“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.” - Cicero
I can’t believe it! My four-year-old son has homework in pre-school. This consisted of having to make a house! A house? I had to make one once in fifth grade, but in pre-school?
Of course Alessio was having a meltdown. I was too. Though I was tempted to step in and build Alessio’s house “with” him (parent code: “for him”), I knew if I jumped in and helped too much, it would only confirm his worry that he couldn’t do the task at hand.
I decided the only way to tackle the project was to have fun, and let him make whatever kind of house he wanted.
I took him to the art store and let him choose the supplies. He ended up turning in a lopsided, two-walled house covered with moustache stickers, globs of wet paint and lollipops on the roof. Was it an accurate depiction of our home? Uhm, no. But it was an accurate depiction of Alessio’s creativity. He was so proud of it, and I was too. Alessio did it all on his own.
The lesson here for both child and parent is that building confidence is more important than building a perfect house, or turning in the perfect homework paper.
Homework gives children a chance to actively absorb lessons from the day, by doing them on their own. No matter what age, your children need to perform these tasks themselves. A parent’s job is to keep an eye out, listen for warning signals of overload or frustration, and gently guide only when necessary.
The best way you can help your children with their homework is to create the right learning environment at home. Good study habits are crucial to school success from first grade through college. It’s never too late or too early to start. Here are seven simple tips:
1. Set the schedule for learning. The first hour after school is best for study. This gives your child incentive to complete the work. If she finishes early, there’s more play time afterwards. No more Come in and do your homework! Aw, no, Mom! because it will already be done.
2. Start things off with a healthy snack. After a full day at school, most kids come home a bit tired and hungry. High energy snacks like almonds and raisins will boost your child’s brainpower and help him think through those sometimes tough math problems. Be sure to hydrate, too, with plenty of water which also helps the thinking process.
3. Create a distraction-free zone. Turn off TV, radio, cell phone, or other distractions. Your child will be better able to focus, and homework will flow more smoothly.
4. Good study requires good planning. Most kids study in their rooms. Make sure your child has a table to work on with enough space. Get a big, inspiring calendar to hang on the wall. Put your child in charge of filling in test dates and project due dates, as well as making a list for any special supplies or books she may need to complete the projects. Being organized creates less panic and more confidence.
5. Study 45 minutes, then take a 15-minute break. Many older children have quite a bit of homework these days. Sometimes hours. But most people can only concentrate well for about 45 minutes. By taking a 15-minute break (or even a 15-minute nap) after studying, the brain retains more information. Using a timer can help your student enjoy learning more and get better grades through pacing himself.
6. The best reward is a job well done. Don’t offer rewards beyond sincere praise for a job well done when it comes to the daily homework. Larger projects, where your child has exerted a giant effort, deserve some extra attention - maybe a dinner out, a special dessert or a movie.
7. Learning can and should be fun. Get excited when your children learn new things. Talk about projects over dinner. Tell your daughter what you love about her ideas, or how excited you are about what your son is learning. Around the table, each family member can talk about what they learned that day. Fostering a life-long love of learning is indeed a family affair.
Special thanks to Del Reyes Villamiel for inspiring this blog!