Is My Child Reading at Grade-Level? - Good Question to Ask in the New Year

The New Year is the perfect time to hang unmarked calendars, make resolutions and revel in the feeling that we can "start over." And, while it certainly does feel as though our collective slates have been wiped clean, let's not forget that our children are smack in the middle of the academic school year. This is the perfect time for parents to ask, "Is my child reading at grade-level (or higher), and is he making progress?"  And, one of the best ways to find out your child's reading level is to give them a grade-level fluency test.

Fluency is reading speed and accuracy, and a student's fluency rate should steadily increase throughout the school year. For example, at the beginning of the school year, the average 2nd grade student reads about 53 correct words per minute (CWPM); after three months, one would expect that number to have increased to 70 CWPM.

Ask your child's teacher for a grade-level fluency test; or, look online and in reading/tutoring books. With only a little instruction, most parents find fluency tests easy to administer. It is worth a little time and effort to discover for yourself how your child is doing, wouldn't you agree?

Don't wait for a disappointing report card or low test scores- find out NOW if your child is on target in reading. Have a fun, safe New Year, but don't forget that January is the ideal time to give your child a fluency test!

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A Simple but Powerful Children's Gift Idea

child reading

During this holiday and gift-giving season, we are often confused and/or conflicted about what to buy the children in our lives. Because we want to see their little eyes light up in delight, we may be tempted to forgo anything that seems too "educational"- like books.

Actually, books are the perfect gift. Literature might not ellicit "oohs and aahs," but be patient. After your kids have become tired of their new, shiny toys and bored with the video games, they will pick up a new book and start reading.

Of course, you might have to remind them about the books (or even sit down and read with them), but it is well worth it.

Children that read well are more likely to:

  • have high self-esteem.
  • read for pleasure as adults.
  • have fewer behavior problems.
  • have fewer illnesses and missed school days.
  • choose the “right” kind of friends.
  • finish high school and attend college.
  • earn more money over their entire lifetimes (and, hopefully, not end up living in your basement).

A love of reading is the ultimate gift -- any time of the year.

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When It Comes to Homework, Not All After-School Programs Are the Same

Most days when my son gets home from school, his homework is finished. While this is really, really nice, what really makes it great is that his homework is done correctly.

There are different types of after-school programs, and each type will have its own homework philosophy, goals and focus. For some programs, homework will be a priority, but for others, fun and recreation or enrichment activities such as art, music or dance may take center stage. 

How do you know if homework is a priority at your after-school program?

  • Does the program mention homework in its brochure, website and materials? Do they say it is a priority? If they don't mention homework, it's probably not a priority.

  • Does the program have dedicated space and time to complete homework? There should be a homework area (a separate room is ideal) for students to work on their homework. This environment should be quiet and free from distractions (usually those students not doing homework!)

  • Does the program have proper homework materials, supplies? Paper, pencils, reference books?

  • Does the program have an adult supervising the homework area? An adult staff member should be available to answer questions, to make certain that no copying (cheating) is taking place and to keep students focused on finishing their work.

If the program seems to do only a fair job with homework, consider allowing your child to do his "easy" homework there and save the important homework for home. For example, my daughter often did those (silly) math and spelling worksheets at the after-school program, but saved reading, writing and special projects for home.

If the after school homework program is not up to snuff, please don't insist that your child participate. Wrong, rushed, sloppy, copied homework is a waste of everybody's time. Let your child spend the afternoon playing, relaxing, and eating a snack. He will be in a much better mood to do his homework later.

When trying to decide if your child should do any or all of his homework at the after-school program, please consider his unique personality. Some children need a break right after school, while others have no problem doing their homework immediately. Give your child the Homework Personality Quiz to determine if after your school's homework program is a good match for your child.

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Thanksgiving Means Family, Food and Fun- NOT Homework

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love spending time with family and friends, eating entirely too much delicious food and reveling in the fact that they haven't figured out how to turn the holiday into a commercial-gift-buying-debt-creating extravaganza. After hundreds of years, Thanksgiving is still a simple day of thanks- and football.

What I don't like about Thanksgiving (besides the dishes) is homework. Unfortunately, millions of students and their families will have to deal with homework this week. It was after one year of my daughter spending the afternoon upstairs studying instead of hanging out with her family that I put my foot down about vacation homework.

