It’s important to provide your child a quiet, well-lit space, away from distractions and with all the right study materials — paper, pens and pencils, a dictionary, a desk or large table, and whatever else he may need to be comfortable yet productive. Right after school, have your child look over his assignments to see what textbooks and materials he needs. We’ve all had to make those last-minute runs to the store for a protractor or poster board, or back to school for a book left in the locker — no fun!
Designate a Space for Each Child
Even if your children are well-behaved peas in a pod (lucky you), they’re probably distracting to one another during study time. Try to find a separate space for each of your children, or schedule quiet times for homework in designated spaces. If one child finishes her homework earlier than the other, try to encourage reading time or quiet time until the entire family is ready for some together time in common areas.
Establish a Schedule
Create a regular schedule, allowing for adequate study and free time. Most kids are most productive earlier in the evening and not too close to bedtime, but others need a little after-school play break and dinner, or at least an energizing snack, before hitting the books. The most important thing is to establish a routine that works for your child.
Make Homework Time Tech-Free
Limit TV time. And cell phone time. And laptop time. Unless your child needs to use the computer for her homework assignment or her phone to consult with a classmate (hint: confirm that claim is true!) make your child surrender her technology to you during homework time. It’s a really hard line to draw and enforce, especially with tech-obsessed tweens and teens — but the better she focuses, the sooner she’ll complete her work and be free to text and tweet away.
Be Ready to Be a Resource
Whenever possible, be available to answer homework questions. Try doing a problem or two together, then watch as your child tries the next one. Let’s face it: You’re a busy parent with a lot going on — dinner on the stove, a mile-long to-do list, and maybe a wild preschooler in the mix — but remind your student (and yourself) that school work is a top priority, and you’re always around to answer questions or look over her work.
Don’t Give the Answers
Blowing off kids’ requests for homework help is one extreme, but doing the work for your child is the other no-no. Avoid simply giving answers. Instead, ask questions that let your child see the problem in smaller, sequential steps. You won’t be there to take your child’s tests for him, so doing his tough science projects and math problems for him will not help in the long run.
Use an Assignment Book
From day one of the school year, provide your child with a notebook for writing down assignments. Some schools have designated academic planners that they recommend or require. You could also print out this simple homework completion chart. Whatever you choose, make sure your child writes down her assignments on paper, which will help her remember everything. When she’s finished with all her homework, compare the work and the assignment notebook and/or description from the teacher to make sure everything is done.
Connect with the Teacher and School
See if your child’s teacher has a website where assignments are listed, and if his school has a homework helpline, a tutoring service, or extra study sessions that can be of help if he’s struggling. During parent-teacher conferences, or at any point during the school year, share any concerns you have about the amount or type of homework assigned. Be sure to let the teacher know if your child is regularly having difficulty or is unable to do most of it by himself.
Review Graded Work and Mistakes
Look over completed and graded assignments. Don’t scold your child for bad grades or mistakes. Discuss errors to be sure your child understands the material. Incorrect answers are an opportunity to learn, and those tough questions might be asked again in end-of-year exams, so it’s smart to help your child learn the correct answer when the material is fresh in his mind.
Keep Up Healthy Habits
Many kids are sleep-deprived, falling short of the 8.5+ hours of zzzs that their growing bodies need. If your child is nodding off over her language arts assignment, try moving bedtime up by an hour for one week to see if that helps. If your child’s schedule is booked every afternoon and evening — with everything from clubs to sports to volunteering or a part-time job — it might be time to rethink all those extra activities. Children need some time to unwind at the end of the day. Also, encourage healthy eating habits and regular exercise to help keep kids’ minds sharp and prevent illness.