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Making Homework a Positive Experience for Everyone

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Know the Teacher’s Homework Policies and Expectations
You may have to call the teacher at the beginning of the year to learn her expectations. Some schools have online programs or voice-mail systems that allow parents to review new assignments daily. Your child should know his/her assignments as well.

Make Homework a Priority in Your Home
An important part of school success is that the child perceives a family-school alliance. Tell your child how important it is to complete each assignment and show your child your support by being physically near your child while he is working. You can finish your own work, clean the kitchen, or pay the bills. Check in occasionally and be available for questions, but try not to give the answers or do the work yourself. Check over the completed homework. 

Organization and Workspace Routine
Try to have the same homework routine each day. Ask your child to write down his or her assignments in a special book or calendar. Your child’s teacher may have a special folder for homework assignments, especially in the younger grades. Create a special homework spot. It can be at the kitchen table or a spot in the living room. Few children work well independently in their bedrooms unless you accompany them, especially in the elementary and middle school years. Remember to turn off the TV and to remove other distractions. 

Have supplies on hand—paper, pencils, and erasers. An electric pencil sharpener is a great investment. Having the child have their own special supplies may be a motivator. 

Be Flexible When Necessary
Although your routine should remain the same, you may have to adjust the homework time on certain days depending on other family activities. Allow for a break every 20 minutes if necessary and make sure your child is fed. Hungry children work slower and have more difficulty staying focused. 

Help Organize Assignments
Help your child organize his assignments. Have him complete the easier assignments first so he avoids frustration and builds on success. 

Balance Guidance and Learning Through Consequences
Children are different, of course, and some will embrace parental attempts at organization while others are much more likely to procrastinate or become distracted. Our job is to help them learn how to become responsible students. Sometimes that means letting them face the consequences of putting homework off until the last minute, and then working with them to avoid future problems. 

Help Find the Answers
Let’s face it, some of the stuff we as parents just won’t know. That’s okay. Be honest. Tell your child you don’t know the answer and try to find it together. There are lots of helpful websites. One great site, BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper, is compiled by a middle-school student for middle-school students.

Be Firm with Your Expectations, Encourage Your Child, and Recognize the Effort
Consistent expectations, encouragement, and noticing children’s efforts and accomplishments are essential ingredients in all parenting successes. 

Work with the Teacher
If your child seems frustrated or constantly resists completing homework assignments, speak with your child’s teacher. Don’t wait for teacher conferences or report cards if you have concerns about your child’s academic performance. You are your child’s best advocate. Take an active role in her education. By tackling issues as they arise, your child will learn to tackle assignments successfully and develop good study skills as a result. The teacher and the school will be eager to give you ideas and suggestions. 

Originally published on BrightHorizons


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