We know you’re eager to know how to help your elementary schooler with homework. We are sure you don’t like the sight of your child struggling with homework or being stressed about it. But first, consider this – the word homework can mean so differently to different children. Some dread it and some enjoy and look forward to it. There is even a section that treats it as a chore and doesn’t attach any emotion of thrill, joy, hate, or detestation to it. Giving homework is nothing but a way of repeating learning to ensure complete assimilation and comprehension. Homework helps children identify their strengths and areas of improvement while memorizing the key concepts by application. It encourages them to explore and look for information and answers while repeating a lesson or concept learned at school.
Why is homework important? Or is it?
For you as a parent, your children’s homework is essentially a way for you to peek into what is being taught to them at school. It also gives you a chance to help your children and bond better. But here is some research that is counterintuitive to what you most likely believe about homework!
A CNN article, “Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?”, detailed this pressing issue. It considered the results of a study surveying more than 4,300 students from 10 high-performing public and private high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. The claim made in the research is that excessive homework is associated with higher stress levels, physical health problems, and a lack of balance in children’s lives. According to the article, 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives.
So now, should we assume that homework should be eliminated and a no-homework policy is a way out? Is all homework really bad? Or is it the nature of the homework that determines its impact on a child’s learning? Let’s probe a little more.
How much homework is really ideal?
Parents often complain that too much homework is nothing but overkill for learning. It compromises the quality of family time and most importantly sleep schedule and exercise or physical activity time. To answer this, Harris Cooper and his team at Duke University, reviewed dozens of studies and finally suggested a common rule of thumb – take the child’s grade and multiply by 10. So the 3rd grade- students should have no more than roughly 30 minutes of homework a night. A lot of schools use this simple rule and the National PTA officially endorses it.
But again, solving only for the time a child spends tackling homework may not be the answer. The quality of the homework is equally important.
Quality homework improves learning
Elementary school children often grapple with too much homework which eventually makes them lose interest in studies as such! It is not really the concept of homework that is detrimental for your elementary schooler, it’s the quality of it. A lot of schoolwork is either replicated or extended as homework which is not motivating enough (read demotivating) for elementary school children.
They should instead be given homework that is meaningful and helpful. Any homework can be considered quality homework if it:
- Encourages exploration
- Encourages alternate thinking strategies for the same problems
- Allows the student to have quality time left for their family, friends, and hobbies
- Also entails a completion strategy to encourage the student to finish it in time
- Promotes learning and revision without being repetitive
While most parents agree in principle that their child should be given only quality homework, they have little to no control over it. The feedback shared with teachers at school may need some more time to be actioned, but there’s something you as a parent can do today to help your elementary schooler with their homework.
Things you can do as a parent to help your child with homework
Elementary school years are the foundation years for the rest of academic life. Whether your child will develop resentment or a liking towards homework – these years will pretty much define it. Want to help your elementary schooler develop an affinity for doing (read enjoying) their homework? Don’t know where to start and want to give up because you can’t change the quality of homework? Well, it is now time to stop being that parent who frets and lets only the school determine the quality of learning for their child. Take charge and help your child with homework in these 5 easy ways, regardless of how the school structures it:
1. Make the homework come to life
Make your child’s homework come alive with simple techniques. This is particularly helpful for subjects they usually don’t like/prefer to work on. For example, if they abhor math homework, get them a math mat where they can jump around and see the numbers. Simple aids like an add and subtract abacus or a wipe-clean mat like this one can make homework fun for them.
Here are a few more ideas to make the homework lively and interesting for your elementary schooler:
- Get your child notebooks with their favorite cartoon characters or in their favorite colors
- Set up a homework cum study space that is designed as per your child’s liking and has comfortable seating. Doing homework on the bed or at the dining table is more likely to get your child distracted!
- Play a homework game. For example, for completing the homework in time, your child gets treated to a mini-surprise. An extra surprise for neatness or good handwriting is always great too. Remember not to make this the only motivator for doing homework, strike the balance right!
- Make them use paints, crayons, DIY kits, etc. wherever possible and allowed while doing homework
Bonus tip: remove all tech gadgets and distractions so that your child can focus on the homework and be engaged more deeply
2. Stay available but don’t fill in for them
Try to be available for your child when they sit down to do their homework. This however doesn’t mean you doing the homework for them and giving in to the tantrums. Elementary schoolers often simply need their parents’ help while doing homework and denying it could demotivate them. Take out those dedicated 30 minutes to be around your child when they do their homework.
Talk to them about what are they supposed to be doing with it and their plan to finish it in time. Always praise their efforts even if they are reluctant to finish the homework. There is no better positive reinforcer than praise from a parent for an elementary schooler!
3. Get a professional to help
A lot of students have benefitted hugely from an expert’s help. This goes for homework and even beyond. A private tutor can work wonders for your child by bringing in the additional benefits of having a routine. At Talentnook, we have helped countless students with their homework and learning after school. Your child can work one on one with a tutor and discuss their areas of concern to get resolutions. This removes a lot of hacks children deploy to either avoid homework or do it with minimal involvement.
Interested but don’t know where to start looking for the right private tutor for your child? Just log on to Talentnook.com and connect with hundreds of tutors from your neighborhood for after-school lessons. From piano to math to science and Spanish and French, we’ve got you covered! What’s even better? You can not only shortlist tutors based on your budget but also request FREE demo sessions before signing them up!
4. Build a routine without messing with the natural body clock
It is important to build a daily routine for homework that doesn’t mess with your child’s body clock. If your child loves to nap in the afternoon, let them! Save the homework for the early evening or late evening hours.
Removing their favorite activities from the daily schedule to make way for homework can also be more harmful than beneficial. Hence, ensure that your child has a fixed slot for doing their homework. It should preferably be the time when they’re most fresh in the day.
5. Do your homework too!
Lastly, as a parent, you must do your homework too! Here are a few things you can do to be better informed and equipped to help your child with homework:
- Take stock of what your child is learning at school. Even a weekly cadence for this could be great
- Know what your child likes and dislikes clearly so you can help them appropriately
- Read up on how can you help your child tackle homework better
- Speak to the fellow parent fraternity to get some quick actionable tips
- Look up the internet for extra resources to help your child like educational videos and games, free flashcards, etc.
We hope this article has helped you identify actionable ways to help your elementary schooler with homework. Read more such articles on parenting on our blog, we post new articles every week!