With the new school year in full swing, homework is once again a hot topic for parents, teachers and students alike.
As a parent, it’s sometimes difficult to help your child with their homework without doing it for them. Here are some tips to help you provide your child with the tools they need in order to successfully complete their own homework.
According to Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own, 1929) having a space of your own to work, think and write is absolutely necessary. Give your child a quiet space in your home where they can do their homework every day. This workspace should be:
- Tidy and organized – An organized workspace allows for an organized and clear thought process
- Quiet – Siblings running around, adults talking, music and background noise could make it difficult for your child to concentrate
- Free of electronic distractions – The space your child works in should be free of electronic devices like cell phones, smart phones and TV
- Roomy – most homework tasks require books to be open and notes to be sprawled out – give your child the room they need to move from one book to another easily
- Wired to the Internet – if you’ve got an older child then they will probably need internet access in order to complete their homework. It’s a good idea to have parental controls in place on your home computer and to ensure your child is using the Internet for homework and not for fun!
Life with kids is busy. School, extra-curricular activities, dinner, relaxation and consistent bedtime routines are all an important part of your child’s weeknight. Make sure that you work homework into this daily routine:
- Encourage your child to do their homework at the same time every day – you’ll meet less resistance if they spend a half an hour on it every day, at the same time of day
- Having your child do homework while you’re busy with something like preparing dinner is a good way to keep them occupied while you’re busy too
- If your child is young, or has a special need then you may need to sit down with them and work through the homework with them. Make this part of their pre-bedtime routine, as quiet work like homework is a good way to help them wind down before bed
It’s important to communicate with your child about what homework they have, and to follow up with them about how they did with the homework. Don’t expect perfection here, instead, just keep the lines of communication open with them so you are aware of what they are doing, and when they do well or are struggling with a topic.
Don’t forget to communicate with your child’s teacher if they are feeling unsuccessful or unmotivated about their homework. You should also talk to your child’s teacher if you feel they are not getting enough homework, or (in most cases) if they are getting too much homework and it’s becoming unmanageable.
Motivation is a huge issue when it comes to successful learning, homework included. Here are some tips from Being Smart about Gifted Children: A Guidebook for Parents and Educators by Dona J. Matthews and Joanne F. Foster (pp 193-206) about factors that are necessary for your child to remain motivated:
- Curiosity, suspense, intrigue and wonder – capture your child’s interest in the subject being taught
- Confidence – your child needs to feel confident in their ability and also feel that you have confidence in them to complete their homework independently
- Controversy and contradiction – encouraging students to consider alternative perspectives, controversy and contradiction is often motivating and stimulating
- Independence, self-regulation and autonomy – allow your child to make their own choices and decisions which will help them stay engaged and feel in control of the task at hand
Know your child’s motivators – what motivates one child will not necessarily motivate another child. Be careful of using extrinsic motivators (like money, candy, toys), which don’t reinforce a love of learning for the sake of learning. Instead try to stick to intrinsic motivators (sense of accomplishment, feeling proud for completing a task).
5. Positive reinforcement
Praise, when earned, increases confidence, involvement in learning, and risk-taking. Criticism can be demoralizing, alienating and reduces motivation to learn. Don’t be afraid to praise your child when they have earned the praise.
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