Homework may have a bad name but it is an integral part of learning. Children who complete their homework diligently have reviewed what was taught in class and are better prepared for the next day’s lesson. However, the benefits of homework extend further than that. The Vancouver School Board notes on their website that homework teaches children to be responsible and boosts their self esteem when they complete assignments on time. Homework also encourages students to get organized, manage time wisely and meet deadlines, all of which are life-long skills. So how can parents help their children develop good homework habits?
Make it routine
Establish a daily homework routine. According to Peg Dawson, school psychologist and author of Homework: A Guide for Parents, setting up a homework routine not only makes the process go more smoothly but also fosters a sense of order that children can apply later on in their lives, including college and work. “Get involved in your kid’s homework in terms of planning and organization,” says Fisal Khan, a socials and history teacher at the Mediated Learning Academy. “Set a time when homework should be done.” Children should get into the habit of doing homework around the same time every day although the time may vary, depending on the child. Figure out when your child works best; this might be right after school for some while others might work better in the evening. The next step is to set up a homework-friendly area in the house, which is away from distractions like TV or loud siblings. Make sure all the necessary supplies such as pencils, paper, glue, scissors and erasers are kept here so time is not wasted gathering these items every day. The right location to study may vary from child to child and according to Aishwarya Bipin Pradhan, an ESL teacher in Vancouver and mother of two, comfort is key. “The point is how comfortable the child feels when he is studying in the designated area,” she says. “The room should [also] hold natural light. That is because light brings energy in the room [whereas] in a gloomy place, the child may find himself being dull and sleepy.”
Make it fun
Homework is often seen as a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. “For both younger kids and older students, homework should not be a boring task rather it should be engaging and meaningful to them,” says Khan. He suggests that parents with younger children could start a study group where they invite a one or two classmates to work together on their homework. “They could share ideas and make homework fun as well as a learning process.”
For older kids, Khan states it is important to make the work relevant to the individual child. “For example, if we are studying socials, the older student would be encouraged to find a current news item that is interesting to her and connect with how a government decision was made to back a certain project [for example], the oil pipeline. Engage your child in a discussion, what are the pros and cons of such a decision,” he says. It is also important to celebrate homework achievements, especially for the younger ones. Display their best work on the fridge; give out small prizes like stickers, small snacks, extra iPad time and dole out encouragement at the end of each homework session. “Appreciation is the best reward,” says Pradhan. “[But] there is a thin line between appreciation and bribery so one has to be cautious,” she advises.
Make sure it’s theirs
Parents can offer guidelines and help with directions, but the homework should be completed by the child. “Giving answers has a negative impact on your child’s learning and facilitates dependency,” Khan says. “You may think you are helping but in fact you are interfering with his or her learning process.” While it is true that younger children work better when an adult is nearby, refrain from giving them the answers. “Sit with the child but don’t do his work. [Instead] tell him ‘I’m sitting right here and if you need my help, ask,’” says Pradhan. “Check after the work is done [but] please do not rectify the errors if there are any.” Instead, Pradhan advises parents to ask their child to search for errors on their own first. “As a parent you are inculcating the habit of self-checking, something the child is going to need in the future. You are teaching the child to take responsibility of his own learning.” In the end, good homework habits are achieved through consistency and can’t be changed overnight. Gradually introduce strategies one at a time and be sure to provide lots of positive feedback when you find your children following their homework routine or completing an assignment without being told.