Many parents face similar obstacles when it comes to their students and completing homework. Whether your child struggles with motivation, procrastination or study skills, there are different ways to tackle it all. Here are some parent FAQs regarding these struggles and recommendations on how to help.
1. My child doesn’t write down his assignments since he thinks he can remember them. What are some tools he can use to work on this?
This is a very common obstacle for students. The best way to handle it is to allow your student to be the one to choose how they record assignments. Whether by paper and pencil in an agenda book, or by using an app on their phone, when kids choose the method by which they will remember homework, they are much more likely to follow through with recording it.
Here are some suggestions for your student:
- Use an app. iHomework and iStudiez Pro are great for students to electronically record homework assignments.
- Use an agenda. You can purchase one or one may be provided through the school. If your child likes pencil and paper, this is a great route to take.
- Take a picture of the homework. Have your child pull out his or her phone right before or after class and take a quick photo of the homework listed on the board. This way, your child can easily check it once getting home.
- Check the online system your school uses. These are great homework portals for students to ensure they know what is due and when.
Writing down assignments is an important habit to develop, but this skill can only take you so far without learning how to get organized and prioritize. Organization starts when students get home: they should not immediately be focusing on a subject such as math, science or English. Rather, they should take a few minutes to get organized with a schedule of what they are going to do.
Organization should be the very first subject they work on, and creating a task list of what they need to do for the night can be very helpful. It also helps to compliment them when you see them writing something down to encourage them to continue the practice.
2. My child puts no effort into studying, but she still gets good grades. I am worried she doesn’t have good study skills for the future. How can she develop these skills?
This is a common issue for many bright kids, and we see many students who get by putting little or no effort into studying early on in their schooling. As the content gets harder, they have to put more time into studying.
Students need to understand that studying for a test is, in fact, homework. You can help them understand this by asking your child how they plan on studying or preparing for their exam. Talking out different options signals to your child the importance of creating a study plan before jumping right into reviewing. If they do not have a plan, study guides and study partners can help.
Have your child create multiple copies of their study guide. They should copy the study guide at least three times, which leaves them with blank copies to use. When a student fills out (not just reads) a study guide at least three times, they tend to do better on their tests.
Another great idea is to have your student use Google Hangouts or Facetime with a study partner. This helps create accountability for both students and does not make them rely on their own notes. Furthermore, it forces them to speak aloud the content and hear the content repeated back to them, which will solidify their knowledge of the material.
3. My child struggles with tackling long-term assignments, so he procrastinates. How can I help him start his projects early?
We see many students who procrastinate, especially with long-term projects. These students feel overwhelmed, underprepared and are not sure how to get started.
How can parents help? Make Sunday family dinners the jumping off point for planning. Schedule 20 minutes before or right after Sunday dinner to review any upcoming assignments for the week. You can ask, “What is due this week and what is coming up?” If your child says, “I have a test on Friday” or “I have a science project due in two weeks,” that is a great way to suggest forward thinking and backward planning. You can then ask, “How can you break down that project into smaller tasks?” Helping them get started on Sunday nights can reduce procrastination and help your child feel less overwhelmed.
4. It takes my student a long time to complete his homework because he is not focused on it. How can I help him stay focused?
We like to call these kids “Super Bowl Kids” – the game is on for four hours, but they only play football for an hour. Your student may have a half-hour writing assignment, but they are toiling away for hours working on it with no result. Sound familiar?
It is not that the student is not working diligently during that time – they are just distracted. Research shows that when projects feel big for kids, they often procrastinate more.
If you have a “Super Bowl Kid” on your hands, a timer is your best ally. You can use the timer on the microwave oven, on your phone (but be careful with this – that could be distracting, too!) or a specialty timer. Set the timer for 15 or 20 minutes and encourage your child to work as hard and as focused as they can for just that amount of time, and then take a break.
Ann Dolin, M.Ed. is the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring (www.ectutoring.com). Her team of tutors helps students with content knowledge, academic strategies and study skills. They travel to students’ homes throughout Northern VA, D.C. and MD.