I’ve heard it from other parents with older children in my daughter’s school: as soon as she enters first grade, the homework load is huge! Yeah right, I thought. How much could the teacher possibly send each night? Well, as it turns out, plenty. Some days, it takes us 45 minutes to get through her workload. Mostly that’s because she gets distracted, her brothers bug her and…well, she is just six. But over time, I have learned to manage our homework routine better by keeping the siblings occupied, and most importantly, having a routine.
Here are some tips that will help you manage homework time at home:
- Have a routine. Same time, same place every day. When children know what is expected of them, they are more eager to please and cooperate. Making sure that my daughter has her homework area available for her is a priority. In our case, it’s our kitchen table cleared of all clutter.
- Keep younger siblings entertained. I have a “homework box” of cool toys that only comes out when my daughter needs to do homework. Sometimes, I go by the dollar store and buy a new toy and put it in there. It’s special, unexpected and just for them.
- Limit distractions. All TVs, iPads and video games are turned off in the house. I put on some music and everyone else is focused on his or her own activities.
- Be consistent. Last week, we were on the go after school a few too many times. We were doing homework in the car and then finishing it up after dinner, and it was a total disaster. We forgot to do one or two things and the work was messy. Note to Mom: kids come first—the groceries can wait.
Read Related: 5 Tips to Avoid After-School Chaos
- Go over all assignments before your child gets started. Gone are the days my daughter sits there for a while not knowing what to do next. I now pull out her daily assignment pad, look over all the assignments and make sure she understands all directions. This is also really important because over time, you will notice where your child might need a little extra help.
- Communicate with the teacher. I’ve sent a few notes back to the teacher asking for explanations or better directions on some types of assignments (yes, I’m the parent with a master’s degree but can’t figure out first grade phonics). It turns out, much of what’s expected is explained in class and not written down. Of course, my daughter might have been a bit distracted in class and did not hear all the instructions for the day. Clarification is key, and now the teacher knows I am involved in helping my daughter succeed and that she is trying her best.
- Know when to back off. It’s one thing to help your child understand directions; it’s another to sit down and spell it all out for your child. Be involved but let her figure some things out on her own. The material she’s bringing home isn’t brand new but a review of what she learned that day.
- Praise. Now that my daughter has learned to focus on her work, complete her assignments neatly (for a first grader) and keep things more organized; she is proud of herself. I praise her each day for finishing her work in a timely manner and without my nagging. Kids aim to please and respond beautifully to praise.
As a parent, it’s easy to get discouraged when things take longer than normal and your child isn’t listening to what you are trying to explain. I know, it happens to me too! It helps when I remind myself that she has been in school all day and homework isn’t the first thing on her to-do list. She is young and all she wants to do is go play! When I relax, my daughter is less homework stressed.