With springtime just around the bend, your son or daughter may find it more difficult than ever to concentrate on homework. If so, there’s a real danger of a May-June nosedive in grades and a good chance of losing out on skills and knowledge that will be needed in the coming year. That danger is even more significant if you’re a working parent who can’t always be home to ensure that the work gets done. If so, here are some tips for bringing focus and efficiency back to the homework process.
Renew the expectation of excellence
Now, as always, it’s important to verbally communicate your expectation that your son or daughter will complete all the homework that’s assigned, and create a structure that paves the way for completion without constant supervision. Begin by setting up a time, every day, when homework is supposed to begin. If you’re at the office, call home, every day, at that exact time. Ask your child about his or her day. Ask for specifics about what was assigned, and then state, “Okay, before I come home, here’s what I want you to get done.”
Help your child stay on track
The second step, which works well with the first, is to create a Time Chart for the hours in which homework should be done. Break it down into half-hour increments. Have a copy at your desk at work and make sure your child is reviewing the same chart while you walk through it over the phone. Make it clear that “between 3:30 and 4:00 you’ll be working on this; between four and five you’ll be working on this,” and so on. The operative principle here is to set an expectation, and then make it clear that the expectation must be met by a deadline. But it’s really more practical than punitive. By talking through the assignments in a non-confrontational way, you’re breaking the homework down into bite-sized pieces, making sure your child has a clear understanding of what needs to be done, and a structure for managing her time.
Make study time the right time
In addition to ensuring that homework time is free of the distractions of television, leisure “web” surfing and phone calls with friends, try to arrange the schedule so that your child is concentrating on assignments when he or she has the energy and mental clarity needed for optimum performance. Some students may do best by delving into homework as soon as they get home from school, while others may need some time to wind down before they can focus. It’s also important to make the most of concentration and energy cycles. For example, most students have one or more subjects that they find especially difficult. Because homework in these subjects tends to demand sharper concentration skills, students should try and take them on when they’re most alert. Getting the harder work out of the way before going on to easier assignments alleviates anxiety and helps students avoid being caught in a late night trap in which the work becomes more difficult because of fatigue and frustration.
Become a better homework partner
During the early grades, your child may have grown accustomed to doing homework with your active coaching and encouragement, but middle and high school homework often lends itself to independent study whether or not one or both parents are at home. Yet you can still be an active partner. If your child has a particularly difficult assignment that requires your help, he or she can save that assignment for a time when you’re available. If you simply can’t be home, talk with your child’s teachers about special after-school mentoring programs and study sessions that will ensure your son or daughter gets the extra help and support to succeed.
Help your child become more study-smart
Efficiency is one of the most important tools in your child’s learning arsenal, and simple study “tricks” can help your child get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Teach your child to find important information in a chapter quickly by paying close attention to introductions, headings, bolded phrases and summaries. As students read through material, it can be helpful to pause on occasion and summarize what they’ve read. After reading a few paragraphs, for example, restating the main idea and key points in their own words can help students retain and organize the information. Students should also remember that diagrams and tables in textbooks are often used to clarify main ideas – and are also good indicators of information that the author (and a teacher) may consider important.
Remember it’s not just about homework
If you’re like most people, your work day requires you to get a lot done before you head home. Your child likewise has a limited number of after-school and evening hours for homework, extracurricular activities and “down-time” before the lights go out. By helping your child budget his or her time now, you’re setting a pattern for habits that will enhance success in the classroom and workplace alike.
Source: Huntington Learning Center