For many of you, myself included, spring break is literally around the corner. My boys and I are ready! We need a little break from school work. On the flip side, state testing and the end of the school year are also right around the corner. Classroom teachers are down to the wire when it comes to teaching standards and reviewing content, and I know you and your children can feel the pressure in the form of homework.
As a mom of two school-aged boys and as a fourth grade teacher, I fight the homework battle on both ends.
At school, I’m the tough teacher who requires her students to read 80 minutes at home each week, complete a weekly grammar assignment, and do various other odds and ends that I see fit. At home, I’m the mom who silently cringes when I sit down each evening to complete homework with my children. Looking over their work can be daunting, but I also know how important it is. I have a son who loves homework and one that I literally fight tooth and nail daily to complete the bare minimum. I know from personal experience, both as a mom and teacher, that homework can be frustrating and exhausting for everyone involved.
I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way though that can make that dreaded time each day a little easier on everyone:
Never attempt homework when anyone is hungry.
My children come home from school starving. They literally act like they haven’t eaten all day. If we sit down and try to accomplish anything before they have a snack, it’s absolutely pointless. Tears are shed by everyone when we have empty stomachs, including mom.
Have a consistent routine.
I know life is busy, but if you put a consistent, daily routine in place for homework time, children know what to expect and when to expect it. My children know that when we come home from school, they grab a quick snack, and then it’s homework time. I know this schedule doesn’t work for everyone, but this is the most opportune time for us. It doesn’t interrupt dinner and we avoid running into any evening events like church or practices. Snack time gives them a few minutes to relax and decompress, but they’re still in “school mode” which helps get us rolling on our work. My son who loves homework would do it any time of day, but my son who hates it has to get it done right away or there’s no turning back.
Make it fun.
Homework by definition isn’t fun, but you can make it seem that way. Whether it’s playing games to memorize sight words and multiplication facts, incorporating the iPad, or rewarding children when they finish, make it seem worth their while.
Communicate with the teacher.
Homework can be confusing for all parties involved. I know the way we teach things now is completely different than when I was at school. Let’s face it; parents need help sometimes. I work at the same school that my sons attend, so I have the luxury of talking to their teachers daily. I know not everyone is that fortunate, but utilize whatever communication system your school has in place. Whether it’s email, Class Dojo, or calling by phone, reach out to teachers when you’re confused. I would much rather hear from parents and help them, than have my students not doing their work or doing it incorrectly.
Spread it out.
My son has to read 100 minutes every week. That’s a lot, but we have seven days to do it. He’s not a fan of reading every day, but spreading it out helps a ton. The homework I assign to my students is for the whole week, so if that’s the case with your children, make sure you’re not waiting until the last minute to complete it. There’s nothing worse than trying to cram it all in on Thursday night. Everyone has meltdowns when that happens.
Know when to stop.
School is exhausting for kids. There are SO many standards to be taught in a school year, so your children are learning and working ALL DAY. They are extremely tired when they come home. When they’re tired and cranky, homework time is terrible. Pushing through a bad mood is almost impossible for my boys and it makes everyone frustrated. If they’re having a bad day, know when to throw in the towel.
Keep distractions away.
A loud TV, phones, music, younger siblings, and anything else that distracts your child needs to be put to the side. Both of my children are very easily distracted, so most of the time we work on homework in the most quiet room we can find.
Do what works best for your child.
Nobody knows your child as well as you do. You’ve got to do what works best for them. If they need to come home and nap for an hour before they do anything else, let them. If you have things to accomplish right after school, set aside a good time before bed to do homework. Like I’ve mentioned, my two boys couldn’t be more different when it comes to homework, so I’ve got to meet them where they are.