Homework battle: parents’ strategies for settlements

In a previous post, I helped teachers and schools to discuss insightful research-based practices of homework that makes sense to assign in (if you did not read yet, you could read it here!). Today, I want to bring insightful ideas for parents dealing with the homework battle.First, it is essential that parents acknowledge to themselves and their children (explicitly) that, after spending 7-8 hours at school, it is unrealistic to expect children to be excited and diligent about homework. This is precisely where I believe that parents need to take a smart approach to homework and teach a fundamental lesson:

Sometimes (or most of the times?) we have to finish tasks that we don’t want to, that we don’t agree too.

Understand that we don’t do everything we want and we have to accomplish assignments that we don’t want is what responsible people do. Parenting smartly and authoritatively also means teaching our children to grow up as responsible people. Parents can use the homework as an opportunity to tell their own story when they sometimes have to work when they were tired, or when disagreed with the task. As I have pointed before, research has shown that from early grades to 7th grade, homework should be used to teach study skills (I am the first in the line to acknowledge that some schools are not following this rule!). However, you can use homework to talk with your child: 

About how it is essential to revise what he or she have learned at school briefly, so the knowledge will start to migrate from working to long term memory. 

About how homework should serve to learn study skills.

About how finishing this task will lead he or she develop responsibility.

Another recommendation is to organize a study-plan with your child, following these steps: 

a) Ask your child pay attention to what works best for him or her (play for one hour and then tackle homework, or the opposite). 

b) Set up a list of assignment priorities or divide long tasks in parts. 

c) Set up breaks: after 20 minutes of working in the assignment he or she can run or play for 5-10 minutes and then tackle the second priority or part.

d) Put the phone away (in other room), or establish unambiguous rules to use it. My son uses my phone’s dictionary, so we established that he can have access to it when he needs to search for a word. 

e) Another tip is to use a timer for each assignment, or for parts of a lengthy task.

Use this excellent homework contract to start these conversations with your child.

It can be somehow naive (and exhausting!) ask children be willing to work on their homework after a long day at school, however, let’s face this battle using it to share our lessons and to teach them some.

How to study smarter!

Have you considered that maybe your child does not know efficient ways of studying? This article will give you strategies to help your child approach homework and studying for a test. 

Know how to study efficiently is a lifelong skill. It seems that some children were born knowing how to get their homework done and study for a test, but there are children (and adults) that need to learn how to develop these skills. For many children studying can be overwhelming. If you are dealing with homework battles, my insight is you consider if your child knows how to study. Learn how to study smarter involves knowing how to be organized, to set priorities, and activate working memory, so the information learned at school migrates to long term memory. If you are dealing with battles at home, the first step to help your child is paying attention to identify where the struggles are. Consider these questions:

  • Does your child know what to study or there is a lack of organization?
  • Does he or she use a systematic method for studying or an inefficient one (spending long hours studying)?
  • Does he or she have difficulty remembering the information even when he has studied, or maybe the challenge is expressing what he or she knows?

Now that you started to pay attention to where the challenges are.

Follow these tips:

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What to study

Teach your child to take ownership of his or her academic life. Teach him to check in with the teacher about the content of the test, or ask the teacher to provide a study guide or a practice test. Also, teach your child explicitly to write down on the calendar or a notebook when the teacher offers clues about essential details to focus on when studying for a test. Usually, teachers signal importance saying:“Write this down.”“Let me summarize.”“This is important.”“I’ll write this on the board.”“Remember…”

You will be surprised that some children don’t realize that the teacher expects them to write down information when offering these clues. Check your child’s planner and notebook, and teach him or her how important it is to take notes when teachers start with these sentences.

How to study

One of the most important ways of studying smarter is knowing how to select essential information from what is detail, as well as being able to retell what you just read or learned in your own words. Teach your child:

  • Textbooks offer clues to identify relevant information and trigger what he or she have learned at school. Teach your child to review the chapter using section headings and convert them into questions. For example, the header “Atomic theory” might be changed to “What is an atomic theory?”. After that, teach him to scan the words, phrases, and sentences that appear in bold because they are important and use them to create a word mapping as a study guide. Doing this, the brain will retrieve what he or she have learned at school. 
  • Now use active reading strategies, encouraging your child to use colored highlighters or Post-it notes to flag important information in textbooks and class notes. This will help him review the material more efficiently.
  •  Teach your child to summarize: take notes (writing section or chapter summaries on sticky notes), use voice recording, or answering questions at the end of each chapter are good ways to develop this skill.

I hope this will help you start to win the homework battle… more about homework to come!
Based on BrainCogs®, from Institute for Learning and Development and FableVision, 2002.