Homework is never a child’s favorite part of school, or a parent’s favorite part either. Too often it is stressful and rushed and a cause of conflict. But it is a necessary part of the learning process and a time that, with a little planning, can be made more fun and more useful for learning than just the assignment at hand.
Here are a few tips for making homework time into brain-building, game time.
1. Turn math problems into a fast-paced game.
Time your children as they do a row of problems as fast as they can, then challenge them to do the next row faster. This will build the cognitive skill of processing speed; basically turning them into faster thinkers.
2. Practice blocking out distractions.
Tell your child to do their best to stay focused on a short homework assignment while a sibling tries to distract him in a goofy way. Reward them for blocking out the distraction and completing the task. This fun, and often funny, activity is very rewarding because it builds the mental skill of selective attention which will help kids block out distractions in school and throughout life.
3. Give your child two tasks at once.
Test him on his spelling words while he’s doing a math problem, drawing a picture, or simply packing up his homework. While he’s spelling the word aloud, make sure he doesn’t stop the other activity. This challenging exercise is harder than it may seem and will grow the divided attention skills that will help people multi-task or listen to directions while working.
4. Break down assignments into smaller chunks.
This is especially helpful if your child suffers from attention problems. Use a stopwatch to time your child to see how long they can pay attention to a task before giving up, then encourage them to go longer during the next timed round. This builds sustained attention and will help your kids become more independent learners.
5. Play charades.
Have your child demonstrate or act out what a word or concept means. This can build the skill of comprehension and visual processing. Acting out a concept can show if your child truly understands it.
These tips can make homework more fun and rewarding in the long term. But if the homework load seems to be simply too much, parents may need to do more. The general standard for homework amounts is 10 minutes, multiplied by grade level. If your child is spending significantly more time than that, talk to the teacher to see if all that homework is really necessary or if your child has more than others because he/she didn’t complete it at school. If it’s still an issue, consider having your child’s cognitive skills tested to check for an underlying problem.
Cognitive skills testing can often get to the root of the problem, instead of just trying to address the symptoms. Often children that struggle at school or with homework have weak attention, memory, processing skills or phonemic awareness. Once the source of the problem is determined, those skills can be built up through cognitive skills training, and the learning issues can be eliminated.
Improved cognitive skills can make homework time easier, faster and much more enjoyable for everyone involved!