Take a look at these homework mistakes you should avoid. Learn what to do instead to get the most out of your child’s homework time.
I’ll admit: Homework offers many benefits. Kids practice what they learn at home, and teachers are able to see how students are faring. And homework can be an opportunity to make learning natural and even fun.
That said, I’ve had plenty of days when I secretly breathed a sigh of relief that the kids didn’t have homework that day.
And with the pandemic this past year, homework was nearly non-existent, especially since all the work was done at home. Now with the kids back at school full-time, homework—at least for my eldest—is making its way back into his schedule.
5 homework mistakes you should avoid
Maybe you dread homework time and the ensuing frustration it can bring for both you and your child. You wonder if homework is worth the time, or if he’s using its potential effectively.
After three kids and advice from their teachers, I’ve learned that the homework hassles have more to do with how we frame it than the actual work itself. Of course, if it feels like your child is taking too long compared to his peers or that homework is eating up your family time, talk to your teacher.
But generally, homework can be a stress-free, even enjoyable, part of your day. Make homework productive and smooth by avoiding these mistakes we sometimes make:
1. Not letting your child’s teacher see his mistakes
In the past, I would walk my son through each homework question step-by-step. For instance, with math problems, I’d help him count his fingers to get to the right answer. We’d do this for every question so that by the time we’re finished, all the answers were 100% correct.
Now, imagine you’re his teacher. You see a math worksheet with all correct answers. No eraser marks, no signs of effort, no pattern of wrong answers. Other than your child’s handwriting, the homework could look like any adult did it.
You could see why his teacher wouldn’t have a gauge for how he’s doing. She wouldn’t know whether he understood the homework or struggled to plow through them.
This doesn’t mean you should never help your child with homework, but a few new strategies could include:
- Guiding him through the first few problems, then letting him try the rest on his own.
- Making up your own example similar to the homework that you can work through together.
- Not correcting his mistakes and leaving the answer wrong.
- Writing a note to the teacher about the difficulty level. I’ve written everything from “easy” to “challenging” to “just right.”
Your child’s teacher can then see which skills need improving and which ones he can move on.
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2. Doing homework at the wrong time
The time your child does homework can make the difference between a job well done and one that isn’t. For instance, doing homework with loud siblings nearby or the television on will distract and prevent him from focusing.
Or he feels tired or hungry, conditions that make it difficult for him to concentrate. He’s in too playful of a mood—his silliness keeps him from staying focused at the tasks.
You’re better off postponing homework until the right time. This could mean offering a snack after getting home before starting homework. Schedule a set time, like 4pm, to build it into his schedule. And spend time getting him situated and ready to work, especially if he’s not in the mood yet.
3. Not having a designated place to do homework
Just as your child has a bed for sleep, so should he have a place for homework and studying. Writing is much easier to do sitting at a table rather than sprawled on the floor. And having a consistent station will make him feel proud of his work and know where to go to get it done.
Whether it’s a desk, a children’s table, or a nook, create a space that encourages homework time. Of course, this doesn’t mean he’s stuck at his desk forever—some kids do better being able to switch homework spots. But at least have a station he can rely on.
And stock your home with homework essentials. We’ve had to improvise a few times because the homework required materials we didn’t have on hand. Now we know to stock up on the basics like pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and erasers.
4. Treating homework as a drag
Homework is nothing more than further practice—a chance for your child to keep learning and refresh what she just learned. And how you phrase homework can make all the difference in her attitude about it.
For instance, saying “Do your homework now so you can get it out of the way” paints it as a boring task to get through. What if you addressed homework as something that’s necessary but also beneficial? This time can even be something you bond over with and work together on.
Consider how much time it takes compared to the other parts of your life. Has your busy schedule made it feel impossible to squeeze it in? If so, consider reducing her activities.
And if the workload is too much, then it’s time to address her teacher. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes of homework per day per grade year. A second grader should be able to complete homework in 20 minutes while a senior in high school can do two hours’ worth.
5. Getting frustrated at your child
Homework is a love/hate relationship for many parents. On one hand, we know it’s important, but on the other, it’s also become so stressful for the whole family.
Your child isn’t taking homework seriously, or you don’t get how kids do homework these days compared to your school days. Perhaps you think he should know the answers by now, or it’s become yet another source of power struggles that he fights.
But watch how you react—getting frustrated at him doesn’t solve anything. Homework continues to drag and both of you are spiraling downward.
Instead, put things in perspective. Do homework another time when he isn’t so tired, or take a break and let another adult take over. Losing your patience makes it difficult for him to see homework as rewarding or to reap its benefits.
While we’ve had our snuffles, doing homework has generally been a smooth experience for me and my kids.
We’ve incorporated homework into our after-school routine, and make sure that distractions stay minimal. They have their own desks they can always do homework on, and I do my best not to get frustrated (though can’t say I have a perfect record!).
Homework doesn’t have to be the dreaded parent-child battle, but a time to learn and even enjoy one another’s company.
Get more tips:
- How to Teach Our Kids to Embrace Mistakes
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- How to Respond when Your Child Makes a Mistake
- Are You Teaching These Life Skills Your Child Needs in Adulthood?
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