Homework can be a positive experience when your child is set up for success with the tools to support learning at home. It is important that families establish the standards in September for homework routines and expectations.
Each child is different, but typically consistency is helpful for all. Children are pulled in many different directions after the school day for extracurricular activities. This sometimes places homework as the last thing that gets done after school.
In any case, it is important to set the same time and place your child will do his/her homework that works for your family. This lets your child know that you value learning. Additionally, the child needs to be prepared for homework with supplies.
These need to be ready and accessible once homework is started. It’s tough for a child to start homework if they can’t find a pencil.
The time frame of homework is also equally important. Ask your child’s teacher how much time homework should take for the grade. Typically the rule of thumb is 10 minutes for Kindergarten, 20 minutes for first-grade, and 30 minutes for third-grade, etc. However, every school and teacher sets their own standard.
If your child is taking shorter or longer than the teacher expects, it is important that you let the teacher know. Your child may need some support and/or enrichment. Setting your child up with the space to learn lets your child know that you value learning and want to support them. Be present and available for your child during homework time.
Here are some helpful ways to set your child up for success:
- Build a Homework Toolkit. An adult shoebox is the perfect size for the toolkit. Have your child decorate it to personalize it. Put supplies in the toolkit that your child will need to do homework. Supplies include: several pencils, a pencil sharpener, markers, colored pencils, a ruler, a glue stick, scissors, highlighters, a small notepad to plan assignments as projects require, math manipulatives for counting and sorting (examples are: a child abacus, unifix cubes, interlocking cubes, money, paperclips, etc.) This Homework Toolkit should be placed in a safe spot each day and taken out for homework use only. An example of a good space to store the toolkit is under a bed.
- Set the Time and Workspace and stick with that routine regularly. Get your child a visual timer. An old-fashioned kitchen timer works well because a child can visually see how much time has passed and how much is left even if they do not know how to tell time yet. Put that timer right near the workspace so the child can see it. This provides the child with the opportunity to learn how to pace themselves through the homework. It also allows the child to know that there is a start and an end to the work at hand, and the timer can motivate them to get going and finish on time. Do homework in the same place each time. This adds to your child’s comfort in the routine, and establishes the importance and a headquarters for learning. Have a calendar available to mark important dates and deadlines.
- Be available during homework time to support your child if questions arise or if directions need to be read and understood. Kindergartners need the most support and gradually support should change over time depending on your child’s learning needs. Also, checking your child’s work after complete is important so you can see your child’s progress. Ask your child’s teacher if corrections should made at home by the caregiver, or if the teacher would like homework to be completely independent. Sometimes teachers like to assess students understanding and independence at home.
- Don’t forget to build in some extra-time during the week or on a weekend to teach Study Habits. This may include some extra time to play a spelling memorization game, do some mental math practice, make and use flash cards with definitions to build vocabulary. Just a few extra minutes will go a long way to build confidence and create healthy habits of putting in a little extra effort for success.
These tools to jumpstart homework will help your child feel success. Creating routines will set the tone for a positive after school learning experience, and prepare your child for independence. Defining the time and workspace together allows your child to be a part of the process and have ownership over it.
Making a Homework Toolkit so your child is ready with supplies builds organizational skills and fosters independence. Your child needs to know you care and are available to help and support learning. You are your child’s first teacher. Show your child some of the study habits you used as a child.
Flash cards can be used for a variety of learning purposes and are a handy tool to bring anywhere. Importantly build a sense of a love a learning and a positive space to do so at home. Always read to your child whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Good luck! You’ve go this.
Erin Fealy Cunningham, PhD, is a Literacy Specialist and Elementary School Educator