Parents, ask yourself,
"Could I do my homework in our house?
You really, really want to have a 'homework friendly' home. It's no biggie- you've done it before.
When your baby first begins to scoot and roll, it is a good idea for you, the parent, to get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. You soon realize that it's another world down on the floor, full of fascinating things like shiny pennies and dead flies and electrical sockets just waiting to be stuck with slim, metal objects.
Your child is no longer a baby, but it is time, once again, for you to try to see the world from her perspective.
The Homework Five
Students need five things in place to do homework: quiet, time, space and comfort, proper lighting, and materials.
When it comes to noise tolerance, every person and family is different. I have visited homes where I could barely stand the noise, yet the family seemed happily oblivious. My sister comes to my house and asks, "Can we please turn that off?" and I ask, "Turn what off? Whatever noise is driving her crazy hasn't even entered my consciousness.
You might be thinking, "I like a noisy house! I thrive on commotion! It energizes me!" But, this is not about you; it is about your child and her ability to do her homework. Your children may be used to your home's noisy environment in general, but doing homework requires concentration. Distractions must be kept to a minimum so that your child has no choice but to focus on reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.
Is your child easily distracted- or could a herd of elephants stomp through her bedroom unnoticed? Let her have enough noise to feel comfortable, but not enough noise to take the focus away from her homework. I have found that most children can work quite well with low noise and no action. This usually means a very low radio, but no TV; the door open to hear- but not see- what is going on in the rest of the house.
Parents, you must monitor this! If you realize that your child is having difficulty doing her homework with the radio on- turn it off. If she jumps up and yells, "Hey, who's that?" every time the front door opens- her bedroom door might need to stay closed.
I once had a 5th grade student that never seemed to turn her homework in more than once or twice a week. She told me that when she got home from school, she had to take care of her two little brothers. When her mom came home from work, the family usually went out to eat, then stopped by relatives' homes or ran errands. By the time my student got home, it was late and she was exhausted. My student was telling the truth. Her mother readily admitted that her daughter had to "help with her brothers and then we have stuff to do with my boyfriend."
Once again, I am asking you to put yourself in your child's shoes. Does your child have regular homework time- free of chores, responsibilities, activities? Is she constantly interrupted by you, her siblings, the telephone? One of the most frustrating things about being a work at home parent (especially of small children) is not having "chunks" of time to work. You constantly have to get up and do something for somebody. It is nearly impossible to stay focused and productive.
It is also extremely difficult to be productive when you are tired. Many children come home from school exhausted and simply cannot concentrate on homework. Others have so much to do right after school that even if they find time for homework, they cannot give it 100%. I have come to believe that extracurricular activities are fundamentally more important than homework, but that does not mean I want children to trade hours and hours of homework for hours and hours of activities.
Here is how I feel about sleep and homework.Decide how much time your family is going to devote to homework, and try to carve out that amount of time during the day. If it's possible, make it the same general time each day, so that a routine can be established. Children crave routine. Once again, think about your child's personality and whether or not your family's homework time should be right after school, before dinner, after dinner, before baths, after TV, before lessons, etc.
My son does his homework in the morning. When he comes home from school, he is tired of school! He wants to play, watch TV, go to taekwondo practice. Forcing him to do homework is not fun for anybody! Decide what works best for your family.
Space and Comfort
Children don't need a lot of space, but they do need somewhere to do their homework. In an ideal world, all children would have fancy homework lounges like the ones in decorating magazines: sturdy desks and comfy chairs, huge areas to spread out materials, bulletin boards, computers, and easy-to-reach bookshelves. In real life, however, space and decorating budgets are often at a minimum, so parents must do the best we can.
Growing up, I always had a desk in my bedroom- even though I rarely used it for homework. My parents' clear message was School Is Important and We Will Make Sure That You Have A Place to Study and Do Homework.
This same homework-is-important message can be expressed by clearing off the kitchen table or counter during homework time. Other famiies might put a hollow-core door on top of two metal file cabinets or pull a folding card table from under the couch. Styles vary; the point is that your child has a dedicated place to do homework.
I try to have a reading corner in all of my classrooms. It is never fancy- just a big rug, pillows and lots of books. My students fly over to the reading corner as soon as they finish their class work because they love to lay on the floor and read in comfort. The reading corner is relaxing and cozy. Give your child a comfortable place to read and do their homework, and they might actually spend some quality time there. Don't make it too comfortable or they could end up snoozing instead of studying!
Does your home have adequate lighting for reading, studying and doing homework? It may be fine to turn the lights down low for some activities, but reading, studying and doing homework require proper lighting.
There are two main types of lighting:
Overhead lighting ensures that the entire room is well-lit
Task lighting illuminates your child's book, paper or project
Yes, children have "young eyes," but they still need proper lighting. And, don't wait for them to ask us to buy new lamps or brighter light bulbs. These are the same people that will sit in near-darkness and swear they can see just fine!
The image of Abraham Lincoln studying by the low light of the fire may be a part of American folklore, but realize that the President paid the price of eye strain, poor eyesight and headaches all his adult life.
Hey, kids, want to see a teacher's head blow off? Tell them you couldn't do your homework because you didn't have a pencil. Parents would surely be amazed at how often teachers hear this excuse, but the saddest part is that it is often not an excuse but a reason. Children go home and do not have the basic materials they need to complete their homework. Of course, students must learn to be responsible for bringing home some things (like the math book), but parents must also be responsible for thinking ahead. Have a stash of basic supplies ready and waiting. One pencil don't run no show!