You and your children deserve a break from school- including homework. Here's how to deal with vacation homework  so that your family can return to your regular routine rested and rejuvenated.

Good luck.  Happy Thanksgiving and try not to eat too much!

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Before You Do Anything, Call the Teacher First!

Students come home and tell parents the most amazing things.

"Today the teacher called us stupid.” 

Before you rush off to call the principal, take a deep breath and contact your child's teacher and give him or her a chance to explain. Children- especially small children- often misunderstand adults. (I am sure your kids have misunderstood something you’ve said, once or twice, right?) Instead of starting World War III, you might hear something funny.

“Streudel! I said the kids were full of streudel today!” 

Some parents are quick to call the principal or the district to complain about something they think has happened or been said. Teachers should be held accountable for their actions and words. They should treat your child with respect and consideration, and they should follow district rules and regulations. Of course, if there is an on-going problem or issue, and you have spoken to the teacher repeatedly and things aren’t changing, then, by all means, call the principal! And, if you have been working with the principal and things aren’t improving, then call the district office. 

Just talk to the teacher first.

I once substituted in a 3rd grade classroom. A student went home and told her mother that I had assigned 8 hours of homework! Can you imagine anything more ridiculous? It was preposterous on a number of levels, including that as a substitute, I follow the lesson plans left by the regular teacher. Instead of asking for clarification or a simple explanation from me (or using her own common sense), the mother called the principal and ranted and raved for half an hour about the horrible substitute (me) and the impossible work load. She claimed that her daughter was so upset about being assigned so much homework that she couldn’t do any of it. Talk about a sad, powerful family dynamic.

Calling the principal to “get the teacher in trouble” rarely works, anyway. Most principals believe and support their teachers. The principal will speak to that bad, bad teacher, but it’s not what you expect. The principal and the teacher usually stand in the hallway and complain about micromanaging, overreacting and bothersome parents. Ouch.

I've often thought of what my son's kindergarten teacher said to parents at Information Night, "I promise to believe half of what your child tells me about you, but remember to only believe half of what they tell you about me."

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Quick Tips for Tests and Quizzes

For many students, final exams are right around the corner. And while these exams make up a large percentage of final semester grades (and cause a lot of worry), please don't forget about those weekly tests and quizzes.

Tips to Share with Students About Tests and Quizzes:

  • Read the entire test and each set of directions before you start.

  • Start with the easiest questions first and return to the others (don't forget to go back!)

  • Read all answer choices for each multiple choice questions. Many times, the right one is the last one!

  • Look for trick questions.

  • Try not to guess, but if you must- go with your gut instinct.

  • Take your time.

  • Check your work.

  • Do your best, turn it in and move on!
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Why It's Not Okay to Be Late to School

Early one morning last week as I pulled the car up to my son's school, he announced that he wasn't wearing any shoes. He had managed to remember his lunch and backpack, but his new tennis shoes were in the garage where he had "forgotten" them. I was pretty annoyed (understatement) at having to drive in traffic- all the way home and then back to school and then home again, but what really upset me was that my son was going to be late to school.

As a former elementary school teacher, late students were the bane of my teaching existence. It is annoying to teachers and detrimental to students.

Teachers are strapped, strapped, strapped for time, so the smart ones hit the day running. First thing in the door, it’s announcements about school events, tests, assignments, projects, field trips; collecting homework; taking roll; sending in the lunch count; doing quick test preparation and review. Yes, all of this- and more- happens in the first few minutes of the school day. Reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Boom, boom, boom.

Then, the late kid trickles in.

The entire class stops what they are doing to watch him get settled. Everyone stares while he opens his backpack, drops his binder, puts his coat away, hands the teacher his permission slip, walks over to the homework basket, asks about lunch. All teaching- and learning- has stopped. Can you imagine how annoying this is when it happens two or three times a day?

But, what's worse is that late students miss important information and instruction, and most teachers simply do not have the time to go back and teach them what was missed.

You might not think being a few minutes late is a big deal, but consider this: if your child is 10 minutes late three times each week, he will miss a half hour of instruction this week, two hours this month, 20 hours (4 full school days!) this school year.

