is for your child to track of his own daily assignments without your reminders, but you know that will take some time.
6. Create a special homework spot. Involve your child in the selection of the spot and stock it with necessary school supplies. The general rule is the younger the child, the closer that spot will be to you. Put the computer in a place where you can carefully view what your child is doing online.
7. Set a routine. Select a time that works best for your kid to do his homework-after school, before dinner, after dinner-then stick to it. Ask your child for his input and do try to accommodate his schedule. A set and predictable schedule helps defray the battles and gets your kid on a routine. You may want to even post your agreement in a visible place and then sign it. Many kids need a break after school, while others like to delve right in. Find your child's best work time and consistently reinforce it. Drawing a clock face that shows the set homework time is helpful for younger children.
8. Teach study skills. A common reason for homework battles is that the child hasn't learned essential study skills. Here are a few important skills to help your child.9. Consider a getting a tutor. If you do find homework battles increasing, you are doing most of your child's work or your child is having a difficult time mastering the subject despite your help, consider hiring a tutor. Ask your teacher or other parents for recommendations including even a high school student. The goal of homework should always be to enhance your child's learning abilities and confidence while at the same time preserving the relationship with your child.
What are your tips for helping your kids manage their homework AND for making homework time less chaotic?
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