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Homework Tips

Written By Geoff Nixon . July 1, 2014

A little planning can go a long way

When it comes to homework time, a little organization and strategic planning help to make homework time structured, so that kids know what to do, where to do it, and how to complete their homework on time.

With solid homework habits established, good grades are sure to follow… not just for the next test, but for the entire school year.

Top 10 Homework Tips

The best advice we can give here around homework tips is biased. Homework difficulties do not need to be coped with. In many cases the underlying difficulties can be resolved. Check out our reading programs for kids which help reading speed and comprehension, making study skills so much more efficient. We also have protocols to help other learning skills.

Beyond that advice to focus first on mastery of fundamentals, here are ten homework tips.

  1. Set Up a Study Area. Possibly the best, and most ignored, or all homework tips is that from the first day of class, even if there is no homework, designate one area of the house the homework zone. This is an area with no distractions that is dedicated to working on projects and assignments. Create a routine and a “work” space.
  2. Make Materials Available to the Homework Zone. What tools does your child need to get the homework done?  Use a container or box to keep all supplies handy.  Anything that your child may need to access to during homework should be easily accessible so that he won’t have to rummage around for it.
  3. Remove the Distractions. If the homework zone is the dining room table, and a TV is nearby, make sure that the TV is off. Or if the area is next to a window, and the falling leaves are just too distracting, switch places, or consider a change of location. But don’t be too stringent; some people work best with a little background noise, like a radio playing quietly.
  4. Set a Time Frame. Choose a time that is best suited to your family’s needs to work on homework. Whether it is right after school, or after dinner, sticking to a set schedule helps the work to get done.
  5. Offer Guidance. But don’t do the homework for your child. Be close by, maybe sit at the table too, or in the next room, and read the newspaper, or read a book, so if your child needs to ask a question she won’t have to go looking for you.
  6. Use An Agenda. It’s the key organizational tool for homework. An agenda reminds students of tasks to be completed, and is also a great place to write down questions to ask the teacher.
  7. Stay Informed. Regularly talking to your child’s teacher is a great routine to establish. Ask about upcoming projects that may require extra help. How does your child fit into the class average?
  8. Be a Role Model! “Do your homework!” is a refrain heard in many households. Set a good example by practicing what you preach. Set a good example by your actions; read a book, do some research, or bring something home from work to complete.
  9. Offer Praise. Be specific, and be sure to praise their efforts, and hard work, not their intelligence. Kids will appreciate that their efforts are not going unrecognized, and you’ll help bolster their confidence.
  10. Watch Frustration Level. If your child is feeling stressed by homework, or just can’t master the concepts, then it’s time to seek help. Getting homework done is a routine part of school, just like eating lunch — but with a well-established homework routine, it doesn’t have to be the worst part.

Most homework frustration comes from an underlying learning issue that should be monitored. It also can be caused by reading difficulties. Some children just need more encouragement with reading, but others, with homework stress, need an intervention to address the underlying difficulty.

Parental Involvement

Parental styles of involvement in their children’s homework could affect the latter’s performance and wellbeing, a study[1] has found. You want to guide, rather than hover and direct.

Parents who set clear rules around homework generally foster positive outcomes, whereas merely monitoring a child’s homework completion does not. Recommendations:

  • Emphasize mastery goals as this encourages children to set their own personal mastery goals
  • Focus on the child’s self-improvement rather than performance
  • Discuss the relevance of homework and show it can be enjoyable and that mistakes are a learning opportunity
  • Not compare or promote competition between children and
  • Be mindful that their own attitudes may “directly contribute to children’s motivational orientation”.

“What matters most is not merely completing the homework or spending more time on it but, rather, the extent and quality of student engagement while doing the tasks,” the researchers said.

Connecting with teachers

You’ll probably meet with your child’s teacher a couple of times a year formally for interviews about their progress, but why stop there? When teachers texted parents weekly about their children’s math homework, as part of a study involving 16,000 high school students, that boosted their results by a month[4]. The texts covered “dates of upcoming tests, warnings about missed homework to conversational prompts on what their child had learnt that day. And, they were more effective than coaxing parents to take part in 12 classes over a year to upskill them to support their child’s literacy and numeracy learning.

Knowing and teaching aren’t the same

But even if you do know how to do the homework, you may come up short when it comes to teaching it. You need pedagogical content knowledge. That means you can hone into a particular way of explaining the process of problem solving that suits the learner – that is your child. You’ll be able to identify and even pre-empt their misconceptions and mistakes. That takes a bit of work, but Googling allows you to tap into some amazing resources (see our links below, too).

Getting them into gear

You or your child may have a ritual to help get them started on their homework. Perhaps they tackle it during a particular period after school. Those routines can go haywire with after-school activities, interruptions, hunger and even the lure of playing outdoors with buddies.

Consider helping them get started with an online learning program. Built on brain science, BrainWare Safari is an engaging one that we use to help children aged nine and older to develop their cognitive skills for memory, attention, processing and sensory integration. The idea is to ensure students’ fundamental cognitive skills are solid, so they can build on those for more advanced abilities.

When you both need more help

 If your child has a diagnosed learning disability, you may need to look elsewhere for at-home help. That might be enlisting the services or a tutor reaching out for an online learning intervention, for example. Check out Gemm Learning’s programs informed by neuroscience here to help get your child on their best track for learning at home and at school.

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