What is your afternoon like as a parent? Whether you are at the office or home with the kids, I'm betting you struggle with the homework question. How do we, as parents, get our children to study and learn, setting them up for future success? It's all about balance and organizing each afternoon in advance. Here are eight easy tips to make the most of your children's afternoon:
1. Snack time = chat time.
Children are hungry after school. Make time for a healthy snack and chat. The question, "How was school today?" often elicits no reaction. Instead, use creative questioning depending on the age and sex of the child. "What happened during Math today? Did you go out on the playground during recess? What was the hardest subject for you today?" If you are not home, leave a snack and a note. Make your daily note a journal -- with the date and your questions. Your child will love looking back when they are older. Make this an important time for your child even if you are not home. The point: Stay connected!
2. Limit distraction with a designated learning spot. Call it the homework corner.
Find a place for your child or children to do homework where there are the fewest distractions. There have been many articles on the newest furniture and newest ways to set up rooms but the bottom line is it needs to be a place where the child will complete his/her work independently and quietly and learn too. Even though the bedroom may be the quietest, it is often the place where children want to play, fiddle with their toys or find other things to do than study. The kitchen table is still one of the most popular places to work. Let the children pick their own spots, even labeling their own chairs or corners. Family dynamics are more important than family fights.
3. Making reviewing fun. Game night = review night.
Make sure you have a once-a-week review night. In fact, you can use it as game night as well. Since repetition is one of the best study tips, building this night into your weekly schedule can be fun. Have your child write his/her own review questions in language arts, math and/or spelling. Then you can make a game with this review sheet. The key of using this technique early is by middle school and high school; the kids know that constant review is a major tool to studying and success.
4. Be well-supplied. Have supplies available in the homework corner in a basket at the work table is an easy tip. Highlighters, markers, rulers, calculators, scissors, colored note cards, paper and even graph paper -- the supplies your age child would need for homework should be already there. That way even if you are not home, the homework basket is filled and ready to go. Teach your children to underline directions and clue words. If at all possible when children are young, review homework with your child. If something is wrong, point out the mistake and ask them what should it be. Be positive and constructive, never destructive.
5. Disconnect. The world stops for homework.
Often, the computer is needed to check an assignment, to read an assignment and/or to write an assignment. It is critical that children use the computer just for work and not to check the Internet and social media sites. During homework hour, kids must focus on their own work and not what is going on in the world around them. Each time they check their phone or the computer, brains stop and then must restart again. The connection is lost. It is important to make up homework rules together so everyone knows what is expected.
6. Create rules. Make the children part of them.
Make up a list of rules that reflect your own family's values and post them even on the whiteboard or refrigerator. Examples: TV stays off, no computer, no games, no phone messages unless homework is complete and tests have been studied and reviewed before playtime or free time.
7. Manage the family calendar.
Every child should have some homework or at least reading time during the week. Make the plan ahead so the expectations are clear and concise. Different ages will have varying amounts and there will be some days that children have more work. Be sure to have a calendar available to all so that everyone puts what is coming up on the calendar from doctor's appointments to tests. It helps with the organization and building balance in the house. If you can, do the weekly calendar on Sunday when everyone can check schedules.
8. Don't forget play time. Time out for play and relaxation is important in the day and life of a child. Even if a child has sports, piano, or any structured activity, children need down time at home to regroup, relax and chill out. Find that time during each day for playing outside, riding a bike and/or just relaxing on the couch. Napping often puts the brain on off and it is sometime hard to start again. The problem of how to balance school, activities, play and studying is what concerns parents today. We feel over-programming our children is the way to go and feel that every minute must be filled.