Labor Day has come and gone and students are back in school. We’re already inundated with questions from parents asking what to do about homework battles. This used to be a major stressor for me until a mentor told me something profound… ”It’s not your homework. It’s your child’s homework! Let her worry about it, or let her pay the consequences if she chooses not to do it.” Of course there are a couple of caveats to this approach: 1. You must be sure to create a positive learning environment, and 2. This only works in the case of children with optimized brains. If your child needs psychiatric or psychological help, it’s necessary to get help before setting them up for failure.
With this in mind, I was so happy the day that I told Chloe I wasn’t going to fight with her to do homework ever again. She literally stopped, mid-tantrum, with a look of suspicion and said, ”What do you mean? That doesn’t make sense!” I explained that I loved her too much to argue with her. In fact, I loved her so much that if she didn’t care about doing well in school, it was alright with me. If she decided not to do any homework ever again, it would be okay. I’d still love her if she had to repeat the third grade, and I was sure she could make new friends when her friends went into the fourth grade. With astonishment and something resembling disgust, Chloe said, ”I’m going to do my homework!! Just not right this second”. I haven’t had to fight with Chloe about doing her homework ever since. In fact, she is so anxious about not getting it done on time, that she gets everything done early. I frequently have to remind her that she doesn’t need to finish everything ”yesterday.”
So, how can you be sure you are creating the best environment for learning? Let’s face it, most kids would rather be doing anything other than homework. So, it’s important to set the stage for children to naturally want to learn and take responsibility for their homework. It might be a good idea to encourage your kids to get some exercise first – a bike ride, a walk or a game of tag – to help get blood flow going to their frontal lobes. The frontal lobe is the executive part of the brain, responsible for forethought and judgment. Plus, kids need to burn off some steam physically, especially after sitting in class all day – school budget cuts may have eliminated gym classes. Sitting all day isn’t any healthier for children than it is for adults, and it can lead to bad habits early on in a kid’s life.
Make Homework Entertaining
When it’s time for kids to settle down to their books, try making a game of it. Entice them to get it done by asking how long they think it will take. Then set a timer. Can they beat the clock? Did they overestimate or underestimate how long their homework took? How long should it have taken? It’s also important to know if your child works better in a quiet atmosphere, or around family activity. My daughter, Chloe prefers to do her work in the kitchen with me nearby. She loves the activity and the smell of dinner cooking, but it doesn’t distract her. I’m also clear with Chloe that I’m happy to take her to do fun things after her homework is done. I don’t tell her when to do it, but I decide that we won’t go anywhere else until it is done.
Homework is intended to reinforce what kids learned in school that day. It also is believed to improve study skills and attitudes toward school and demonstrate to kids that learning can take place anywhere, according to the American College of Education. FYI, the National PTA and the National Education Association suggest that homework is most effective for children in grades K–2 when it does not exceed 10 to 20 minutes daily; 30 to 60 minutes is okay for kids in grades 2 through 6. In junior and senior high schools, homework may demand more time and vary time-wise from day to day. If it’s taking your child significantly longer to finish their homework than the rest of their peers, you may want to consider having them tested to determine why.
Set kids up for success by making sure your kids have the right tools such as paper, pens or pencils, computer access, and if they’re working on an art or science project, they’ll need those materials as well. These days technology can help junior and senior high students feel better about homework by incorporating apps that help them stay organized. A few apps that help kids and adults stay on task are: myhomeworkapp.com, StudyBlue, and Everstudent. These apps can help your child stay organized, focused, and motivated to accomplish the night’s homework.
Feed them Brain Food
The right after school snack can have a dramatic difference in your kid’s productivity. Your brain utilizes 20 to 30 percent of the total calories you consume. That’s more than any other organ in your entire body! Eating sugar and processed food, even small amounts can affect focus, make your kids feel less energetic and make it harder for them to finish their homework. Homework may also have more appeal if kids get a healthy treat when they settle down to the books. Here are my recommendations:
- Apple with almond butter – you can slice the apple and let the kids apply the almond butter.
- Raw veggies and hummus.
- Smoothie with raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
- Coconut wraps with avocado and turkey (Paleo Wraps, Pure Wraps or Siete Wraps).
- Coconut wraps with almond butter and banana (Paleo Wraps, Pure Wraps or Siete Wraps).
- Frozen grapes (a great and healthy replacement for sugary ice pops).
- My Stay Sharp Pizza Snacks.
- A serving of my Go-Well-Trail Mix.