In education, few issues are as hotly debated as homework. I have to chuckle at the viral posts about the “revolutionary new” homework policy of only sending home what isn’t completed at school — no busy work! That’s been our school’s policy for 37 years. We want students to do school work at school and enjoy family time at home. But even with such a “revolutionary” policy, homework happens. And, at least with my classes, it’s likely to be my marvelous kinesthetic/tactile learners.
While the debate regarding the effectiveness of homework rages on, here are some simple tips to keep it from ruling your evenings:
1. Use a timer.
My brother was the class clown. He spent so much time entertaining his friends during the day, he nearly always brought home work to finish. He’d sit at the dining room table for long stretches of time. He accomplished very little after the first fifteen minutes, but our mom’s centerpieces suffered greatly. He needed to move!
A great way to refocus and get more done is to use a timer. Set it for fifteen minutes and work on the assignment. When the timer goes off, reset it for fifteen minutes and go do something else. Something active! Walk the dog, play the “What-if…?” game, shoot some hoops, run around outside — whatever! But when the timer goes off again, return to the assignment. Believe it or not, more work gets done and you won’t have to sacrifice family time. But you must respect the timer; when it goes off, obey it. No excuses!
2. Remove all distractions.
Make a homework headquarters. Tuck it away from the main traffic areas of your home, have a good supply of sharpened pencils and erasers, and ensure it’s far from the tv. If you have to set up a space each time, there’s less chance a child will use it as home base, and a greater chance he or she will just perch on the edge of the sofa and go into zombie mode in front of the tv screen/video game, etc. Also, this sends a message to your child that academics are important; homework has its own special place because it is special, apart from other tasks.
3. Swallow the frog.
I like the quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Do the dreaded homework first. This concept is also up for debate. If your child thrives at spelling but struggles in math, for example, you’ll need to be careful. You want to help get the math monster slain (<—without using language that will feed the fear), but you also want to let your student stretch their wings and show off a little. You could say, “Let’s get half a page of math done, then you can run through your spelling words with me for your test tomorrow.” Use the timer to switch between two subjects. That way, you are making forward progress in math but not crushing their spirit in a subject they really enjoy.
If you’re ready to take back your evenings, try these three ways to finish homework fast. Pssst! You can also apply them to one of your own projects.
Let me know how you swallowed the frog!