It’s on the bottom of everyone’s list, right down there with scrubbing toilets and ironing collars. Everyone says that kids should complete their homework in 10 minutes per grade level without you reminding them or helping in any way. Everyone also says there should be world peace.
If your home is like most, homework time is marathon at best, and a combat zone on some nights. With four active and involved sons and a second shift husband, our family had to come up with some strategies that would make homework time go more smoothly on those night when I heard myself saying, “Do the next one. You’re on number 6. Math, son. You’re doing math.”
Here are five things that helped our family survive the homework nightmare. Try one or two of them tonight, and see your evening improve.
1. Prepare yourself. Before you start with your child, review the homework yourself. Go over every single thing on the list. Find out exactly what is expected, and what the answers are. Learn what you don’t know or remember how to do. Find out how to use a number line to express a word problem. Locate the "diagram of a water table" so your child can answer the related science question. Skim that chapter on Sir Walter Raleigh and read and copy the questions.
When you sit down to help your child, you want to be prepared, confident, and in charge. If you’ve ever tried to figure out how to “reduce these fractions to their simplest forms” while your son watched, you probably already see the logic. Go in another room and get prepared. It may take you 15 minutes, but it’s a great investment that will pay off.
2. Prepare your child. Gather all the supplies your child will need – all the books and worksheets, the ruler, calculator, poster board and dictionary. Get pencils and the sharpener, pens, erasers, index cards and sticky notes. Then gather four more pencils. Just trust me on this one.
3. Read with a purpose. We’ve all seen this assignment: “Read chapter 7 and answer the questions at the end.” Before you start reading, pull out the copy you made of the questions and read them with your child. Talk about each one. Is it asking for a short answer, a list, an explanation, or an opinion?
Keep the copy of the questions beside your book. As your child reads – or as you read aloud to your child, read with the questions in mind. If the answers are fill in the blank or multiple choice, go ahead and answer them as you go. If not, put a sticky note in the book where the answer is located. Gleefully mark off the questions as you find the answers.
4. Use graph paper to do math. It’s easier to line up numbers in problems and to draw number lines, charts, or graphs if there are already grids on the page. We always liked the 4x4 squares per inch. We’ve never met a math teacher who objected to this, but you might want to ask to make sure. If you’re fresh out of graph paper, Google ‘downloadable 4x4 graph paper” and print.
5. Transcribe and dictate sentences. When your child has to compose sentences or paragraphs, have her tell you what to write first. Then dictate the sentences back to her, and let her write them down. She’ll have to learn to do it altogether eventually, but this breaks down the steps. It’s like practicing one part of a piano piece or one element of a baseball swing. Besides, she’s tired and so are you!
If you wonder if you’re helping too much, remember that you are coaching your child to do tasks that don't come naturally. One day, you won't be in the middle of your kitchen leading a play by play, but for now, it's OK.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. We had lots of other helpful homework hints. I’m sure your family has some as well. What has worked for you? Share your ideas below.
Kayla is the mom of four grown sons in Alamance County. Three have been diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive. She is an author and runs the website www.adhd-inattentive.com. She writes under a pen name to protect the identity of her sons.