“Homework oh homework, I hate you, you stink!” Throughout elementary and middle school, my principal started every year by reading this Shel Silverstein poem, while all of us students shouted along enthusiastically.
Homework has always been a pain in the neck for kids- and parents. I can specifically recall instances throughout my childhood and adolescence when my poor parents stayed up with me to finish assignments. These were almost always art projects, or assignments that required any sort of creativity. A mobile for my sophomore year English class? Disaster. A coloring page at the age of 7? Impossible. (But give me a paper to write, and I was there!)
Given that homework can feel like a major burden for students and their parents, I wanted to provide a few tips and share a few thoughts that might make the process a little more positive.
First of all, think of how you feel after a long day of work. Some nights, the last thing I want to do is open my computer to finish my last few notes from the day. (Fact check: True). Those nights, I definitely have to set myself up for success right from the start. One of the first things I do is set up my area. I make sure my counter is clear, gather all necessary paperwork and my laptop, climb up onto one of my kitchen stools, and get started. This is my “focus spot”, and once I’m there I know what I have to do- put down the phone, and turn off the TV. If I’m in the mood for background music, it has to be unfamiliar and instrumental only (otherwise, I’m immediately singing along!). I suppose this first tip is really just- know yourself. Some students need background noise to study, others need absolute silence. Help your child figure out how they study best. Have them help you choose and set up their homework space (preferably NOT in their bedroom where distractions are endless). If possible, use a “homework only” designated space. Good lighting is key, as is the removal of distractions. Also make sure that necessary supplies are in this space, so your child does not have to keep venturing out to get them.
On days when my focus is lacking, I have also found it beneficial to set a “work timer”. Sometimes I set it for as little as 15 minutes, and work solidly until the timer goes off. At that point, I can take a quick break if needed, or reset my timer and get back to work. Nine times out of ten, I’m able to simply keep working. My personal difficulty oftentimes is task initiation, or actually getting started. The use of a timer definitely helps me to get rolling. Side note- if your child does want a break, make sure to set a “break timer” too! Preferably, these breaks can be a quick chat with you, a snack, or something involving movement. YouTube breaks make it a bit more difficult to jump back into homework when the timer goes off!
An afterschool written schedule can also help. When possible, have a designated homework time. Discuss expectations and how your child can earn possible rewards.
How much homework time is too much each night? A general guideline is as follows:
– 20-30 min max (5-7 years)
– 1 hour max without assistance (8-11)
– Two hours (High school)
It’s important to remember that if your child has any special needs, homework may take longer than his or her teacher is expecting. It’s always a good idea to keep the line of communication open so that everyone is on the same page. It is acceptable to request modifications for homework assignments (ex: 10 math problems instead of 20) if homework is taking significantly longer than posted above.
Remember- school is essentially your child’s job. Their brains are hard at work all day, and what they are able to accomplish at home is different for each child.
Emily Rooker, M.S., CCC-SLP