When my twins started kindergarten this year, I expected fun and games with a side of learning. Instead, they came home from their first day with eight pages of homework, neatly assembled into a folder, with a looming Friday deadline. (They were supposed to complete two pages a day.)
I tried to paint it as a positive: I told them I was so excited for them to be “big kids” and that we'd all sit down and complete the work together. My son took to the work immediately and finished all eight pages in one sitting! My daughter, however, took a bit more cajoling. She would complain that she was hungry (but, there's a snack on the table...) she was tired, or just needed to relax.
Here we go: Welcome, homework wars.
Now that we're over halfway through the school year I'm always looking for suggestions on how to help my daughter develop a positive attitude towards her homework. (Did you know there's over 27,000,000 homework tips on Google...really.) I've tried to encourage, I've tried bribing, but unless she's working on a creative assignment it's a struggle.
The National Education Association recommends 10-15 minutes of homework for kindergartners, with an extra ten minutes per grade level. But, other experts argue that too much homework can ruin a love of learning by turning reading and writing into a chore.
I'm looking at the long road ahead and want to encourage good homework habits for both my son and daughter early on. As a substitute teacher, I understand the importance of the practice and reinforcement class exercises. But as a parent, I don’t want to push and completely turn my daughter off.
So, as always, I turn to other parents to find out what is working for them.
Prestwood mom of two (a kindergartner and second grader) Alexandra Charsley, has both kids sit down and do homework at the same time. She focuses only on them and says it is a great time to find out about their school day. “If there are any personal issues they are having, we can talk about that the same day and work on a solution." she says. "Trust me, by second grade there are some great issues to talk about, and after everything is reviewed, they get to play.”
Joelle Smith (another parent of a kindergartner and a second grader) has a special routine. “We make homework time as soon as we get home," she says. "They both like to pick out lunch weekly and it is something they earn, since they for some reason like the unhealthy lunches as opposed to mine, go figure! Both kids sit down at the same time and I usually sit right next to them for help/guidance.”
Sonoma Valley Mother's Club member Allison Mulligan, uses an easygoing style to help her kindergartner get started on her work. “We work on it all together so it seems more like a dinner conversation than a structured homework session," she said.
Here are some other tips I found that I'll be trying this week:
1. Play calming music
2. Do your work alongside your kids' homework.
3. Set a timer (I'm starting with 15 minutes) and gradually increase the time.
4. Make a sticker chart. Grab a sticker for every 15 minutes of homework. At the end of the week, if the kids have 4 stars, they get a personal treat.
5. Whatever happens, keep a positive attitude.
This week will be busy for me, as we work on new techniques. Hopefully come Thursday night we'll be in a much better place.
Of course, as parents know, you set forth with a plan and hope it works out. But, we always have to re-evaluate and adjust if needed.
Please let me know what kinds of struggles you are having with homework. Perhaps, together, we can figure it out!