Creating a Good Atmosphere for Homework
No one likes homework. It is stressful for students, and often, it is stressful for parents. But there are ways to make homework time easier for everyone.
1. Create a “homework spot” in your home.
The kitchen table, the coffee table, a bean bag, or even a yoga mat on the floor: experiment at the beginning of the school year to find a spot that works and when you find it, stick with it. Good rules of thumb: the space has good light, it isn't in a high-traffic area, it is quiet, and it is relatively comfortable. Discuss with your child where they would feel comfortable doing homework, considering those parameters. One caveat is that younger students are often more successful when you can keep an eye on them, especially if they distract easily.
2. Keep the house quiet during homework time.
One of the main issues I notice is that houses are too noisy during homework time, leading to lots of distractions. Turn off the TV or NPR. Don’t have phone conversations with others in the same room where your child is doing homework. Ask younger siblings to play quietly or in another room. Do what you can to create an environment that aids studying. Help your child choose a quiet space, especially if he or she has learning differences or disabilities and has trouble focusing. I was once in a home where a student was trying to do homework in a room with no door and the TV was blaring nearby. It was not a good choice for a homework spot.
3. Keep the homework spot clean.
Once it is established, work to keep this area clean; don't allow things to pile up that would get in the way of your child sitting down to do their homework each day.
4. Create a routine around homework.
Decide on a time when homework is done each day. Maybe it’s when they get home from school, or after a snack, or after dinner. It will depend on the age of the child, their schedule, and the amount of homework typically given. Establishing this routine not only makes things flow more easily, it also instills good habits in them for when they are older/go to college.
5. Set them up for success.
If they do better after riding their bike for 15 minutes or eating, have them do their homework after one of those activities. Try a few things and see what works. Check in periodically with each other to see if these things are working and make adjustments where necessary.
6. Don’t hover.
Allow students to work at their own pace and give them space to try the work on their own unless they specifically ask for help. Gently redirect if you notice they are off task.
7. When things are hard, come up with a plan.
Go over the assignments and help your child determine what to work on first. Many times students look at their homework list and shut down. Decide together how to best approach the work, whether it’s the easiest or the most unappealing first.
8. Encourage breaks.
This is especially for older students with hours of homework each night. Teach them to take a break every 20 minutes or so to stretch their legs, get a drink of water, or eat a snack. This is another good habit to instill now so they do it automatically when they are older.