Making Homework More Palatable

Cheri Lucas, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a writing aide at Corte Madera Middle School in Portola Valley, California.

After a sun-drenched summer of family trips and dips in the swimming pool, students may find themselves in a slump come September. Your child may not be motivated to undertake a new weekly schedule, especially one with homework each day. So how can he make the transition into a new school year? Here’s how:

  • Don’t Ditch the Fun. Making a big deal about going back to school – from shopping for supplies to buying new textbooks – implies that because summer is over, fun and freedom must come to an end. Try a different mentality: don’t make too-drastic changes in your child’s daily schedule. Allow her to continue to relax as she’s done in the summer – just limit her playtime a bit. Bottom line? You can’t – and shouldn’t – switch her abruptly into study mode simply because the seasons change.
  • Say Goodbye to “Homework.” “Eliminate the word homework from your vocabulary,” suggest authors Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, who maintain  Replace homework with the word “study,” for instance. Engage in “study time” instead of “homework time,” and work at a “study table” instead of a “homework table.” “This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your child saying, ‘I don’t have any homework.’ Study time is about studying, even if you don’t have any homework,” say Moorman and Haller.
  • Study Outside the Box. Create a quiet, comfortable homework space in an unusual location in the house. Sitting behind a desk may feel uninspiring — what about reading in a papasan chair on the patio, or plopping down on the floor in a cozy corner with a laptop tray, which doubles as a table? If your child is forced to sit upright like a stiff board, she won’t get comfortable when doing her work.

  • Choose a Trusted Study Buddy. Select a peer homework motivator, presumably not a best pal or classmate who shares all the same classes. Developing a particular, mutually supportive out-of-class friendship is key. They aren’t there to give each other answers; instead, they should ask each other questions, be curious about the other’s work, and encourage each other to stay on task.
  • Make Proximity Your Friend. Have your own work to do? Sit near your child while meeting your deadlines. “Whether you are paying bills, writing in your journal, reading a magazine, or sorting laundry, stay beside them and you will find there will be less excuses,” says Candace Green, a homeschooling parent in Broken Arrow, Okla. Show that you, too, have a project to finish. And if he’s working on subtraction problems for math class while you flip through your checkbook, take advantage of his “expertise” and ask him to help balance it!
  • Present a Mini Mock Lesson. Establish a weekly time when your child presents a five-minute lesson recapping the main ideas she’s learned from her classes. (Using a dry-erase board will make this fun.) “Mom and Dad can play student, and your child can teach you the lesson as if they were the teacher,” says Green. “Memory retention is boosted 90 percent if you teach someone else what you are learning.” Presenting new knowledge gives your child a sense of autonomy and confidence. And at lesson’s end, she can quiz you on what you’ve learned!
  • Set Up a Reward System. Create certificates on small pieces of paper with different “prizes,” such as “an extra half-hour of Saturday morning TV” or “a post-dinner ice cream sundae.” Keep these rewards in a box, so when your child wraps up a session of homework, she can pick out a prize.
There are many creative and unique ways to motivate your child to do homework at the start of the school year. Get started today, and you’ll find your child diving back into homework with a sense of confidence and maybe even enthusiasm!

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