I know how those minutes add up, so now my son has an extra pair of shoes in the car. If that doesn't work, we'll have him sleep -- fully dressed-- in the car. I'll come down with a breakfast bar and a juice box and take him to school.

At least he won't be late.

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Students Need A LOT More Sleep Than You Think

Your kids' bedtime.

Ah, just reading those words puts a smile on your face, doesn't it? I love my children as much as the next parent, and at the same time I am not ashamed to admit that I also love sending them to bed at the end of a long day.

The two things are not mutually exclusive.

Kids need sleep. Lots and lots of sleep. They need consistent bedtimes and regular sleeping hours.

You may be surprised to learn how much sleep your children need:

  • 3 to 6 year olds = 12 hours a night
  • 7 to 9 year olds = 11 hours a night
  • 10 to 12 year olds = 10 hours a night
  • 12 to 18 year olds = 8 to 9 hours a night

So, are your children getting enough sleep? Few are. And, it is not the once-in-awhile-crazy-late bedtimes that cause the long-lasting problems. It’s the kinda-late-every-single-night bedtimes that do the most damage and cause problems in school. Students need to be at their best at school every day, and that means they need to be well-rested every day. Consistently losing even a small amount of sleep adversely affects children. Sleep-deprived children don't grow as fast as they should, don’t learn as much they could, and don't get along as well with others.

Some students come to school sleepy nearly every single day. They spend their entire academic careers operating at less than their best. How much learning do you think is taking place?

Just to clarify: sleeping means eyes closed, snoring, dreaming. It does not mean brushing teeth, begging for one more story, arguing and debating the merits of sleep, watching one more show, getting ready to hang up the phone or turn of the computer. Sleep means sleep.


Don’t you wish that someone demanded that you go to your room, get in the bed and go to sleep? This is punishment?

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Why Breakfast Really Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that my sister, brother and I eat breakfast every morning. This was non-negotiable. Mom said, "You can't learn on an empty stomach." Just once, I wanted to go to school hungry to find out if she was right, but I never. First of all, there was no way my mother was letting me out of the house without breakfast. Secondly, she cooked serious breakfasts: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage sandwiches, fried apples, pancakes, French toast, waffles, scrapple and eggs. (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.) So, I ate breakfast, and I did well in school, but I had no idea if one thing had anything to do with the other.

Turns out, my mother was right (again). You can't learn on an empty stomach!

Children that regularly eat a nutritious breakfast have improved concentration, better problem-solving skills, more physical stamina, and are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks after school. They miss fewer days of school. They are more fit than students that don’t eat breakfast. They sit calmly in their seats, always raise their hands, and remember everything the teacher tells them. (Maybe that last sentence was a slight exaggeration, but not much. Students with full stomachs are much easier to teach, as any teacher will tell you.)

Most convenience breakfast foods are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives. Refined sugar- found in those yummy breakfast cereals your kids beg for- is especially insidious. Sugar is a powerful drug that takes you on a high and then brings you crashing down in the middle of math.

Nobody is saying that you must get up at dawn and make your children a ten-course meal from scratch. Make sure that they eat something that will “stick to their ribs” and help them sail through the morning.

Here are a few good breakfast choices to mix and match: oatmeal, fruit, cereal, toast, yogurt, muffins, milk, soy milk, tofu, nuts, string cheese, fruit smoothie. Or, why not live a little and give your kids a veggie wrap, or a bowl of chicken noodle soup, or a ham and cheese sandwich, maybe even a slice of pizza and a glass of milk?

Like the Spanish proverb says, "The belly rules the mind."

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Get (and Keep!) Those Backpacks Organized!

The kids have been back in school for awhile, and that "new school smell" is gone. New grade, new teacher, new classroom- big yawn. Most of us have settled in and gotten used to our school schedules.

Before you get too relaxed, I have a question: How are your children's backpacks looking these days? If they're like most students, they are already a mess: loose and crumpled papers, half-eaten sandwiches, random pencils, lost assignments.

A backpack is a student's "traveling office," and it needs to stay neat and organized. Here's an article to help your kids return those backpacks to the way they were the first day of school.

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Teach Your Children to REALLY Finish Their Homework

I spend a lot of time talking about what students should do before they sit down to do homework. Today, I'd like to discuss what students should do after they've finished it! I have found that putting everything away is a crucial-but-often-neglected step, resulting in lost assignments and insane mornings. (Can you relate?)

