Developing Homework Skills for a Lifetime
By Patti Jewell M. Ed.
Throughout the years that I have been teaching, parents have frequently asked me how they can help their children with their homework. While many parents are concerned with content, there are actually many ways you can help your child with homework that will lead them to academic success without actually tackling the content. Developing these skills can aid your child during high school, college, and beyond. You will also be fostering academic independence and a lifelong love of learning within your child.
The Early Years: You should start reading to your child from the earliest stages of their development. Even in this era of electronic devices, nothing can replace the act of you and your child cuddling up with a good book. As your child approaches the toddler years, you can ask them to retell the story while they are pointing to the pictures. You can ask them to count how many objects are on a page, or to tell you the colors or names of the objects on a page. You can ask them simple questions about the story or ask them to use their imagination to make up their own story based on the characters. These routines will help them with their comprehension skills as well. Do not confuse this with teaching your child to read, because through this simple act of reading to your child you are modeling how to read.
The Primary School Years: Think of this as a time to set routines for your child. As early as kindergarten, your child will be coming home with homework packets to complete. Starting with the first week of kindergarten, begin to establish a quiet place for your child to complete their homework. You can also provide your child with the supplies you think they may need to complete their homework, such as pencils, crayons, and safety scissors. Remember, homework is a review of the day’s class work, so your child should be able to complete it on their own. While it is important to clarify the directions with them before they begin and check their work over with them when they are done, you should encourage your child to try to do the work on their own before they ask you for help.
The Elementary School Years: As your child advances from one grade level to the next and the complexity of what they are learning increases, introduce your child to study skills, techniques and tips to help them learn the content. Also, since most teachers require their students to take notes during lessons given in class, encourage your child to bring home those notes so they can remember the lesson from earlier in the day. Most importantly, encourage your child to study, not just do homework. There are some skills that take good old practice, practice, and more practice such as memorizing times tables. You are setting your child up for success when you help them learn to think about their own learning. You can introduce them to study techniques such as the use of mnemonics, flash cards, vocabulary card files, color coding, post-it notes to use in textbooks, on-line tutorials, and drawing diagrams just to name a few.
Summer Break: While we all need a break from the routine of the school year, students can lose the skills that they worked so hard to learn all year. Remember to incorporate some type of learning into your child’s days during summer break. Even fun activities can help your child maintain their skills. Cooking together with your child can help to reinforce math skills, reading for fun can help your child maintain both fluency and comprehension skills, and creative journal writing or scrapbooking can help with your child’s writing skills. Don’t underestimate how much your child can learn from you when you spend time with them.
The most successful students that I have had in my classroom over the years have been the students that are sound readers with solid study techniques. So, read to your children every day, establish routines early when your children first start school, and continue to encourage your children to study in addition to completing homework. In so doing, your children will become savvy students who take responsibility for their own learning!