Is homework a struggle in your house – do the kids find it hard to concentrate, or put off doing their homework till the last minute? On the other hand, do they sometimes sit and toil over it for hours when a little more concentration and efficiency would enable them to finish in a fraction of the time – and get more benefit from it as well?
Most kids have homework troubles of one kind or another from time to time, and you can help them make it more fun and less stressful by creating a positive routine around homework, and by encouraging your kids to use enjoyable and easy techniques to help them study.
A Helpful Routine
Rather than doing their homework at random times of the day, why not help your children to find the routine that suits them best? Some kids, just like adults, are at their best in the morning, and for these kids getting up a bit earlier and having a regular homework time in the morning before school can be nice.
Many kids will find an afternoon or evening homework routine more comfortable, and in this case it’s important to make sure that they have an opportunity to get rested before starting their homework, especially if they have been doing sports at school. If on the other hand they tend to be full of pent-up energy after school, then some physical exercise would be just the thing they need to wind down from school in a more energetic way.
In either case, a healthy, light snack is a good idea – it’s a long time between lunch and dinner, and the energy from food will help your kids with their brain-work.
If a child has developed a negative attitude to homework for whatever reason, a reward chart could be a useful tool to help them get things back onto a good footing. Every day that your child sticks to the new routine for homework, they should get a “point” on the reward chart. For primary school children, make sure they are rewarded on the same day – with a pretty sticker and lots of praise, for instance – as well as a special end-of-week reward, maybe an outing to their favorite park, or a small toy.
Older children can delay their gratification a little more – so you could arrange for them to earn a “DVD and friends round” evening, or whatever does it for them, once they complete a week or two of their new homework routine. Tailor it to their age and their interests.
The brain learns and remembers best the stuff at the beginning and at the end of study periods. So breaking up study into chunks is a good idea – it’s important to train your child to take regular breaks from homework to get the most out of it. And even more importantly, to train them in the difference between “good” and “bad” breaks. What do I mean by a “bad” break? Well if your child sits in front of his homework fidgeting for half an hour then says “I’m giving up for a bit,” and goes and watches TV for the next 30 minutes, that is not good study hygiene and I’d call that a “bad” break!
Here are some points to bear in mind to encourage your child to take “good” breaks from homework:
* Use breaks, where possible, to reward yourself for completing
a goal, either a milestone, like getting to the end of a section of questions, or a time-related goal like completing 15 minutes of intense revision or studying
* Make sure that very young children take breaks after brief periods of study, while older children can work for 30 or even 60 minutes, depending on their individual needs.
* Breaks only need to be a few minutes long – this is long enough to give the brain a chance to absorb what it has just learned and get ready for more!
* Breaks should revitalize you for your next study period, not sap your energy! Watching TV is an energy-sapping break and should be avoided. Good breaks might include:
• A refreshing or soothing drink
• A light snack
• Some brief physical exercise to get the blood flowing – perhaps half a dozen star jumps
• Stepping outside and taking some refreshing breaths of fresh air
Study Techniques to Help with Homework
There are lots of other ways you can help your child enjoy their homework, such as teaching them fun and useful ways to learn. Mind mapping is one of these, and there is an article and examples on the KidsGoals website that you might want to refer to at Kids goals Mindmapping for Kids in the goal setting study aid section.
Children have different learning styles and different ways of processing information, and by understanding your own child’s natural preferences you can help them even more. This is something that Monicka and I are researching and plan to provide some resources to you all to help with this very soon
And to finish off, a quick question for our subscribers – as well as homework and general study topics, would many of you be interested in seeing help for children to improve their exam techniques and reduce the stress of tests/exams? We always welcome your feedback!
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