Tips for Dealing with the Homework Hassles

Tips for Dealing with the Homework Hassles

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

The other day, I heard a slightly different version of "The dog ate my homework" story. It goes like this:

Teacher to a child in the class: "And Johnny, where is your homework?

Johnny: "Sorry teacher! My dog ate it."

Teacher: Okay! Now, out with the truth. Admit it.

Johnny: If you don't believe that my dog ate my homework, you should've seen the fight it put up when I had to make him eat it. "

So, when it comes to homework. Everybody complains, including the teachers, parents, children, and, of course, the dogs.

Some parents complain that they're not always told about the assignments and deadlines their child is given. Others say they don't know to what extent they should be involved in their children's homework. Teachers complain that neither the children nor the parents are serious about homework. In some cases, children hate homework and their parents lack the commitment to encourage and supervise them in completing it. Then, there are parents who would rather finish the homework for the child and get it over with. And dogs, they would appreciate a regular me instead of paper and ink all the time.

In many homes, homework is the "hottest button" in a parent-child relationship. Many parents cite homework as the number one cause of conflict between them, their child and the school.

Some children find homework boring. They just won't do anything unless it is fun. Needless to say that in such cases, fun should be followed by homework. Some children have learning difficulties and they, unfortunately, spend hours at home trying to catch up with the classroom work of that day. They need special help, individualized tutoring and reduced assignments.

Some children just can't sit still, and have a problem in maintaining their attention for a sustained a length of time. They are referred to as ADHD children. Medication is helpful but they also need help in developing better homework habits along with a more suitable work environment.

Let alone children, even adults can't concentrate for more than 45 minutes at a stretch. Children need a break after 15 or 20 minutes to stop the brain from shifting into idle. Reward them with some fun activity to maintain their interest.

Where does your child perform best when doing homework? Compare and contrast between kitchen, or dining room table, family room floor or couch, or another place in the house.

Does your child perform homework assignments better when the television is on, when there is music in the background or when it is absolutely quiet? Some children work better when they wear earphones with music or without the music. In the case of the latter, earphones shut down such noises as a ringing telephone, loud conversation or a sibling jumping on the bed.

A home has designated places for important activities such as eating, sleeping or family entertainment. So, there is a kitchen, a bedroom, a family room and a dining room, etc. But, not all homes have a designated place for study and homework. Even grownups can't afford to have a "study," these days. Well, how about a "study station" for the child? After all, adults have their work stations, why should a child not have a learning station?

Drs. Sydney S. Zentall and Sam Goldstein in Seven Steps to Homework Success say that a learning station helps a child complete homework with greater accuracy and less time. A learning station can help the child become more organized, be less distracted and develop efficient study habits.

A learning station is an inexpensive, free standing, three-sided pegboard panel which children can place on their desk in front of them as they set out to do their homework.

To make a learning station, take three 16-inch square pegboards and connect them with small screws and hinges. Paint them with a color of your child's choice. Using the pegboard clips, on the left panel, hang a folder for the "Work to be Completed' and a smaller folder for "activity cards" that your child can enjoy. Hang a 12-inch mirror on the middle panel. A folder of a different color for "Completed Work" should hang on the right panel.

Make a log sheet for homework. On this log sheet, write down a task, which according to your best estimate may take your child about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Let your child select a fun activity such as playing with the pet, riding the bicycle, having a snack, or playing a game for about 5 to 10 minutes. After the break, you may have another work time of 15 to 20 minutes and then another fun activity at the end of it.

If there is a long assignment, break it down into manageable bits. Give the easier assignments first, so the child has a sense of accomplishment. Schedule the difficult assignment towards the last so the child is able to complete as much as possible before he or she begins to get frustrated. It is easier to maintain a child's motivation when there is a reward after the completion of each segment of the homework.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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