Guide kids through a post-holiday, headlong plunge into homework and time hurdles

A few districts nationwide start classes in early- or mid-August; more start right before Labor Day with a “soft start” of sorts. With the holiday serving as the semi-official end of summer, the school year cranks up in earnest. Help make it a smooth glide!

One thing many parents question is homework: Are kids getting too much? Not enough? Should parents help, and if so, how much? Last spring VeryWellFamily posted an article by Laureen Miles Brunelli titled, “How Parents Can Find the Right Balance When Giving Kids Homework Help.” Homework, she points out, helps reinforce lessons and also instills responsibility and time management.

As for parental homework help, some of the great tips Brunelli offers include “let your child take the lead.” As part of that, though, she emphasizes that it’s up to kids to pull homework out of their backpack, read off the assignments, and check that needed materials made their way home.

She writes, “If necessary, prompt your child to do this and ask him or her to predict how long each assignment will take.” Brunelli adds, “Ask questions about upcoming projects and assignments and have your child spell out the plan for completing these before you make any suggestions regarding them.”

Plus, she says, “If procrastination is an issue, set a time frame for starting homework and consequences for not starting within that time frame.”

Of course, younger elementary-aged students are just getting used to homework. A Kids Health from Nemours post titled, “Helping Your Gradeschooler with Homework,” observes that among other benefits such as establishing a work ethic, “by doing homework, kids learn how to read and follow directions independently, manage and budget time (for long-term assignments like book reports), [and] complete work neatly and to the best of their ability.”

Workbooks such as the 320-page Big Preschool Workbook, Big Kindergarten Workbook, and Big First Grade Workbook, help develop those skills too, along with many other foundational skills. Workbooks such as Alphabet Stickers and Math Stickers are also great. The stickers become manipulatives, requiring kids to locate the correct sticker, creating an interactive learning experience.

In a supporting role, the Kids Health post suggests parents can help to “establish a routine,” “strategize homework sessions” (which will vary according to the child), “instill organization skills,” and “apply school to the ‘real world,” including discussing how what kids are learning relates to what’s in the news. They also urge parents to simply “be there” for kids and to stay in touch with teachers. The VeryWellFamily post by Brunelli is one of several that urges parents to set up a productive, distraction-free homework environment and to make use of homework blogs, parent portals, and school websites.

A post to the Nationwide Children’s blog titled,“Take the Hassle out of Homework: 6 Ways to Help Your Child,” among many tips, suggests that parents offer “praise, not reward”—no bribes for finishing homework—and that they “provide guidance, not answers.”

Sonlight, a website originally geared toward homeschooling, posted an article useful for all parents of elementary students, titled, “Afterschooling: Supplementing Your Child’s Public Education.” It offers a number of reasons parents might choose to supplement classroom lessons (and formal homework). They include “to provide enrichment for gifted learners,” “to offer remediation to get children up to level,” “to review and reinforce school lessons,” and “to nurture the creative expression that a structured school environment may stifle.”

They also introduce the fun concept of “strewing”—leaving learning resources strewn here and there such as novels on a bedside table, a markable map on the coffee table, science kits on the kitchen counter, art supplies in a basket, and a few logic puzzles tossed in the backset. They say, “The beauty of strewing is that the materials themselves will call to your children, inviting them to explore and learn of their own volition.” They add, “You don’t cajole, but you are there to support the learning when asked.”

An easy item to strew would be Animals of All Kinds Flash Cards. Starting for ages 4 and up, no one is too old to play! The cards help little ones associate pictures with information and words, but fun facts about the size, habitat, class, and characteristics of each animal ensure there is something for everyone to learn.

Also consider workbooks with a variety of activities and perforated pages that can make quick, easy tear-out worksheets for different kids needing help with different skills. Two examples are the 64-page Time, Money & Fractions for grades 1-2 and Phonics Review for grades 1-3 workbooks.

Whether homework or creative, supplemental work, show kids that learning isn’t limited to school—and that’s OK!