Explain to your children that they're not really, truly, absolutely finished with their homework until they have put:

  1. EVERY assignment in their homework binder in the correct pocket.
  2. The homework binder INSIDE their backpack.
  3. ALL of their books in their backpack.
  4. ALL materials (pencils, papers, calculator, etc.) that remain home away in a drawer or their handy Magic Homework Box.
  5. And, finally...
  6. Their backpack by the front DOOR- or where ever they'd have to step over it before they leave in the morning.

Can you imagine how much easier everybody's life will be when your children complete all of these steps regularly? This is why it is sooo important that they get into the habit of doing these steps every day and as soon as they finish their homework. No snack or TV until all of the steps are completed! Your children will probably grumble at first, but later they will have to admit that life is much easier when they don't wait until the next morning to put things away, leave their homework on the kitchen table or have to frantically search for their backpacks at the last minute.

While we're teaching our children that being organized means being proactive and thorough, we might want to put our things by the front door, as well!

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Forgotten Homework Teaches Lessons

Yesterday, my son reminded me to please not forget to fill out his field trip permission slip.

"You know how you hate bringing stuff to school," he said.

He's right; I do hate bringing forgotten items- homework, lunches, projects- to school, and I rarely do it. Years of experience as a teacher and a parent have proven to me that constantly "rescuing" students doesn't pay.

A True Story

When my darling daughter was in the 4th grade, she suddenly began forgetting to bring home the books and materials she needed to complete her homework. Her school was only two blocks away, and I would rush her back there to get her book or whatever it was she had forgotten. Wasn’t I dedicated? Didn’t I do whatever was necessary to help my child succeed in school?

I did it, but I wasn't happy. I told my daughter that she had to be more responsible, she must remember to check her backpack before she left school. Blah, blah, blah. My daughter would promise to check her backpack every day for the rest of her life. And she did- until the next time she forgot. Then we did our song and dance all over again.

One day, my daughter forgot her math book. Again. It was late afternoon, and I wasn't sure if her teacher would still be at school. Frantic, I called the office. What luck! Not only was her teacher there, she would be happy to drop the book off on her way home!

Let's stop here for a minute and imagine this from my daughter's point of view. Every couple of days she gets to postpone doing her homework; she gets escorted back to school; sometimes she even gets to track down her teacher in the teacher's lounge…what fun! And now her teacher was coming to her house! This was definitely more exciting than math homework.

I was just about to tell the teacher that I would come and get the book when I had a revelation-- a vision, really. I saw my daughter in high school, maybe 17 years old, smacking gum, text messaging some ne'er do well on her cell phone and mumbling, "Can’t do my homework. Forgot my book."

I couldn’t let it happen! This foolishness was going to stop.

I thanked the teacher for her extraordinarily kind offer, and told her that the book could stay in my daughter’s desk. This was becoming a problem, and my daughter needed to remember to become more responsible.

My daughter was shocked, then embarrassed, then angry. What would her teacher think? How was she going to do her math homework? Well, she wasn’t going to be able to do her homework, and for one quick second I wavered. Then, I remembered that it is always harder to the right thing (not get the book) than the wrong thing (get the darn book).

Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. Not turning in your homework (especially when you’ve actually done it), shivering on the playground because you can’t find your coat, missing a field trip because you left the permission slip at home all week- these are the kinds of lessons we want our children to learn the hard way so that they won’t have to learn the really hard ones later.

The only way our children will grow into confident, capable and responsible adults is if we treat them like capable and responsible children.

So, once in awhile, bring the forgotten item. Just don't make a habit out of it.

By the way, my daughter is now in high school and remembers her books every day.

Let's not talk about the texting.

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Homework Confessions of Real Parents (Or, What to Do If Your Child Is Having A Homework Meltdown)

Parents have often confessed to me that when it comes to their children's homework, they have done some things of which they are not so proud:

  • figured out every math problem
  • written the vocabulary sentences
  • composed the essay
  • colored the picture
  • completed the project
  • read the book and written the book report
  • signed the reading journal—even though their child did not read
  • answered the end-of-chapter questions

Parents feel guilty and worry about the lesson they are teaching their children. Why, then do so many parents do these things? They claim that they have no choice. After hours (or days or weeks or months) of listening to their children cry over homework- parents throw their hands up in defeat. They tell themselves that "cheating" is the only way that they can get some peace and their child can get some sleep.

