When surveyed, parents often name fights with their children over homework as one of their least favorite parenting tasks. At the same time, teachers often develop “teacher pattern baldness” from students arriving at school unprepared. While the reasons for this may range from latch-key kids to parents not feeling competent to lend a helping hand to language barriers when kids get “stuck” with an assignment, often times it's just that parents haven't put effort into organizing homework time.
Since you're a reader of this site, we're pretty confident you employ organization techniques to keep your classroom humming like a finely tuned machine. Here are our top 5 tips to share with your students' parents to help ensure that their studies at home are as well organized as their studies between school bells:
5. Set aside time for homework. Kids do need brain breaks and time to get their bodies moving after a long day of school, but parents can't expect kids to grasp new concepts or think as clearly just before bedtime either. Parents should set aside a block of time for the child to work on homework and plan 3x the amount of time that should be necessary for the night's homework. If the child completes the homework early, he can have free-play time, but if they dawdle, then he needs to stay there for the whole time. If your the homework is taking more than 3x longer than what's expected of him (10 minutes per grade level per night is a general guideline), then a talk with the child and potentially you (the child's teacher) may be in order.
If the child has a perceiving personality type like an ENP, ESP, IFP or ITP, tell her that the end time is her “deadline” for homework completion. If the child has a judging personality type like an ETJ, EFJ, INJ or ISJ, the routine of a start-to-end time (e.g. 5:30-6:30) will give her the structure she feels most comfortable and confident within.
4. Create a satellite study station. Put together a kit for the child like this one--http://kidzmet.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/satellite-study-station/--of all of the supplies she needs for the school year and a big enough compartment for a Trapper Keeper or accordion file for her homework assignments. In this way, everything has a “place” in the kit and, while it may most often live on the child's desk, it gives her flexibility to move it if she has classmates over for a study group or has a challenging assignment that she'd like to work on in closer proximity to mom or dad while they complete “homework” of their own.
3. Unless the child is extremely introverted, work out “study dates” a couple of days a week. Be sure to host them where the host parent can keep an eye/ear on the kids to make sure they stay on task, but because the kids in the group have all heard the same assignment, chances are good that they can help each other understand concepts more thoroughly and cement those concepts by teaching each other...especially if the assignments encompass subjects in which the parent is not as comfortable assisting. Plus, by using the time line strategy outlined in number 5 above, the carrot of having a built-in play date afterward can encourage the kids to finish up faster.
2. Do your best to stay “hands-off”. Aside from the “planning” phase of homework detailed above (time, supplies, study groups), don't get too involved with homework unless the child is really stuck. Remind him of the lessons that led up to the current assignment to help provide pathway markers to the right answer rather than giving him the right answer. It's okay to review his work, but don't correct it for him. Instead, have him try again. Remember that if the parents helps their child too much at home with his school work, they run the risk of hindering the child's success in the classroom.
1. Learn how your child most likes to learn. Just like all of us enjoy doing different things, we all enjoy learning in different ways. Just because a parent likes to hear and say new information in order to cement it, the child may feel most comfortable starting to learn topics using a kinesthetic learning style by using concrete objects or working problems out with dry erase markers while standing at a white board, mirror or sliding glass door. The parent(s) may think through problems aloud, while their child might need to first think through a problem in his head and feel confident in the conclusion he's arrived at prior to volunteering what he believes to be the answer. If the child prefers using a naturistic multiple intelligence “lens”, but isn't as keen on his “music smarts” then drawing parallels between what he's studying and patterns found in the natural world will most likely be more effective than giving him a song or rhythm mnemonic to remember the material for a test.
Parents can discover how their child's personality type, multiple intelligence preferences and predominant learning style shape the ways their child most enjoys learning in 10-15 minutes for $0.99 on http://www.kidzmet.com. But, be sure to honor the child's responses versus coaxing different answers. In this way, the recommendations the parents receive will honor and embrace the way their unique child is “wired” to learn.
If parents employ the techniques above while their child is young, they can show the child that homework doesn't have to equal headache and that learning can be FUN...which is a key not only to study success while in school, but to becoming a life-long learner. And isn't that the goal of parents and teachers alike?
Ms. Lilienstein is the Founder of Kidzmet.com and co-author of At Home for Multiple Intelligences, a new course offered by the MI Institute.
To find out more about Kidzmet's Student Snapshots and Pairing Portraits, which can help parents understand how their unique kids are wired to learn, click here: http://www.kidzmet.com
To find out more about the eight personality types of children under 12, click here: http://kidzmet.com/content_pages/view/personality-type