Year after year, the most talked about subject in parent/teacher conferences is homework, usually in the form of “how much should I be helping?” You will hear me (a teacher) say, in fact, that 6th grade is a perfect time to develop independence in this area and it’s good to begin to take your hands off.
Take a "hands-off" approach.
The “hands-off” approach I’m suggesting looks like:
- Expecting your child to get homework done independently; that is, there’s really no need for you to check for mistakes. (That’s right, even in math! Wrong answers are merely an indicator of understanding or work ethic. They open dialogue between teacher and student.)
- Expecting your child to pack it in the book bag.
The following is an excerpt from John Rosemond’s column on this:
"The best way to handle this is to trust your son (a 7-year old in question) to get his homework done. Stop enforcing this rule (homework must be done before he can go out to play). Obviously, it's counterproductive, as are most attempts to micromanage. Your son is rushing through his homework, his mind is elsewhere, and he's regarding homework as a punishment of sorts. Simply tell him that you trust him to do his homework on his own, without a "starter," but that he must have it finished by 8 or one half-hour before bedtime, at which point unfinished homework will be confiscated. The deadline, if enforced dispassionately, will cause him to learn how to manage his after-school time; and if I dare say, more effectively than you are managing it for him." John Rosemond
Now for my qualifier: I still suggest a few weeks of (nightly) helping check off assignment pads and packing up book bags for those kids that need help in organization. If a student does not have homework completed, there are usually consequences in place at school. Conversely, if a student DOES have it all turned in on time, there are rewards. Definitely talk up those rewards!!
Also, it helps if students write down how much time each piece of homework takes. General guidelines are about 10 minutes per grade on homework. So, a 2nd grader should expect about 20 minutes, a 3rd grader about 30 minutes, and so forth. (Of course this varies if a child needs remediation.) Reading and/or review are legitimate assignments and should be counted in total minutes.
Now, what about actually doing homework? I call these: homework tips or 10 ways to reap the rewards of having your act together!
- Set aside a working area, free of distractions.
- Have materials handy: pencil, pen, paper, etc.
- Begin with a quick or easier assignment.
- Set a timer. Play “beat the clock!”
- Frazzled? Take a 15 min. break and eat a protein snack. Then get back to work.
- As soon as an assignment is completed, check it off on the assignment pad (don’t forget to jot down amount of time used) and return it to homework folder.
- Utilize driving/carpool time for reading or review. Be sure to check it off on assignment pad.
- Post the monthly calendar in a visible place and check it periodically for due dates.
- Post-it notes can help jog your memory. Set one on the bathroom mirror for long-term projects or papers.
- Before bedtime, review assignment pad and replace all necessary books, folders, and/or graded work folders as well as your assignment pad inside book bag.
Remember the goal is to train these young scholars for the future. We may see tears (and occasionally wailing and gnashing of teeth) as they bring themselves under the submission of this training in responsibility and diligence. But the fruit of their labors will make them feel like champions. And you will be able to bow out gracefully and get back to your own life. (Remember when you had one??)