Homework Survival – Part 2
Aside from just helping our kids with their homework and setting them up for success, there are also other battles to face. Often times, when our children spend all day at school, they feel like they have no time left in their day. Especially when there are after school activities or sports to contend with! One of the best things we can do for them is set aside time for homework and keep it routine!
Setting Aside Time for Homework
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Kids who don’t complete their homework assignments often complain that they did not have time. Unfortunately, parents may not be aware of the uncompleted homework until those report cards come home. If your child insists they don’t have time to get their homework done, or if they just don’t plan ahead to avoid issues, try this reality check calendar.
Reality Check Calendar
This will help both you and your child visualize the hours available for each day. It may surprise you how much time is being wasted that could be spent on homework and studying. On the other hand, it may also highlight areas in which you are spread too thin or a breakdown in your family’s overall time management. To avoid surprises, it is a good idea for the parent to sketch out a calendar first before approaching the child with this.
Related: Six Easy and Creative School Lunches
Making Your Homework Calendar
1. On a large sheet of paper, turned horizontally (landscape), measure out and draw 6 columns. Leaving the first column blank, label the others for Monday through Friday. (We’ll use this exercise for regular daily homework; larger projects can be worked on over weekends.)
2. In the first column, write down times of day starting with dismissal from school, and ending with bedtime. Most charts will have about 8 hours available, say 3:00 through 11:00. Space the times out equally on your chart.
3. Using a ruler, draw a line across the time that your child gets home from school each day. Keep in mind that this may be different each day if music, sports, or scouting activities take place immediately after school. Color in the time between dismissal and arrival at home with a colored pencil or marker.
4. With your ruler, block out your child’s typical bedtime hours and fill in with another color. Be sure to include bath time, prayer time, or any other non-negotiables in your family.
5. Now block out dinnertime. If the time varies in your household, choose a typical hour and length of mealtime. If your child is responsible for chores such as setting the table or washing dishes afterward, include time for those, using another color if possible.
6. Block out time for scheduled sports practices or games; be sure to include driving time and warm-up times, not just official field or court times. If your child needs to ride along for siblings’ music or sports activities, be sure to address those.
Any open space on your calendar is technically available for your child to do their homework. The challenge is to find ways to fit homework into the time available. If you find plenty of open, available time, especially before dinner, consider making this mandatory homework time. Until homework is completed, you might restrict any TV or video games. Some families require that the child spends a minimum amount of time on homework or reading so that they don’t rush through their assignments to get to the TV. If they finish their homework, they can just read a library book until the time is up.
Handle Time Chunks Successfully
First, realize that there is a start-up time involved in each homework sitting. For example, three 15-minutes chunks of available time are not equivalent to one 45-minute chunk, when you take into account sitting down, opening backpacks, finding pencils, and getting into the homework mindset.
If your child regularly has short assignments in several subjects, they could complete one subject during each of the short time chunks. You could agree, for example, that they would work on spelling right after school, math right before dinner, and science after dinner.
Re-evaluate the Family’s Schedule as Needed
Another approach, which requires more planning on the part of the parent, is to look at the calendar and re-evaluate how the family spends time in general. Perhaps you can open up better homework possibilities by shifting dinnertime by half an hour, or having kids take baths while dinner is being prepared. You might even notice that the school bus gets the child home much later than a carpool would.
And as un-fun, as it sounds, the last resort might be to cut back on sports or TV until the homework priorities have been fixed.
How Much Is Too Much Homework?
While finding time for homework is necessary, we also must be wary as parents of how much homework can really be expected of our children. Homework, almost as certain as death and taxes, is a source of conflict and frustration for families. Parents often struggle to grasp what is a reasonable amount of homework for their children.
Teachers usually discuss homework at parent nights or in their newsletters. They tell parents what their expectations are for homework, including how much time should be devoted to it, if unfinished assignments must be done at home, and if homework content is actually graded.
What constitutes “too much homework,” and how does a parent determine if their child has too much? If you sense that your child’s homework burden seems too heavy, just go ahead and ask.
Ask Your Child
Any amount is too much homework in the minds of some kids. Approach your child with a sincere, non-judgmental desire to understand their situation. Find out how this year compares with previous years in terms of classwork as well as homework. Find out if older kids have warned them about this grade, or this particular teacher. Try to determine if they are dealing with true homework, or if they are completing work that they did not finish in the classroom.
Listen more than you talk; the answers may surprise you. Your child may realize that they cannot see the whiteboard during class, or cannot read the teacher’s cursive writing, or that the kid in front of them constantly bugs them. They might even acknowledge that hunger pangs before lunch, or bathroom or stomach issues at certain times each day, distract them from paying full attention in certain classes.
Ask Older Children
If you have older children, discreetly ask them if they remember having such a workload in that grade. Be careful to not compare children to one another. See if they know anything unusual about that teacher, being careful not to draw them into gossip or disrespect.
Ask Other Parents
Try asking other parents of your child’s friends or classmates about their volume of homework this year. Be discreet, and try to find people who you can trust to not repeat your complaints or your concerns about your child.
Ask the Teacher
Once you have gathered information from family and friends, make an appointment for a conference with the teacher. It is better to meet in person than to try to communicate via email, since the conversation may be open-ended.
Be prepared to tell the teacher if you feel that the burden is unreasonably heavy. Document the amount of time your child spends on assignments. Describing any steps your family has taken to try to help, such as restricting TV time or hiring a tutor, will go a long way in supporting your claim.
On the other hand, if your research indicates that the homework load is normal, ask the teacher for ideas on how you can help your child. Actively listening during this conference may reveal issues such as inattentive classroom behavior, disorganization, or even vision, hearing or learning disabilities.
Don’t let homework overwhelm!
Hopefully, the results of your investigation will provide you with insights that you can use to help your child handle the workload, or to seek outside help if it is warranted.
Do your children struggle with finding time for homework? What have been your solutions? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!