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The Homework Battle Starts in Kindergarten (Who Knew?)

How do you motivate your kids to study, especially if one child needs extra motivation? Local moms have some great tips and techniques.

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!

Pamela Hawken (C) 2012 February 25, 2011 at 07:18 AM
You're very smart to focus on homework habits even though your twins are only in Kindergarten. Good (and bad) habits start early and will follow them through school as they get older. I have found that boring drills can be made more interesting if you can show them how whatever they're studying relates to their everyday life. There are many resources in the library and on the Internet to help with this and it can make a big difference in maintaining your child's interest in learning!
Trish February 25, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Good suggestions all around! So far, my kindergartner does not fight homework too much, but I worry that by the time we get to the higher grades and more homework, things are going to get tough.
Susan Lund February 26, 2011 at 07:29 AM
All great suggestions, I too struggle with (my twins) one that makes it look "easy" while the other isn't as interested and it doesn't come "natural." Love the sticker chart!!
Michelle Rulmont February 26, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Thanks for all the great comments. Just to follow up we had a really great week, no complaints! The sticker chart worked really well and setting the timer really helped! Keep me posted if anything else works for you.

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