The start of a new school year can bring with it a lot more demands on our lives. From signing up for swimming lessons on time, to making sure the school supplies are bought and labelled, to making sure everyone has lunches made, it’s busy! Then, on top of coordinating pick-ups and after school activities, there is…. ugh, homework.
Unfortunately, for a lot of families, homework can bring a lot of added stress and conflict into the evening routine, but it doesn’t have to! It can actually be a really great opportunity for you and your child to work together!
The first thing you need to do when you’re helping your child to tackle their homework is to make sure everyone involved understands its purpose and intention. Knowing the “why” will help you prioritize, commit, and stay motivated. For example, it helps to know that practicing those letter sounds, sight words, and the home reading will make a huge impact on your child’s overall success and progress in school, and can even make a difference in their ability to access complex subject matter later on in their school careers. Working on math facts? That will enable them to fully participate in the demanding mathematical operations that start showing up in grade four. Alternatively, if it turns out your child has homework due to consistently not finishing tasks in class, that is extremely important information for you to have about your child’s needs – whether it’s time spent socializing, a struggle with focus and attention, an increased need for movement, or the fact that they’re really struggling with the skills and content right now – that will ultimately help you support them in their learning. By exploring why they have homework in the first place, you will better understand your child’s current learning needs, how they’re progressing, how they best learn, and what they need you to advocate for. Plus, it’s an opening for a conversation with their teacher that you need to take because, at the end of the day, you and the teacher are a team for your child and you need to be working together.
That being said, as a teacher, here are my top tips for tackling homework this school year:
1) Take the time to understand why your child has homework. I’m reiterating this because I cannot stress it enough.
2) Always prioritize literacy and numeracy practice, and make it a daily habit. Having these skills down will maximize your child’s success in all other subjects for the rest of their lives. Social Studies and History, for example, are hugely language-driven and the amount of content being learned is extremely dense, so having language skills adequately developed is necessary for success. Having mathematical knowledge, on the other hand, will allow students to more easily access the sciences and their processes, as well as subjects such as Geography or Drafting in their high school years.
3) Accept it – especially for literacy and numeracy skills. Expect to have literacy and numeracy homework throughout their entire K-12 experience.
4) Set a time limit. If your child is struggling to complete one task for an entire evening, you need to explore why. It’s just as important that your child has a healthy, balanced life full of a variety of activities, as it is for you after your workday. If your child is not striking this balance, contact their teacher to problem-solve why right away. It’s possible they need more support and teaching of a skill or that they need clarification on what is being expected of them. Plus, we always want to avoid having them develop a negative self-image when it comes to their ability to succeed, so make sure to address this as soon as it becomes a pattern.
5) Schedule it in and make sure it gets done. The teacher has assigned it for a reason. Even if it is just reading every night and some word work, make sure it is scheduled into your evenings and considered just as important as after school activities and appointments. Making sure it gets done is going to support your child’s success, and, as a bonus, it’s teaching them time management skills and accountability.
Overall, treat it as if it’s important (it is), take the opportunity to become a team with your child’s teacher, and pay attention to what it’s telling you about your child. Even if it’s tough-going at first, remember that your child will mirror your response, so take it as an opportunity to help them develop the resilience and perseverance they are going to need as they progress through the grades and later become an independent learner, starting as early as middle school. And, whenever you can, try to have fun with it!