Believe me, I understand wanting to protect your child and stop the whining. However, giving your child the answers or doing their homework is not a long-term solution to your homework problem. You are setting a precedent that will be difficult to reverse. You don’t want your child to think, “If I don’t want to do something distasteful, I’ll throw a fit and Mom or Dad will do it for me.” Not to mention, do you really want to do their homework? I certainly don't!

So, what should a parent do if their child is having a homework meltdown?

Write a note explaining that your child was exhausted and/or unable to complete an assignment. Tell the teacher that this was your decision and you do not want your child punished. This should not happen often. If your child is having problems completing her homework on a regular basis, contact the teacher to schedule a time to meet. The two of you can discuss what is happening and what can be done to fix the situation. Most teachers are very reasonable and want to work with parents to help their students succeed, but they can only do that if they know that there is a problem.

Trust me, your child is not the only one having trouble completing their homework. (Click here for more information about homework meltdowns.

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After-School Snacks and Homework

My children have been in school for a month, but for many families, the day after Labor Day is the first day of the new school year. It is also the first day of after-school snacks. What your children eat after school has a big impact on how well they are able to do their homework.

You want to give it some thought before they walk in the door.

My kids are polar opposites. My daughter likes to start her homework as soon as possible; my son prefers to wait until the morning. (How do I know this? The Homework Personality Quiz!) However, they both want a snack the minute they get home from school. In fact, if they don’t have a snack immediately, they might die of starvation.

So, I let them eat something. There are, however, a few snack rules:

  1. Easy. Easy to make and easy to clean up. I have enough problems with breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is no way I want to deal with planning, cooking or cleaning up another meal. After-school snacks must be quick and simple.
  2. Healthy. Basically, this means low sugar. I am not a health food fanatic; I just don’t want to give my children anything that will make them wild, fidgety and unable to concentrate all afternoon.
  3. Dinner-Friendly. Most of us don’t overeat fiber and protein- it’s the refined sugar and processed carbohydrates that cause the problems. Don’t make your children's after-school snack too much like dessert. It should tide them over until dinner, not spoil it.

My Favorite After-School Snacks:

  • apple or celery with low-sugar peanut butter
  • string cheese and a piece of fruit (grapes)
  • sliced vegetables (peppers, carrots) with dip (hummus, ranch dressing)
  • strawberries dipped in dark chocolate (believe it or not, this is healthy, and most kids love it)
  • cheese and crackers

I save these snacks for after school- rarely in lunches- so my kids don’t get sick and tired of them. Of course, there are many, many more healthy, easy, dinner-friendly snack ideas. Please, share some of yours!

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Top Three Rules for Helping Your Kids with Homework

Parents want to know the best way to help their children with homework. While there are many Homework Helper Dos and Don'ts, three rules top the list. The following rules not only help students do tonight's homework, they help foster future independent learning. Our goal is independent and self-motivated students, isn't it? Right!

  1. Insist that your child- not you- read all directions. Do NOT do this for them. Reading the directions is crucial skill, and you want your child to establish this habit as early as possible. As both a teacher and a parent, I have been amazed at how often a child cries, “I don’t get it!” then reads the directions and says, “Oh! I get it!”
  2. Give your child some space. By this I mean: Do NOT sit right next to your child while he does his homework. “But, what if he needs me!” you’re wailing. Here’s the thing. If your child does not understand something, and you are two inches away, he’ll ask you to explain or solve it. If, however, you are in another room, he might try to figure it out himself. (Remember, we trying to raise independent learners!) While sitting next to your child makes you feel needed, the fact is you won’t always be able to do it. Be accessible, but show your child that you believe that he is capable of completing his own homework and solving most problems.
  3. Establish a routine and then stick to it. Homework right after school? After dinner? In the morning? Figure out what works best for your child’s Homework Personality, set up your schedule to support it, and move on. It’s like brushing teeth. Would you engage in a Big Debate if your daughter woke up and, “I don’t want to brush my teeth this morning. Can I brush them after school?” Of course you wouldn’t! Certain chores and activities take place at certain times of the day. End of story. Save the pleading and negotiating for something worthwhile- like another bowl of ice cream.

