In recent months there has been much information regarding the positives and negatives of homework. Of course, the idea of homework is to give children more practice with concepts that are new or challenging. After all, “practice is the best of all instructors”. However, on the other side of the argument is that homework is too excessive for children after having already spent 7-8 hours at school. Kids need time to pursue other interests as well. As a 3rd grade teacher and mother to 3 boys, I can see both sides to the coin. But here’s what I know after years of working with students… the children who grow the most (GROW, from wherever they begin the year), are those who have between 30-60 minutes of homework about 4 times a week. Reading is included in those minutes but really should be a DAILY 20 minute activity. I’m sure there are those of you who are grumbling at your computers as you read this. “How will my kid find time for extracurricular activities?”, “After being in school all day, how do you expect me to get my child to focus on homework for more than 5 minutes!?”. Believe me, I hear it all, and I UNDERSTAND. But I also believe there’s a middle ground and that balance can be achieved. It’ll likely take dedication and time, but I promise there are ways to help even the most distractible of children to follow through on homework expectations (just ask my 26 students). Here are 9 tips that will help kids focus on homework.
Minimize Electronic Distractions
Help your children to focus on the task at hand by removing all electronics and devices from the room. Most especially don’t let siblings use devices when someone is still trying to do homework. In fact, recent studies are showing that electronics are actually contributing to an individual’s inability to focus. “On days when adolescents used digital devices more, they had difficulty paying attention and exhibited attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms.” Homework first, devices later!
Having a Designated Work Space
Another way to help your children focus on homework is by having a designated work area. Not only will this cut down on distractions, but you can keep the space stocked with any supplies and materials your children might need for their studies. One suggestion is to let your kids help decorate their study space with decor that will excite and inspire them. It never hurts to also have some healthy snacks close at hand to keep minds off hungry tummies. Check out Houzz.com for THOUSANDS of study room ideas!
Develop A Routine
Set a specific time each day when your children know they can’t plan any other activities until homework is done. I know as a mother of 3 boys that after school activities ARE important and don’t always allow for homework to be scheduled at the same time each and every day. However, you CAN plan out your week and designate “homework time” for each day of the upcoming week. Pretty soon, everyone will find the rhythm of your weekly schedule and you’ll be running like clockwork. It really is all about ROUTINE!
Fun With Tactile
Sometimes homework is a struggle for children because it’s more of what they just did all day in school. Try to offer them some different study activities that will be refreshing after a long day spent in class. Need to study spelling? Instead of making your child write the words down with paper and pencil, have them trace the letters in salt or sand inside a baking pan instead. There are many hands-on spelling and math activities you can also use that will be much more engaging than rote memorization.
I think we can all agree that playing games is a preferred way to master information. Keep it concept-focused yet fun, light, and stress-free! The time will FLY by and everyone will be so excited as you see how much your child grows! Face cards can be used for MANY fun math games. We also have a particular love for Lego Hangman Spelling! Visit Simple K12 for more games and lesson plan ideas.
Do NOT Promise Incentives
I have 3 very creative boys and a full set of inventive students year after year. Believe me when I say I KNOW how tempting it can be to resort to offering rewards or incentives for getting work done. I. Get. It! But don’t take the easy out with this one! The minute you offer rewards for completing homework is the minute you’ve just tied your hands behind your back. Your children will expect it forever more and are smart enough to know how to keep the offers coming. The facts are simple: Homework is not an option and you do homework with the reward of learning and growing, not toys and prizes. The real world doesn’t offer candy and prizes every time I complete tasks for my job so why should I train my children to expect as much? The only rewards that should be offered to children for completing homework are compliments and high praises. These will mean far more to your children than any replaceable toys or food!
Share YOUR Passion For Learning
One of the best ways to help your kids to focus on their studies is to let them see YOU be passionate about your own learning. You don’t have to be a student in school yourself to show your love for seeking out new information and learning. Even better still? Get excited about the topics your kids are learning and seek out ways to learn TOGETHER.
Use a Timer
Your child might struggle with homework because it seems like an insurmountable task. They’ve just sat though 7-8 hours of school so the idea of sitting down for more work is pretty overwhelming. One focus strategy we use in my classroom is to take short “Brain Breaks” about every 30-45 minutes. It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, just a quick bathroom break, singing along with a favorite song, doing 50 jumping jacks… just anything that gets blood flowing and lets the mind wander. For getting through homework, set a timer and take a Brain Break every 10-15 minutes. Choose little activities that will motivate your child like building a small 20 piece Lego set or sharing a few Laffy Taffy jokes. A word of caution though: Be weary of Brain Breaks involving electronics. Devices might just prove to be TOO much of a Brain Break!
Keep It Positive!
The quickest way to get a child to shut down and lose motivation is to lose your own patience. Consider a time in your past when you were learning something new and how it felt when your trainer or teacher lost his/her patience with you. For as much as you became even more flustered and discouraged, kids shut down all the more under similar circumstances. Instead, give praise and offer encouragement. Basically, remember to keep your cool and your kids will too!
Learn More About These Tips, Tricks, and Ideas From:
Technology Use Linked to Mental Health Issues published by Duke Today
6 Steps to a Smart Study Space by Pottery Barn Kids
Home Design Ideas Shared by Houzz.com
Develop A Routine via Simple As That
Sand Tracing Image Source
Math Card Games Shared By Math Geek Mama
Learning Games and Lesson Plans From Simple K12
4 Tips For Visiting Museums With Your Kids By She Knows
3 Ways to Use Timers By Education and Behavior
Ann Landers Quote Via Cloud Mom