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Homework Helper

Help your child take control of his homework load. Your child may not realize it memorizing the periodic table at 2 a.m., but homework is a good thing. It helps your child:

•          practice what was learned during the day;

•          establish study habits that will be critical in college;

•          prepare for classes;

•          get a sense of progress.


Help your child take control of his homework load. Your child may not realize it memorizing the periodic table at 2 a.m., but homework is a good thing. It helps your child:

•          practice what was learned during the day;

•          establish study habits that will be critical in college;

•          prepare for classes;

•          get a sense of progress.

Homework tips:

How can you help your child get the most out of homework? Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

 Set the mood

Help your child create a good study area with all the resources she needs (for example, a dictionary). If you don’t have a quiet place at home, she should try the school or local library.

 Know where to begin

Your child should make a prioritized list of everything she needs to do, so she can’t use “I don’t know where to start” as an excuse. It’s important not to over-schedule. Without some flexibility, your child will set herself up to fail.

 Study at the same time every day

Even if your child doesn’t have homework, she can use the time to review notes. If homework is something your child accepts as part of her day, she’ll approach it with less dread. Plus, she will become a pro at using time productively.

 Keep things in perspective

Your child should know how much weight each assignment or test carries, and use her time accordingly.

 Get more involved

Does your child ever feel like she can’t stay awake to read something, let alone process it? To keep her mind from wandering, your child may want to take notes, underline sections, discuss topics with others, or relate her homework to what she is studying in another class.

 Organize the information

People process information in different ways. Some people like to draw pictures or charts to digest information, other people like to read out loud or make detailed outlines. Your child should try to find the best methods that work for her. She should ask her teacher for recommendations if she’s experiencing any difficulty.

Take advantage of any free time

If your child has a study hall, or a long bus ride, she can use the time to review notes, prepare for an upcoming class, or start homework.

 Studying with a friend

Unless it’s too distracting, your child may want to get together with friends and classmates to quiz herself, compare notes, and predict test questions. To you, this may seem like mostly a social time, but it can be very beneficial to your child to prepare for an assignment as part of a group.

 Celebrate your child’s achievements

Reward your child for hitting milestones, or doing something well. You can provide treats or small rewards for your child while she is working on a big assignment. Your appreciation of your child’s accomplishments in school is still very important to her, even though she may not always show it.

 Communication is key

Keeping the lines of communication open will help to broaden your understanding of what teachers and counselors expect of your child and may help you to think of new ways to be supportive while still giving your child the independence that she’s craving. It will also help you to understand how much time your child needs to allot for her homework, time that might take away from her participation in family activities or helping out around the house.

If your child has concerns about the amount or type of homework she has, she may want to talk to her teacher, adviser, or counselor. Encourage your child to ask for help if she needs it.

 Creating a dream study space for your child

It’s very important to think about helping your child with at-home assignments. Here are our favorite ways to assemble the perfect homework spot.

 Get a CLUE

One of the most important keys to your child’s school success is found right at home: Your kid’s study space.

But all too often, a home study spot is given short shrift — with little thought to how and where it’s set up — undermining how well your child can do his homework. Time to get a CLUE by asking yourself these questions:

Calm — Are there distractions (such as animals, TV, and music) that keep your kid from concentrating?

Light — How is the light? Low lighting may make your child sleepy and unfocused.

Uncluttered — Who wants to work at a messy desk?

Easy — Is it easy for your child to find and organize his stuff? 

Now that you know the questions to ask, here are seven ways to create the best study area for your child.

 How does your child work best?

Sure, that fancy desk and chair you’re thinking of getting for your child’s bedroom seems like a good idea. But before rushing out to buy all the bells and whistles for a catalog-beautiful “dream” space, remember the golden rule of designing the perfect area: create it specifically with your child’s personality and study habits in mind.

If he works best around people, set him up in the dining room, kitchen, or living room (for kids who sometimes prefer lying down to work, the couch doubles as a great alternate work space). If he’s easily distracted by clutter and noise, set up his desk in a quiet, secluded space.

 Study that study space

Now that you’ve chosen the location, study the space to make sure your child is working under the best conditions. Consider his age and size to ensure he’s not sitting at a giant chair and desk for his height, especially if your child is working at an adult-size computer and straining his head to look up — a winning recipe for neck, shoulder, and back pain. (If you have a young child working at a computer, consider investing in a kid-size keyboard and mouse to accommodate smaller hands.)

The overall work surface should be waist height. When your child sits down — ideally at a chair that has a back and arm rests — his elbows should rest on the table without hunching, bent at an angle of about 90 degrees or more. If it’s not high enough, add a pillow or folded towel to raise the seat. His feet should be resting flat on the floor and not dangling. If they are, put a foot rest or box underneath.

To shoot for ergonomic perfection, for a typical first grader, the chair should be around 12 inches (30 cm) high, the table at about 18 inches (45 cm); by seventh grade, the chair should be around 14 inches (35 cm) high and the table 24 inches (60 cm) high. After middle school, aim for a 16-inch-high (40 cm) chair and 25-inch-high (63 cm) desk for girls, an 18-inch-high (45 cm) chair and 27-inch-high (68 cm) desk for boys.

Finally, how’s the lighting? Consider getting a desk lamp for task lighting. Squinting strains the eyes and tires the mind.

 Banish distractions

Is the TV on? Is an older sibling blasting music, or are two younger ones squabbling? Is the dog barking and the bird squawking?

Some kids require peace and quiet to focus. If you notice that your child gets easily distracted, or that you’re frequently asking family members to pipe down, think about relocating her study space — or moving the pets. Turn off the TV. Turn off or ignore all phones (cell and land line; she’s not allowed to answer hers).

Parents might even consider creating a “Homework time” sign so that everyone remembers to be quiet as church mice between, say, 5 and 5:30 p.m. One thing to remember: some kids do better with music in the background. But try to choose something without vocals, which can be distracting.

Stay close

Especially for younger children who need to build up their homework skills, try to stay close by to be available for questions or guidance. (But resist giving the answer!)

If your child is working in a more remote spot in the house, you can still let her know that you’re there if she needs you. This lets her know you care about and value her schoolwork.

 Stock up on supplies

“Ugh! I can’t find the dictionary!” “Who took the glue stick?” To avoid these stress-filled moments — and needlessly wasting time hunting for missing items — duplicate a school supply list at home.

Store everything in a central area. Shoe boxes do nicely to store pencils, pens, rulers, and scissors. Consider labeling big-ticket items like staplers, scissors, and rulers with a sticker that reads “Return to homework box”. That way, everything is easy to find, and nothing goes missing when your child needs it most!

 Store backup materials in one spot

These days parents regularly get everything from weekly homework lists to semester calendars for big projects from the teacher. Keep your stash of homework paperwork close by so you can verify what is due when. This is especially helpful for parents of younger kids who are still mastering the fine art of keeping track of their homework.

 Keep the mess at bay

Finally, your child’s workspace doesn’t need to be military-precision clean, but encourage her to put things away after finishing her assignments (again, so supplies and important papers don’t go missing), and keep the area in order for the next day’s homework.

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