Homework – 5 Steps to Getting it Done

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Homework is here to stay — at least until the next revolution in education sweeps into public classrooms.

In the meantime, parents who think their children bring home too much homework might be tempted to let the assignments go unfinished. That will, however, only hurt the child in the long run.

But parents can take steps to help their children, in fact the entire family, through stressful homework-filled evenings. Here’s what the experts recommend in order to help your child complete assignments in a timely manner.

1. Analyze the Assignments: One of the biggest gripes parents have has to do with the type of assignments their children bring home. For starters, children should never be given new material as a homework assignment, say educators. Assignments must be realistic. Teachers can’t expect children to learn a new concept at home. That means that homework assignments should repeat what’s already been covered in class. And even then, limits should exist. Take the subject of math, for example. Academics say it’s perfectly fine for teachers to ask students to complete a few math problems based on the day’s lesson. But when a teacher sends a child home with page after page of the same type of problem, that might be too much.

2. Establish a Routine: If your child’s homework responsibilities seem excessive and your student is having trouble completing the work, try to establish a routine that both you and your child can follow every day.
Some parents follow a reward system to encourage students to tackle homework right away. For example, you could say, “Life begins after your homework is done. After that, you can go skateboarding or watch television or flip through comic books. All is yours for the asking once you’re finished.”

3. Create a Good Study Environment: Parents should try to lessen potential distractions during homework time. Set up a well-lit work area with easy access to you, in case there are questions. Some parents might be tempted to turn off the television and radio during homework time, but some kids actually desire background noise and in fact, might even need it. Find what works best for your child and stick to it.

4. Control Your Frustration: It’s hard not to get red in the face when a homework assignment that’s supposed to take 15 minutes ends up taking two hours, especially if your child whines and moans through the whole two hours. But parents can help their children stay focused by maintaining their own tempers.
Find out what you’re doing during the homework that’s causing it to be stretched out. Possible reactions include anger, negative comments, pressure tactics and frustration. Maintain minimal reaction to all negative behavior on a student’s part. Be neutral, and when the student finally picks up her pencil, praise her.

5. Become an Advocate: If you really believe your child is overburdened with homework, or that the assignments are frivolous and unnecessarily time consuming, speak up.
Experts say some school systems have initiated changes in regard to homework after parents brought their concerns to the school staff and principal.

Jenny O’Donnell is the editor of Tidewater Parent in Norfolk, Va.