Written by Emily Graham at Mighty Moms
There’s no denying it, homework simply isn’t fun. Kids were meant to run, jump and play, not to be tied down to a desk for eight to 12 hours per day. While there are many outspoken advocates that claim excessive homework is a health hazard, even young children continue to receive three times the amount of recommended homework.
It doesn’t appear that homework is going away anytime soon, however. As a parent, you can make this unpleasant task less of a chore and give your children a positive experience that may help overcome the negative impact of an after-hours academic load. Here are five ways to make homework a less painful part of your family’s routine:
1. Make learning fun. Some students naturally gravitate toward any learning experience. Others may need some convincing. Help your children identify ways their least favorite topics – often math and/or reading – can be used for recreational purposes. Play games that require counting, spelling, or a combination of the two. Scrabble, chess and Yahtzee can reinforce the skills. You can apply scientific principles to playtime, too. EarthScienceJr.com lists several outdoor learning activities and fun science experiments including creating Rainbow Magic Milk that are appropriate for kids of all ages.
2. Reward minute for minute. If your child struggles to find the focus needed to get their homework done, consider offering a reward for each minute of time spent actively engaged in the homework process. Avoid the temptation to use video games as a reward and instead focus on family-oriented activities that get the kids off the couch. Camping, hosting a backyard treasure hunt and even bird watching are ways your kids can create positive memories that they’ll associate with homework. If your child spends 30 minutes each afternoon on the books, then you should spend 30 minutes outdoors together as a family. You can wrap up a particularly stressful week with a backyard campout complete with ghost stories and s’mores.
3. Take a break. Oxford Learning suggests taking regular breaks to increase homework productivity. This will help to boost focus, reduce stress and help kids retain more information. But there is a right way and a wrong way to step away from the pencil. Students should be allowed to take 5- to 10-minute breaks every half hour. These breaks should involve some form of physical activity and possibly, a drink or snack.
4. Do your own homework. You may have gotten away from mandatory homework when you graduated college but, no matter your age, learning is never a bad thing. Whether you want to advance your career or simply broaden your horizons of knowledge, sit down with your child and do your own “homework” by their side. Not only will this reduce the feelings of isolation your child might feel but will also give them an opportunity to see their parents working toward a goal. And if you find yourself struggling to master a new skill or understand newly introduced concepts, let them see the struggle. MIT recommends letting your kids watch you overcome obstacles will help them embrace a growth mindset.
5. Reward a job well done. The kids have been at school all day and sometimes they need a little extra motivation to keep going. Whether you choose to use positive feedback or a more tangible reward is a personal choice and depends on your child. While experts disagree over the use of stickers and trinkets as motivation, setting up a rewards system is a great way to encourage positive behaviors until they become routine.
Despite the many naysayers, the vast majority of educators believe that reasonable amount of homework, even for students as young as first grade, offers numerous benefits. Scholastic points out that homework offers parents an opportunity to engage a child’s education, allows students to make a connection between classroom learning and the real world and promotes self-discipline and independence. Whether you agree or not, it still has to get done, you may as well make the best of it.