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The Best Homework Help: Routines

As a teacher and as a tutor, I've often heard parents ask how they can help their children with homework. Adults worry about their teaching ability, about how their children receive them when they are "just trying to help," and about how well they understand homework subjects, among other concerns. The good news is that one of the best ways you can help with homework is also one of the easiest things to do: help structure homework time.

Have a routine time every day when your child sits down to work. Even if your family's daily schedule varies, you can still have a benchmark time when homework must begin - 15 minutes after returning home from afternoon activities, or as soon as the dinner plates are cleared, for example. Having a set time for homework can reduce the amount of nagging and cajoling you must do too. The clock is a neutral party and far more difficult to argue with than a parent's decision.

Make sure that your child has enough time for homework too. Many teachers describe what their expectations are for nightly homework time commitments. If not, you can usually get a sense for your child's homework load by observing a few nights' work. So, if your child's typical homework load is an hour, set aside at least an hour of unscheduled time every night without exception. If extracurricular activities, chores, errands, etc. regularly intrude on homework time, your child won't develop a sense of routine and may become stressed by trying to complete work on schedule.

Remember too that if the perceived reward is great enough, many children will rush through homework to get to that reward. Fewer minutes spent on homework can mean more screen time or more play time with friends. My recommendation is to have a set time when homework ends. If your child completes his assignments before then, offer additional educational activities like reading, writing in a journal, or playing math games.

Teachers generally do a good job preparing students for the content they will encounter during homework. When students feel particularly challenged by homework content, teachers often review it in class or offer extra help. Some of the harder things to teach, however, are the organizational and time management skills needed to work independently. Parents, simply by creating and enforcing routines, provide very helpful guidance for children. Better still, you don’t need any special knowledge of teaching or academic subject matter in order to do so.


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