By Yolanda Brown and Joel Sweda
Research shows that a highly structured approach to homework helps children achieve superior performance in school and provides excellent academic benefits. Such work habits contribute to success in college and life. For children to realize their maximum potential, parental involvement is important.
Here are seven steps to help your child make homework a priority and encourage a life-long love of learning:
1. Communicate with Teachers
Early in the school year, meet with your child’s teacher to discuss grading periods and homework policies. Find out about assignments and the amount of time that should be spent nightly. Follow up by telephone throughout the school year.
With your child, review the teacher’s expectations and identify weak areas. Establish a daily time to address these problem areas and review previously taught concepts. If you have concerns after regular observation, contact the teacher immediately.
2. Designate a Study Place and Time
Select a quiet “homework spot” with limited distractions, ample workspace and adequate lighting. Include a shoebox or plastic crate with necessary supplies and access to resources such as a computer, dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus, globe and maps. Your child needs a calendar to record assignments and to track what is due and when. A calendar will also add accountability to the process and teach time management.
When is the best time to do homework? Right after school, following an energizing after-school snack. This way, homework will be done before dinner and can be a point of discussion during the meal. Also, it will give your child free time after dinner for playing, computer activities, or other family functions. Homework just before bed is less effective, as your child will be tired. Most importantly, get your child into a routine, as we all perform better with a defined schedule.
3. Provide Guidance and Support
Your role in your child’s homework is to provide guidance and support—not to do the assignments! Encourage your child to ask for your assistance. If he or she has difficulty, focus on reviewing the concepts to ensure retention of the knowledge.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligence suggests there are 7 different types of learners. It is important to understand that each child has a different approach to learning, which will have a significant impact on how you provide support. These intelligences are verbal, logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal, visual/spatial, intrapersonal, and bodily/kinesthetic
Depending on your child’s intelligence type, you should adjust your approach. For a spatially oriented child, it may be easier to learn from pictures or charts than by reading instructions. With a logical-mathematical learner, sequential learning and ordered planning are helpful (i.e. outlines). Have a kinesthetic child create, handle and manipulate information to activate this area of strength.
4. Check for Understanding
After homework is completed, review assignments together, having your child explain what he or she did. Use this opportunity to provide positive, constructive feedback. Then ask your child to “be the teacher”. This encourages not only an understanding of concepts, but also shows knowledge application. As well, it is great for building self-esteem.
Interactive quizzes and study games take studying to the next level, ensuring your child absorbs what is being studied. A fun math game is “24 Double Digit” available from Bookworm Plantation. Flash cards can also be useful for learning vocabulary or math facts.
5. Show an Interest
The attitude parents express towards homework will be the attitude their children develop. Discuss school and learning activities daily. To help build a solid network of support, get to know your child’s classmates and their parents. Volunteer in the classroom, at book fairs, science fairs, plays or sporting events. On the weekends, visit museums, parks, zoos and science centers.
6. Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement keeps children motivated as they continue to build their self-esteem and become active life-long learners. Constant praise and encouragement will help your child remain positive and focused.
A reward-based motivation system provides your child with incentives based on performance, effort and completion of homework. Great rewards include a movie night, a special dinner or a new book. Once the rules of your system are determined, apply the system consistently.
7. Notice Struggles
In order to maximize the learning experience, it is essential to detect when your child is struggling and frustrated. Learning can’t take place if a child is angry or upset. Try to answer the following questions about your child’s study behavior: How often is my child struggling with homework? What subject(s) is my child struggling with? Does my child enjoy school and is he or she excited about it?
Use the information that you have gathered to find solutions that best meet your child’s needs. Work with your child to develop a corrective action plan and discuss your plan with the teacher. Should your child lack the basic skills needed to complete assignments or need enrichment; there are professional tutoring services available in your community with the resources to help your child achieve academic goals.
Homework has the power to bring children, parents, and teachers together with the common goal to improve student learning. With these seven steps, parents can help build a foundation for success in school, which will become the cornerstone to excellent study habits required to excel in high school and life. Start the implementation of good homework habits today; it will make a powerful impact on your child’s future success.
Yolanda Brown and Joel Sweda are Directors of Learning at Alexandria South and Manassas KnowledgePoints Learning Centers. They provide a personalized approach to basic tutoring in reading, writing, math and study skills. The KnowledgePoints program consists of a diagnostic skills assessment, individualized instruction, and an effective motivational system that helps children build skills, desire and the confidence to succeed. For further information, please visit their website, www.knowledgepoints.com , or call 703-660-9473 (Alexandria) or 703-331-4778 (Manassas).