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Did you do your homework?

November 22, 2013 | Isabelle Patenaude

If success in school is a responsibility to be shared by the school, parents, children and society in general, dealing with homework on a daily basis is no picnic, neither for the little ones nor for their parents. How do you make this necessary task as fun as it is beneficial?

What are lessons and homework for?

For teachers, homework and lessons are a way to consolidate the notions learnt in the classroom, to continue the learning process, and to lay the groundwork for the learning to come. They also enable teachers to assess their students’ progress.

For children of course, homework and assignments are a way to consolidate learning, but they are also designed to teach them to be self-sufficient and to acquire good work habits.

And for parents, lessons and homework not only enable them to see how their children are doing, they are a way to share part of their kids’ everyday life in the classroom.

Everyone has a role to play!

When it comes to homework and assignments, the role of parents is to guide, coach and motivate their children; it is not to act as their teachers, to give them the answers or to correct their mistakes! Although it may be tempting to do so, it is important to resist! In keeping with the purpose of homework and lessons, it is important to let children search for the answers by themselves. Furthermore, a teacher who is handed an assignment with no mistakes is unable to determine what the child learned or did not learn.

An environment where children can concentrate

Everyone agrees on the importance of establishing a routine. A routine makes organizing things easier for both the little ones and their parents. When homework and assignments are done at the same time of the day, there are no surprises. No need to make a decision or to negotiate on a day-to-day basis. If the kids are to do their homework before suppertime, the parents should plan for a break between the end of school and the beginning of the homework session.

Lessons and homework should also be done in the same spot every day. Choose an environment that is cozy and has proper lighting. Make sure the chair is comfortable and the table is at the proper height to make it easy to write. If necessary, place a booster cushion (Textured Pillow) on the chair. Children also need peace and quiet when they’re doing their homework. Turn off the TV and keep other sources of distraction out of sight. Finally, tackle the tougher material first. Why? Simply because it is the moment when your child is at his or her best.

How long should the homework session be?

In an information booklet for parents1, the Chic-Chocs School Board refers to the “10-minute rule,” which suggests that the time allocated to homework everyday should be 10 minutes per school year. First graders should spend 10 minutes on their assignments every evening, while second graders should spend 20 minutes, and so on, to a maximum of 60 minutes for six graders.

Motivation, work and… fun, PLEASE!

A positive attitude toward school and schoolwork can motivate children to do their assignments and homework. While there’s no secret formula to make homework a breeze, there are a few strategies and methods that can help everyone keep their composure. First, mom and dad can split the work, if possible, based on individual strengths. Humor is also a great way to keep stress levels in check. Finally, a document of the Department of Education, Leisure and Sports reminds parents that “a teacher can give advice on the best way to accompany your child based on their strengths and the challenges2.” It also reminds parents that the school agenda is an invaluable tool for talking with the teacher2.”

Playing is also a great learning tool for children as it brings together parents and children in a fun activity. So why not integrate play into their homework and lessons? You can create a few very simple games: spell vocabulary words to the beat of fingers snapping or hands clapping; use buttons, tokens or other objects to learn math operations. There are useful products on the market for learning English and math. For example, Flip-to-win hangman will help a child with spelling. A mother told us she made it a point to NOT find the answers just to see the excitement on her child’s face when he found the answers for her! Practicing math operations using playing cards (Mathable Quattro) or dice (Shut the Box 12) are a great way to end a homework session on a pleasant note.

What are YOUR strategies for motivating your children to do their homework and assignments?

1. COMMISSION SCOLAIRE DES CHIC-CHOCS, Les parents et les devoirs, 2009

2. MINISTÈRE DE L'ÉDUCATION, LOISIR ET SPORT, Devoirs et leçons - J'accompagne mon enfant, 2011

3. BÉLIVEAU MARIE-CLAUDE. Les devoirs et les leçons : questions et réponses pour les parents, Éditions du CHU, 2013.

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