Homework is a part of nearly every student’s school experience. Yet sometimes it can be a source of stress for busy families.
While every family situation is different, there is help for common homework issues. If your child is having trouble doing or completing his homework, consider our suggestions.
Organization, or a lack of it, is a key source of homework frustration in many families. Even the most capable students have trouble in school if they have problems with organization.
A major homework-related problem is that a student has homework to do, but doesn’t know it or loses track of it. This is often the issue when students are disorganized or have difficulty paying attention in class. For these kids, it might help to enlist their teachers’ help in making sure they have written down the homework assignment before leaving each class. A color-coded notebook system can help, too. A binder for science can contain a green spiral notebook for notes and a green folder for handouts or homework. History, English, and math can each use a different color. The colors help students choose the correct binder quickly, and their papers are more likely to be stored in the right place.
It can also be helpful to teach kids to use a small journal or notebook to keep track of their assignments. They can jot down a few words to remind them of each task they need to do; for example, a student in science class can simply write “science.” Later, when doing homework, she will see that she does have science homework to do. (This assumes that she has a syllabus or online source with the details of what is due for science.)
At the end of the day, have your child spend a few minutes going over the list to see if there is anything important she needs to do before stopping for the day. She can start a new page for the next day by copying remaining tasks onto that page.
Reinforce the Habits of Successful Students
Students who struggle in school and with homework often lack the habits of successful students. Many students need reminders to do what other students are able to do automatically. You can help your child develop these “good student” skills by making sure she has everything she needs handy, reminding her to stay on task, and checking behind her to make sure she's doing so.
Some other “good student” homework habits include:
Writing a proper heading on the page. This includes name, date, name of the class, and the teacher’s name.
Using complete sentences when possible. It’s a good idea to reflect the question in the answer. For example, if the question is "Who was the first president of the United States?" the answer would be, "The first president of the United States was George Washington." Notice that key parts of the question appear in the answer. This not only helps develop sentence writing skills, but also helps when studying later for a test.
Placing completed homework in a safe place where it will stay neat and easy to find. The color-coded folders work well for this.
Help Minimize Distractions
It’s not unusual for today’s students to switch between texting, social media, email, music, videos, and more while they’re supposed to be doing homework. If it sounds dizzying, that’s because it is. Experts know that when students are distracted while studying, they may only be learning facts superficially. Human brains can only concentrate on one thing at a time. So if your child is texting a friend in the middle of doing homework, he switches his thinking back and forth. Every time he switches, he loses his previous line of thought. He has to go back and reread the question or rethink what he was writing or doing. The end result of such multitasking is often poorly done work or only halfway completed assignments.
So how can parents manage those distractions? They can help their kids identify the sources of the distraction and encourage them to put them away during homework time (and monitor that he is staying away). They can also set times for accepted use—for example, allow their child 30 minutes on their tablet after school before he has to start his homework.
Parents can help make homework time more productive. They can help with organization, check to make sure homework is placed in a safe place when complete, and provide a distraction-free place to work. With these suggestions, there may be more time each evening for your children to relax and enjoy some fun family time.