Homework Skills

Homework Tips – Part 1

Tips to improve homework skills. Choosing the right time, place, and how to eliminate distractions.

by Karen Sibal

It was a warm, Friday evening and I was sitting with my girlfriends at the local coffee shop savouring one last, carefree latté before the start of another school year. Indeed, the summer had flown by and it was going to be a challenge to get the kids back into the school routine, which also meant a renewed focus on homework.  
My daughter, entering Grade 3, was the youngest of the kids among my friends whose kids were approaching high school. I figured these experienced moms would know best which homework strategies actually worked. My daughter usually had no problems the first couple of months of the school year, however, it seems to be around Thanksgiving when the dreaded homework doldrums set in. There are so many competing priorities and things to do that are a lot more fun – yet so little time after school. There’s the crunch to get to piano and swimming lessons, not to mention soccer games and playing with friends. And, let’s not forget the daily rituals – getting through dinner, planning lunches and getting ready for the next day, and if there’s time left over after homework, getting a good night’s sleep.  
So, here’s the low-down on homework strategies that really make the grade – at least according to some experienced moms that I know and trust.  
 
Choose the Time
It’s important to select a regular time for your child and yourself to do the homework. Will it be right after school, from 4 to 5 pm, or after dinner from 7 to 8:30 pm? The time you pick may depend on other activities you have planned after school, the schedules of other siblings, and your availability (i.e. if you work outside the home or if you’re at home with the kids). Try sticking to the same homework time every day and focusing on getting the homework completed within this time. This helps establish a routine along with good, lifelong time management habits. 
 
Choose the Place
Where homework will be completed is an important consideration. So far, we’ve gotten away with using the kitchen table – it’s been handy for both of us, as I can often help my daughter work through problems while cooking dinner. The drawbacks include a lot of distractions for her – the phone ringing, not to mention the time she wastes searching for pencils, erasers and whatever else she needs to get the job done. 

This year, we’ve decided to designate a homework space away from the kitchen, primarily because the workload is increasing as she enters a higher grade. Nevertheless, the homework area that you choose should be where it’s fairly quiet and where your child can concentrate her best – but ideally within earshot of you so that you’re able to supervise or offer help.   
 

Getting Organized
The ideal homework area should include a proper desk, an ergonomic chair, and a reading lamp at minimum. If space permits, a cozy armchair is a good investment – it can provide a nice spot for taking a break or reading lengthy chapters and studying. It can also be used when you come to check on your child’s work.

Storage bins are the perfect solution for systematizing your homework gear. All the essentials like loose paper, folders, calculator, dictionary, stapler, tape, paper clips, glue, markers, crayons, ruler, geometry sets, pencils and erasers can be stored in size-appropriate bins. Other helpful things to consider are a trashcan and recycling bin, a school calendar to track homework assignments and some trays to sort work.  

Computers are becoming a necessity for children in higher grades. When choosing a computer, make sure the computer screen is at eye level and the keyboard at a comfortable height. You’ll need a printer and may want to consider a copier, scanner, CD or DVD player too, but remember to plan for sufficient electrical outlets to meet your needs. 

Involve your child in setting up the homework area. If you’re shopping for a new desk or lamp, get her input. She may even have some ideas on how to organize and decorate her special space – a couple of plants, posters, or cushions can help make the area inviting and inspirational. Once you’re organized, make sure your child is accountable for keeping her homework space tidy – whether it’s each night or once a week. Keeping the area clutter-free means she will be able to find things easily and will be able to get her work done faster.  
 

Setting the Right Mood and Eliminating Distractions

The right work space should be a quiet and calm environment – at least for some children. You are the best expert when it comes to knowing your child: there are those who prefer silence when studying while others thrive on noise. The experts say it boils down to personality types. Extroverts often prefer noise while introverts tend to like silence and no distractions. So, if your child likes music and her homework is getting done well, let her have a CD player nearby. 

Distractions that are essential to eliminate include: the TV (yes, it should not be anywhere near the homework area where it can be heard by your child) and the telephone. And then there’s food. Some kids like to have a continuous snack while working which can interfere with quality work being done, not to mention juice spills over assignments. Try and get snacks out of the way before starting, and if the hunger pangs strike, schedule a break time and eat away from the homework area. This way, you’ll be eliminating the likelihood of greasy fingerprints on homework and you’ll have a cleaner work area.

Biography for Karen Sibal

Karen Sibal is a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant. She is the owner of Sibal Writing and Consulting, a firm that specializes in public policy research, effective communications and web solutions. Over the past 15 years, Karen has done work for local and provincial governments and several not-for-profit organizations. Karen has written extensively on children’s issues and has recently helped with launching an association for mothers and children in her community. She is a member of the Halton-Peel Communications Association and has also served as the managing editor of a government child welfare journal. Karen is currently authoring a children’s book series for preschool children and keeps busy with various community projects. 

Karen lives with her husband and two girls, ages 2 and 8 years, in Oakville, Ontario Canada. For more information about Karen, please visit her web site at www.sibal.ca or call 416-580-9097. 


No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006  

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