When the bell rings at the end of school, it’s a sign of freedom. Kids hop on the bus, run in the door, drop their backpack on the floor and race to the television…or the computer…or to their neighbor’s house.
While I don’t deny that kids need to run off some steam after a long school day, it can be difficult to get them to refocus and get ready for homework. After a long day at school, most kids dread homework. It brings on a whole new level of stress.
It’s a parent’s natural instinct to protect their children. No parent wants to see their child stressed out. But homework is an essential part of the learning process – it reinforces skills for maximum retention.
Try these tips at home with your children to make homework time a little less stressful:
- Establish a routine.
No matter how old a person gets, routines help keep us focused. Use the suggestions below and devise a system that will benefit your family. Your routine may start after dinner or as soon as the kids get home from school. No two families are exactly the same, so routines will vary.
- Start with a nutritious snack.
Let your kids refuel with a healthy snack. (Even teenagers!) Keep some tasty options available – like fruit slices, string cheese, veggies and dip, pretzels, nuts, and crackers. Avoid sugary foods like candy and soda. They may be tempting, but they will also lead to a sugar crash. Instead, keep a water bottle close by for quick refueling.
- Designate a Work Space.
Find a quiet spot in the house where your kids will be able to concentrate on their homework. It should still be close by so you can check in and help out as necessary. The best place is at a desk or table with a solid chair. The couch or a bed sound like great options, but a comfy surface will encourage the body to become drowsy. Try the dining room instead. Keep all school supplies handy to maximize productivity. (Check out our post on how to create a “homework station”.)
- Unplug all devices.
This may be the hardest thing for your teen. Cell phones, video games, and the TV are distractions. Put cell phones and handheld games in a drawer. Once homework is done, they can use their electronics again. (Or go play with their friends.)
- Distract younger siblings with “homework” of their own!
I love this tip from Rebecca of “Simple as That”. She found it difficult to help her older kids with their homework while managing her preschoolers. So Rebecca bought special activity books for her preschoolers that they can only use while their siblings are doing homework. This made the book a special privilege and it kept the little ones occupied.
- Encourage regular breaks.
It is unrealistic to expect your children to do all of their homework in one sitting. (Unless they brought home only one worksheet.) One of the benefits of recess at school is that it allows children to run off some energy and then come back ready to focus. Give your children the same courtesy and let them take a break. Now here’s the catch – no electronics! Instead, try a coloring page, a quick card game, or a walk outside.
- Help, but don’t give away the answer.
Remember that old saying – “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” The same is true for homework. If you tell your child that 5 x 8 = 40, he’ll get through that problem. But if you teach him that 5 x 8 = 40, he’ll always remember it.
How do you keep homework stress-free in your home? Let us know in the comments!