Brace yourself. It’s that dreaded time of day when you tell your child it’s time to do homework and you know there’ll be some kind of meltdown.
You’ve tried everything the experts tell you to do and more, but homework is still a struggle. You’ve surveyed the environment and checked off the list of strategies you have already put in place. You:
✏️Arranged a place to do homework with a desk, a chair, and good lighting.
that is away from noise and distractions.
✏️Provided tools like pencils, pens, paper, and markers.
✏️Have a good internet connection for online assignments.
✏️Arranged to do homework at the same time as part of the daily routine.
✏️Planned out the order of the assignments to be done.
✏️Used a calendar to keep track of long-term assignments.
All the recommended strategies are valuable. They work, except when they don’t.
None of those strategies work if:
⛔Your child didn’t bring the needed materials home
⛔Your child doesn’t know how to check the website for assignments or have the organizational skills to keep a planner
⛔Your child is worried about making a mistake.
⛔Your child is tired or emotionally depleted.
⛔Something negative or exciting happened at school that is getting in the way of logical thinking
⛔It looks like so much work.
⛔Your child doesn’t understand what to do
⛔The lesson about how to do the task happened hours ago in school, and so much has happened since then.
So, what’s a parent to do?
You put on your detective hat and look for clues
Approach the situation as if it is a true mystery to solve, because it is .🔎 Observe and 🙋ask questions to gather information and piece them together for ✅possible solutions.
🔎Observe: Your child didn’t bring home the necessary materials.
Do not ask: Why can’t you bring home your homework? That's judgmental and you’re not going to make any progress solving the mystery.
🙋Ask: “When do you pack up your materials for home?”
🙋Ask: “How do you know what to bring home?”
Sometimes teachers teach to the very last minute and then children are rushed to pack up and get out the door. This may put stress on your child who has trouble focusing on packing up and getting out the door at the same time. Does your child have multiple teachers and does each one give a homework assignment?
✅Possible solution: Your child may need extra teacher support to get all the material in the backpack
✅Possible solution: Get extra copies of textbooks or novels to keep at home.
🔎Observe: Watch your child access the website for homework assignments. Can your child understand how assignments are organized and posted?
Observe: Do all the teachers use the same online tool? Does one teacher use Google Classroom and another use Edmodo
🙋Ask: “Are all the assignments supposed to be turned in the same way? Do some teachers ask for an assignment to be emailed, another to be turned in via the online tool, and another turned in by hand?”
✅Possible solution: Together, practice using the school or class website to understand what the assignments are.
✅Possible solution: Support your child to switch to different online tools and learn how to turn in different assignments.
🔎Observe: It can be hard to decipher if your child is worried about making a mistake. This takes a skilled detective.
Does your child have trouble getting started? This is a clue.
Does your child keep erasing or starting over? This is a clue.
Does your child claim to be dumb? This is a clue.
There are many possible clues. 🔎Keep observing.
🙋Ask: “What do you think will happen if you make a mistake?” The answer is a powerful clue.
🙋Ask: “How can I help you when you feel stuck?”
✅Possible Solution: Offer to help your child start. Say, “Let’s do the first one together.” Then praise the effort. If a mistake is made, say, “Do you want me toI help you fix that?” You ask to be of help, because your child may be able to tackle it within this supportive environment.
✅Possible Solution: Be a model. When you make a mistake, say whoops. That was a mistake. Let your child see that nothing bad happened to you when you made a mistake.
🔎Observe: Is your child tired? Has your child held it together all day at school and has nothing left in the tank?
Does your child have a lot of after school activities and is exhausted?
🙋Ask: “What homework do you have the energy to do right now?”
✅Possible Solution: Look at the homework together to see if your child sees something doable now.
✅Possible Solution: Look at the week’s activities and know which days are exhausting and which days there is more bandwidth for homework. Work with the teachers to get as many assignments in advance as possible and plan out a homework schedule with your child.
🔎Observe: Does it seem like something negative or amazing happened at school? When emotions are high, it is very hard to focus on homework.
🙋Ask: “I wonder what happened at school today. You seem to be focused on something.”
✅Possible Solution: Be available if your child starts talking. Go for a walk or a drive. Be a listener. Talking about it frees up the energy it takes to do homework.
🔎Observe: Your child will barely look at the homework. The task looks enormous.
🙋Ask: “Can I pick out one assignment for you?” This way your child is not getting overwhelmed by seeing several assignments.
✅Possible Solution: For a young child, cover up half the page so only part of the assignment is showing. This makes the task look more doable. When finished, uncover the second half.
✅Possible Solution: If the homework is online, copy and paste the assignment list to a separate word doc. It looks cleaner than being distracted by multiple past and future assignments. Help your child choose one to start.
🔎Observe: Does your child know what to do?
🙋Ask: “Can you read the directions to me?” If your child cannot read the words in the direction, this is a big clue.
🙋Ask: “Now that you read the directions, what do they tell you to do?” If your child can read the words, but not understand what they mean, you just got a huge clue.
Say: “Start the assignment while I watch, so I can see that you understand.” Here is another opportunity to find more clues.
✅Possible Solution: Read the directions to your child and explain what to do.
✅Possible Solution: Let your child’s teacher know about the clues you have found.
🔎Observe: Your child may have understood a lesson in the morning, but now can’t remember how to do it. It takes a lot of practice to remember something new.
🙋Ask: “What do you remember from earlier today?”
✅Possible Solution: Review the information with your child if it is something you know.
✅Possible Solution: Have your child call a classmate.
✅Possible Solution: Send an email to the teacher saying your child tried to do the homework, but forgot the procedures. Request that it be explained again and, if possible, send some information to you about how you can help.
Congratulations! You are now a parent detective!
To learn more about discovering clues that lead to an improved homework situation, contact me through my website.