Over the past few years, Saint Andrew's has committed a great deal of time and research into understanding the latest studies and best practices concerning homework. The school has adopted the National Education Association's recommendation of 10-minutes X the child's grade as a general rule of thumb, e.g. a fifth grader could have up to 50 minutes of homework per school night. (In Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, we ask that families read together for at least 20 minutes each evening.)
With after school music lessons, athletics practices, drama rehearsals and family activities, the homework routine can be a challenging time for many families. Following are several tips to help ease this potentially trying time for you and your children.
Time for homework.
First and foremost, it is important to develop a homework routine that begins at roughly the same time every day. The time of day you choose to begin homework is not as important as sticking with the routine you develop. What time is best? That will depend on your child. Every one is different. Many children need some down time before getting started on homework. They enjoy a snack and perhaps a ½ hour of physical activity or playtime with a favorite hobby. Others have trouble shifting from a down time activity to the structure of homework and therefore need to just get started on homework right away. Again, whatever your child’s personal style, the homework start time should be as routine as possible.
Find a home for your homework.
Designate one area in your home that is well lit, has all the supplies you need, and where you can supervise your child’s progress and monitor focused attention. If possible, you could also do some type of quiet focused activity nearby to model sustained attention and/or be available for periodic questions. In addition, having all the supplies in one place and readily available eliminates the need for your child to constantly get up and potentially become distracted by some other activity. Take some time to set up all the supplies your child might need and organize them in an inviting and helpful manner. Following is a list to get you started:
- Pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, calculators, glue sticks, rulers, markers/crayons/colored pencils.
- Computer charger, printer, paper, index cards, post it notes
- A timer to plan for stretches of focused attention and/or schedule breaks.
Plan your work and work your plan.
Many children will benefit from your support with a homework plan.
With your child review the homework that has been written in their planner, check your child’s understanding of each assignment, and make a plan for how long each item should take. This practice will help your child become skilled with estimating how long tasks will take and will improve their time management skills. For some children, it is essential to build in scheduled breaks. Having a timer handy to help guide focused attention vs break/movement time can be very helpful. If this is something your child would benefit from, consider checking out Focus@will. This is a great program that uses specially designed music, which supports focus and attention, and will also allow you to set a timer to build in required breaks.
When is homework truly done?
Finally, at the end of the homework session, review your child’s homework and watch them place the completed work in a special binder/folder in their backpack. Then watch them place their backpack by the door. I like to tell children that homework is not done until this last step is taken.