Just the word alone can prompt a severe allergic reaction from kids and parents alike. The continuing debate over whether or not homework is valuable is still all over the internet. Whatever the case, most kids will likely have homework in some form throughout the school year. Aside from how we personally feel about homework, I think it’s critical that we talk about it in a positive, encouraging way in front of our kids. Otherwise, we are just adding fuel to the fire and giving them an excuse to not try their best, which will result in an uphill battle where everyone loses. I take the approach that their job is to be an engaged student, and homework completion is part of that job description.
Homework Warriors – here are my top ten teacher tips to winning the homework completion battle:
1. Know the What and the When
It sounds obvious, but this can be harder than you’d expect. Teachers have different ways of informing kids and parents of the assigned work. You need to know the system. Do they use a planner? Is there a homework website? Is the homework listed on a handout for the week in a specific “homework” folder? Once you know how to find it, you are halfway there.
2. Prioritize the Work
If your kid has varying due dates, or a long-term project on the horizon, have them complete the work with the closest due date first. Some kids get excited about a big project and they want to tackle it right away, but make sure the other work is completed before moving ahead. Similarly, some prefer to start with the “easy” homework first, but then it’s almost 8 p.m. and they do not have the brainpower or the will to approach the “hard” stuff. So I’d suggest the opposite.
3. Don’t Delay
It’s so easy to say “I’ll do it in an hour,” or “I’ll do it after this show,” or “I just want to rest first.” But trying to get your kids back from that point is so much harder. As soon as humanly possible, we start in on the homework. Sometimes that means in the car on the way home, or while sitting at a sibling’s sports practice. It’s not ideal, but it beats the 8 p.m. meltdown.
4. Have a Dedicated Space
Having a dedicated, comfortable homework space is ideal. We use our kitchen table, but most spots will do. Having supplies on hand is also helpful because kids will spend 25 minutes looking for the colored pencils if you let them.
5. Give Them All the Snacks
Brain fuel is crucial. I start throwing our best snacks at the kids the minute they start to work. You want chocolate milk, you got it! Fancy apple slices with peanut butter, you bet. It’s basically like bribery. This trick will work every time. Before you know it, they’ve been working and snacking simultaneously for an hour and no tears have been shed.
6. Quality over Quantity
In the case that there is an inordinate amount of homework, I always go for quality. I would rather my kid complete 75% of the work really well than do 100% with minimal effort. Don’t get me wrong, the teacher in me is screaming “Do it all!” But the mom in me is saying, “Do it well!”
7. Motivate with Music
My kids have become obsessed with this ridiculous YouTube station by Parry Gripp. Song titles include “Neon Pegasus” and “Taco Cat.” I personally do not share their obsession, but I will suffer and let them play these songs quietly in the background during homework time. It’s like listening to your favorite workout station at the gym. Music motivates.
8. Set a Timer
Depending on their age and ability to focus, a reasonable amount of time working on homework should be set in advance. Turn it into a challenge. “You have one hour to complete this mission, should you accept.” And then on the following day, they can try to beat their best time. But don’t forget tip number six!
9. Take Breaks
Kids are human. They need brain breaks just like the rest of us. Short breaks outside, dancing out the wiggles, snuggling up with a pet – whatever works for them. If it’s clear that your kid is hitting a wall, that’s the perfect time to reset, refocus, and come back with a renewed approach.
10. When in Doubt, Google it
Listen, I may be a teacher, but I’m no genius. In fact, most of the homework my kids bring home requires several read throughs on my part. And also lots of, “Ask your Dad, he knows math.” So when in doubt, I employ Google.
10a. TURN THAT STUFF IN
Get that completed homework into a folder, in the backpack, on the child, and back to the teacher. Otherwise, it’s all for nothing. God speed, homework.
Soon enough, those backpacks will be unrecognizable, the homework folder will be covered in packaging tape, and the set of 12 colored pencils will have dwindled down to four. But if most of the homework has been completed most of the time, I declare a victory! Gold star, Homework Warriors, you have passed another grade!