Stick to your guns and follow these three homework helper rules. You will be doing yourself and, more importantly, your children, a huge favor.

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Homework Questions for Back-to-School Night

It's back to school time, and for most parents getting our children ready for a new school year means working our way down a very long and expensive to-do list. There are clothes and supplies to buy, forms to fill out, bedtimes to revisit and lunches to make. Fortunately, one of the most important items on our list only costs about an hour of our time: attending Back-to-School Night.

Back-to-School Night is more than an opportunity to meet the new teacher, reconnect with other parents and peek into your child's still-clean desk. In fact, I truly believe that Back-to-School Night may be the most important school night of the year.

At least when it comes to homework.

Use Back-to-School Night to ask the teacher about his or her homework policy and expectations- in public! Find out everything you need to know, and the rest of the school year will be that much easier. Making absolutely certain that you are clear about homework now means you won't spend the next ten months wondering if you should correct your daughter's math homework. Understanding how long homework should take means you won't have to worry if your son is spending too much time completing nightly assignments. Get it all straight at Back-to-School Night so you know exactly what to do and what to expect.

All you have to do is ask ten easy questions!

Homework Questions for the Teacher:

  1. What is the district homework policy?
  2. What kind of homework do you usually assign?
  3. How long should homework take most nights?
  4. Is homework graded? If yes, is it a separate grade?
  5. Do you want parents to help with homework & projects? How much?
  6. Do you want parents to correct homework?
  7. Do you want to know if homework is taking longer than it should and/or my child does not understand it?
  8. What happens if homework is not turned in?
  9. Do you assign homework on weekends, holidays, vacations, and family school nights (i.e. Reading Night)?
  10. What is the best way to contact you (note, phone, email, visit)?

These are not trick questions; your child's teacher should know the answers and be thrilled that you are asking them! And, if for some reason you feel badly about using a few minutes to clarify homework rules and expectations- don’t! Not only will finding out this information make the rest of the school year easier for your family, you will be helping out ALL of the families in class. Get ready for a few grateful hugs. They might even elect you Parent of the Year!

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Homework Personality

Parents often approach me at workshops, at school or through my site wanting to know the best way to solve their family homework problems. They are tired of the tears, the fighting, the never-ending homework struggles. Parents have homework questions, and they want homework answers!

They want to know:

- What is the best time to do homework?
- Where is the best place to do homework?
- Is it okay to have the TV on during homework? The radio?
- Should a child take a break during homework? How long?
- How often should parents remind their children to do their homework?

These are all legitimate questions, but before I- or anybody else- can answer them, parents must understand their child's homework personality.

Homework personality? What?!?

Teachers and educators recognize that each student has an unique learning style. Some are visual or sight learners; others are auditory or hearing learners; and, kinesthetic learners learn best through touch. Good teachers try to incorporate all three of these learning styles into lessons so that every student has the opportunity to best grasp the material.

Your child's homework personality suggests the unique way in which he or she best studies, learns and does homework. What gets them in the "homework groove?" Where are they most comfortable in your home? When during the day are they the most relaxed yet productive? Do they work best alone or around others? When you are able to answer these types of questions, it is easy to set up a schedule and environment that best supports your child's homework personality.

Remember, every child is unique! What works for one of your children may not work for another! Some kids need absolute quiet in order to concentrate; others can work just fine in a noisy, crowded room. Some children should come straight home from school and get started on their homework, while others can wait a few hours- or even until the next morning. I've known families where one child does his homework at a desk in his bedroom, while his sister sprawls on the family room floor.

Last Sunday around 8 PM, I noticed my middle-school daughter sitting at the dining room table. She was completing a social studies assignment that wasn't due until later in the week. Now, that's not how I would have spent my Sunday evening, but I understand that my daughter cannot relax knowing that something (anything!) is due. Hmm. This got me to thinking...

Did my third-grade son have any homework?

He had no idea. He had forgotten his backpack at school.

Needless to say, my children have different homework personalities! One of them likes to come in and get started on her homework, the other one does not. One needs to be reminded to do his homework, the other one does not. Giving them the same homework rules, breaks, environment, etc. would not only be a waste of my time, it would frustrate and upset them (at least one of them!)

