When sending our kids to school, we expect the majority of their education to take place during the six or so hours per day when they are actually in the classroom. But for parents, it is important to realize that education needs to be reinforced in the home. This means not only helping kids with their studies, but also imposing homework times and engaging them in conversation about the things they are learning at school. It is easy to fall into a pattern of overreliance on our children’s teachers—but we must remember that teachers have dozens of kids to worry about. Our kids need us to make their education deeper and more personalized.
Establishing a homework time and space
As soon as your child begins getting homework assignments, set up an area of the home that can serve as the designated study space. This should not be in the child’s bedroom, as there may be distractions in there, and it is important for your child to have easy access to you for questions. Instead, set aside a distraction-free space in the common area of the house.
With the homework time, there are many possibilities. Experiment with different things until you find out what works best for your child. Some kids focus best two or three hours after school, just before dinner time. Some focus best in the hour prior to bed time. Some do best when the homework time is split into two segments before and after dinner. You will know you have found the best situation for your child when he or she is capable of focusing and getting all homework done day in and day out.
Meanwhile, whatever you set up for your child’s study time, make sure that you or your spouse are always nearby to help or answer any questions. It is a good idea to make this a quiet reading time for everyone in the household. This way, there is no television or other forms of excitement that may distract the child from his or her studies. So, during homework time, grab a book or magazine and settle in where you are immediately accessible.
Organization for good study habits
Another important point is to make sure your child approaches homework in an organized way. There are different ways to do this, but one that works for many kids is to keep a small notebook for daily homework to-do lists. Of course, this requires a type of discipline that is rare in young kids, but it is a good habit to learn if your child is capable of it.
Take stock of each day’s homework soon after your child gets out of school, and consider how much time will be needed to get it all done. Then, organize the tasks in a logical way that works for your child. Many parents find it best to encourage their kids to tackle the more difficult and time-consuming homework tasks first. Make all this a routine, and your child should eventually become relatively self-sufficient when it comes to homework—though of course, your involvement is always helpful.
Every family must find its own ways of approaching homework and study time. But if you want your child to do well in school and grow up with a good education, there is one indispensible element: parental engagement. This means more than just helping with homework; it also means communicating with teachers, being involved with the school, and staying plugged in to the community of parents in your neighborhood. It takes time and effort, but there is virtually nothing more important in a child’s life than education, so parents need to be engaged every step of the way.
In the end, many parents are surprised by just how much they enjoy being involved with their kids’ education. In helping your child with homework, you will learn plenty of things yourself (and you will relearn many things you have not thought of since childhood). Plus, time spent with your child working on homework is quality time together, a precious resource in these fast-paced times.