Must-Know Homework Tips from a Former Teacher
Hey y’all! I’m Christina from Christina, Plain and Simple. I’m so glad to be here at Clarks Condensed guest posting for Katie. While I’m a blogger and virtual assistant now, in my former life, I was a teacher and at the beginning of every school year, parents would always ask about homework.
Ah dreaded homework!
Some supported it, some hated it, some wanted less and some even wanted MORE! (Y’all – even as a teacher, I didn’t want to give more homework. I had to grade all of that!)
It never failed to be a hot topic though. So I thought I’d offer some of my best tips and advice when it comes to getting the homework done with the least amount of complaining and pain (for your kids and you!)
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
1. What should homework look like and how long should it take?
Starting off with a biggie, aren’t I? But the answer is pretty simple. Homework should help reinforce what we’ve done in the classroom that day or in the previous few days. It should never cover concepts that your child hasn’t seen before or that would require you to do the bulk of the teaching. That’s my job as the teacher.
So how long should it take?
Generally, it’s broken down by age, and often there is a rule of 10 minutes per grade.
Kindergarten – 10 to 15 minutes and it should be something fun and interactive. Hopefully it’s something you and your child can do together!
First through Third Grade – Around 30 minutes (less for the younger kiddos and increasing by age)
Fourth through Eighth Grade – No more than an hour
Ninth through Twelfth Grade – Generally no more than 2 hours
Obviously there are times when things may take longer (science projects or book reports for instance), but “big” things should be broken up over an ample amount of time.
2. What if my child can’t finish in that amount of time?
I can’t stress this enough – talk to your child’s teacher.
Homework should not be a struggle to the point of tears and arguing, yet, for many students (especially those with special needs) it can be.
If you have a second grader who takes forever to complete a worksheet or two at night, and just can’t finish in under half an hour, please, please, please let their teacher know.
When I taught, I often had students with ADHD or who were on the Autistic spectrum who just could not finish in a reasonable time. I told their parents, at thirty minutes of homework – just stop.
Tell your child that it’s OK, that their teacher won’t be mad, and that they did their best.
This gives their teacher an opportunity to see just what they are capable of in that amount of time and it can also give them the chance to accommodate for your child’s unique needs. Any good teacher worth her salt wants to work with you in the best interest of your child.
3. “My little guy/girl just can’t sit still for homework time! What can I do?”
Aha! The wiggle fidgets. So common, especially after a long day at school. This is an easy fix though. If your kiddo just can’t sit still, let them stand and move while they work. I always had kids standing up at desks or tables when they couldn’t sit. It wasn’t a punishment, they liked it! It gave them a chance to move a bit (as long as they weren’t disturbing others!) and still get their work done.
Another tip? Take wiggle breaks. For every ten minutes of work (you can set a timer), give them five minutes to do whatever they want or have them help you with something around the house. If ten minutes is still too long, do five and five and build up!
4. If you feed them, they will work.
After a long day sitting in a classroom (and likely several hours after lunch time), kids are hungry.
Provide a healthy (note: not too sugary!) snack for them to nibble while they work.
Pretzels or apple slices are a great choice! (Teacher’s note: Try and avoid messy stuff though…you’d be surprised by the *ahem* mystery stains we get on worksheets…ewww.)
5. Make sure they have what they need to get their work done.
A homework station stocked with supplies makes homework a breeze (well, ok, easier anyway). There’s no need to get up and go search for paper, highlighters or an eraser when you have everything in one place.
Here are some fun and inexpensive ideas for creating a homework station in your own home:
6. Give homework a consistent time and place.
Ideally, homework should be done right when your child gets home from school. They are still in “school” mode at that point and it will cut down on arguments later when they are too tired or in “play” mode and no longer interested. And along with a set homework time, kids need a set place to do homework – and it shouldn’t be alone in their rooms. A nice, quiet dining room table works great!
Overall, your child’s whole job in life is to go to school, work hard at learning to love learning and then to just be a kid.
Which leads me to my last, and possibly most important tip: Limit after school activities. I’ve literally taught students who needed a smart phone to keep up with their schedules. That’s not an exaggeration y’all!
When one child has school clubs, karate, scouts, piano, tutoring, soccer/lacrosse, church activities, horseback riding and dance that’s too much. Kids need downtime. They need time to grow their imaginations and to learn through play.
They need to learn to fill time on their own. Just like homework, activities shouldn’t take up the entire afternoon and into the evening. You need time as a family to hang out, relax and just be. A good rule of thumb is one activity (not including church/family obligations – those are a given) per semester.
Homework has it’s place in your child’s schooling, but it should never be a painful experience. I hope these tips give you some ideas to make this year run a little more smoothly and I hope you’ll pop over to my blog some time.
Got a homework question I haven’t answered? Leave me a comment and I’ll follow up with you.