Helping your Child do Homework without becoming a Nag

Assisting your children with homework

“I don’t want to do any homework. I want to watch more cartoons.” In the beginning of every school year I hear this from my daughter who is eight years old. As the school year goes on, she gets into a routine of doing homework every day, at the same time of day, and usually without any fuss.

Having a familiar routine every day helps children when they do their homework. Some kids might want to do homework right after schoolto get it done and then watch TV, and play. Some children, like my daughter Kylie, want to have some fun time right after school to unwind after a tough day’.

I allow Kylie to do what she wants until dinner. Once she has called her friends, played games and watched cartoons then she feels more relaxed. Right after dinner children have a good meal in their stomachs and they have had time to get away from the structured environment of school.

Doing homework in the same place.

A child needs to have a routine to feel secure when they do their homework. My daughter does her homework at the kitchen table every night right after dinner. Once I’ve cleaned off the table and scrubbed it I tell her, “It’s time to settle down and do your homework now.”

The homework area should be free from distractions. Not only do children need a routine, and a place to do their homework, they also need an area of their home that is free from distractions. My daughter, Kylie does her homework at the kitchen table, because I can help her if she needs it. Sometimes when she has worked on homework in her room she plays with toys and doesn’t get her homework done.

Be Actively Involved.

My son, Chris, who is sixteen, does his homework in his room sometimes while listening to his I-pod. I didn’t see how this worked for him, but he is getting all A’s and B’s in his classes, and he is taking several advanced courses. What I realized is, he is shutting out other noises by listening to music while he does his homework.

It wasn’t always as easy as it is now. When my son Christopher started middle school everything changed. Gone were the days when his elementary teachers would tell the kids over and over what their homework was. The sixth grade teachers would write down the homework in a central place for each group of students. They had three different groups, and to any new child it had to be a scary change to be in a larger school with a much larger student populace. After being led around by the hand all through elementary school, the children were expected to become independent individuals overnight.

Chris was completely lost that first year. I knew something was wrong because my first child is the kind of kid who doesn’t tell me that something is wrong. He’s the strong silent type. He wasn’t telling me anything, and he never had homework. I asked a counselor to check his assignment folder every day before he got on the bus, to see if he was writing his homework down. She found out that he wasn’t writing it down. When his first report card came he had D’s and F’s. I got into this habit of asking him if he had homework every night, and if he had tests and projects coming up.

By getting his homework folder checked every day at school and at home by myself, and we worked through it together. By the third report card his grades went up dramatically because he knew what he had to do for homework every night and he was doing it. I actually thought he was going through a rebellious becoming a teenager thing, and now when I think back, that was probably part of the problem. But I know my children and he was having problems adjusting to middle school, and his group of friends split up, joined new groups, leaving Chris to fend for himself.

When the second year of middle school started, he was more than ready because he had become more responsible. I would still ask him several times a week if he had homework and he would say, “Yes, you can even look in my folder.”

Now that he is in high school, I ask every night if he has homework, and he tells me what he has to work on. I ask if he needs help being quizzed for tests, and sometimes he actually lets me help.

Helping out.

I review Chris’s writing for reports and essays, which is actually fun for me. Chris usually tells me, “Mom you don’t have to, spell check does that.” When I find major mistakes like a sentence that makes no sense, or words that don’t belong, I tell him to correct it. Then I get to say, “Spell check can’t do that.”

Kylie who is in third grade needs help almost every night. She wants to do the easy work first, and the hardest work- well, never. I tell her to do the hard stuff first, and work she likes to do last as a reward for the hard work. I help her spell tougher words, test her on her weekly spelling words, and review her daily lessons in math because her teacher said that is where she needs help.

My husband and I help Kylie with her class projects. The most recent project was to make a turkey outline on a large piece of brown paper look like something else. We created a beautiful pink and purple princess, complete with a diamond- studded crown.

Assisting your children with their homework is a cinch if you provide them with a clean, comfortable work area, free from distractions. If they’re young, they might need help, so the kitchen table is a good place, unless they are more independent and can work on their own. The one thing you should always remember-don’t believe them when they tell you”I don’t have any homework tonight.”