Take the Homework Personality Quiz and figure out how to best support your child's unique homework personality. The quiz a lot of fun, and it will really get you thinking about how your child works, learns and studies. Share your answers with your family members, make some decisions, and get ready for homework time to get a whole lot easier!
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Homework Sandwiches

Parents often wonder if they should let their kids take a break after school before starting their homework. I understand the dilemma. One the one hand, it seems reasonable to let our children have a quick snack and a few minutes of free time. On the other hand, we want those little rascals to get that homework done and out of the way! In my experience, the Do It Now! approach does work for some students (see the quiz on Homework Personality), but most children really do need a substantial break after school.


Of course you're worried. You try to be nice and give your kids a break, and the next thing you know "a few minutes of watching TV" has turned into a few hours, a big fight and a ruined evening, right? So, what is a parent to do?

Make some Homework Sandwiches! There are only two steps:

1. Sit down with your child and discuss which activities they would like to do before and after homework. It is important to let your child come up with his own, reasonable ideas. You want him to be motivated but realistic (no, we aren't going to the movies every night!). You might be surprised by what kids find enjoyable- and how much they really want our undivided attention. In my case, I learned that my children want to help me make dinner! Who knew that what I view as a chore- cooking dinner- was a treat to them?

2. Agree that your child will be able to do one fun activity before and one fun activity after homework. Fun-homework-fun. A homework sandwich!

Here are some Homework Sandwich ideas:

- Play a video game for 15 minutes/ homework/ shoot hoops with Dad
- Eat a favorite snack/ homework/ watch TV for an hour
- Watch one TV show/ homework/ help with dinner
- Talk on phone for 20 minutes/ homework/ talk on phone forever
- Ride bike for 30 minutes/ homework/ play cards with Mom
- Eat a snack/ homework/ take a bubble bath while Mom reads Harry Potter

Some quick words of advice:

- Put a time limit on the first activity. The easiest way to solve this problem? The kitchen timer. Set it, and when it rings- homework!

- Don't allow your child to have the second fun "slice" if he or she does not do their homework. After all, a sandwich is not all "bread" and no "filling!"

- Keep a visual homework sandwich "reminder" posted on the fridge or family bulletin board. This way, nobody forgets that it's only one TV show before homework and not two.

Many parents- including myself- have found great success using homework sandwiches. You will find that if your children are allowed to do something enjoyable right before and immediately after homework, they start to associate homework with those fun activities. The entire process becomes a package deal in their sweet, little minds. (Pavlov, anyone?) The best part is that your children will know exactly what they need to do after school- and how long they can do it. And, because they chose the activities themselves, they are much more invested in the entire process.

One last thing: don't faint when your child says, "I want to hurry up and do my homework so I can..."
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How to Study Using the Folded Paper Method

One of the great mysteries of the educational universe is why students aren't taught how to study. I was lucky enough to be shown the Folded Paper Method in the 8th grade, and I have been using it ever since! Not only does it work for nearly any subject, it is super-easy and portable. It is one of my favorite study methods, and I share it with both my students and my two children.

  1. Show your child how to fold a regular piece of lined binder paper in half the long way (hot dog style).
  2. In the left column, have them write the words, theories, ideas or formulas they are studying for a test, quiz or exam.
  3. In the right column, they write down definitions.
  4. They study by keeping the paper folded and flipping it back and forth between each word on the left and its definition on the right. Tell your child to think of the folded paper as a bunch of attached flash cards.
  5. A student can test himself by looking at the words and trying to repeat the definitions- without looking!
  6. Next, they should look at the definitions and try to recall the words.
  7. When they are confident that they know the words and definitions, your child should give the paper to someone (you!) and ask to be quizzed.
  8. Encourage your child to start this process a few days before a test. So, after they finish their regular homework, they can study for a half an hour or so. Teach them not to wait until the last minute and try to cram everything into their heads. Put a little information in each night, and it will stick!
  9. Tell your child to review their notes right before the test. It's great to read the words and definitions out loud one last time.
  10. Last tip- take a deep breath! They are ready to ace the test!

How simple (and non-tech) is the Folded Paper Method? Remember, by studying a little each night, your child will develop good study habits, feel relaxed, confident and prepared for tests, and still have time for a life outside of studying!
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016