By Wendy Brown
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
There’s a saying at the Wiesbaden Parent to Parent program: “Do routine things routinely.” When it comes to homework, establishing a routine is one of the most important ways parents can help their children, said Lisa Craven, a Wiesbaden Parent to Parent team member. “Find that routine that works for your family or your child and do that routinely,” she said.
Craven spoke to a group of seven parents at the Wiesbaden Army Community Service offices in Hainerberg Housing Sept. 5 about the subject of “Avoiding Homework Hassles.” Parent to Parent is a program that provides informative and interactive workshops to organizations or groups of parents. In addition to establishing a homework routine, Craven encouraged parents to display a good attitude to their children about homework and school in general. “Your thoughts become their thoughts, and (a bad attitude) will make it that much more difficult,” she said.
Parents should also help their children become organized, Craven said. That includes finding a good time and place for homework as well as the necessary supplies. When choosing a time, it’s best to find one that is not a stressful time of the day, Craven said. In addition, because many children are tired after school, it is often a good idea to give children a 45-minute break to decompress before starting homework, Craven said. Also, if a child hurries through homework in order to participate in a particular activity, such as video games, it can be a good idea to make that activity weekend-only, Craven said.
When it comes to big homework projects, it is best if children work on them one piece at a time over as long a period of time as possible, Craven said. “How do you eat an elephant?” she said. “One bite at a time.” Often, weekend mornings are a good time to work on big projects, Craven said. Kathy Tone, also a Parent to Parent team member, suggested that parents make a homework station, which consists of a tri-fold board with fabric glue-gunned on it to form pockets for school supplies.
Homework stations are portable and handy when, for example, one child has a soccer practice and the other one doesn’t, but is waiting at the practice, Tone said. Parents can also keep a box of school supplies handy in the car for those situations, she said.
Craven said that when it comes to helping children with their homework, it is necessary to help without doing the work for them. In terms of helping, parents should keep up with assignments and grades, help with directions and maybe the first few problems of an assignment and provide guidance toward finding sources for answers. “Help them to learn where to go when they have a problem,” Craven said. “That’s a life skill.” Parents should also check the work and offer praise if it is warranted, Craven said. Parents should only offer praise if the child does a particularly good job – – not just for doing what is expected, Craven said.
Parents should avoid giving children answers instead of guidance, Craven said. Children need to reap the natural consequences of their actions, she said. “Don’t be afraid to let your kid fail if that’s what they need to learn at that time.”
It is better for a child to learn hard homework lessons earlier rather than later because the consequences for failure are not as large as they are in high school, for example, Craven said. When it comes to decreasing homework frustration, it is a good idea to tackle the hardest homework first, she said. Difficult homework will only become more difficult after the student completes other homework and gets tired, Craven said. Taking a break can also help alleviate frustration. Homework is important because it provides a means of communication between home and school, it improves student achievement and teaches and reinforces personal skills such as organization, self discipline and time management, Craven said. Generally speaking, students in grades kindergarten through second should have between 10 and 20 minutes of homework a night, students in grades three through six should have between 30 and 60 minutes of homework a night, Craven said. For students in middle and high school, the amount of homework varies by subject, she said.
In general, parents should keep in mind that it is incredibly important to be involved in their children’s education. When it comes to student achievement, research has shown that parental involvement in a child’s education means more than socio-economic status, Craven said. That means parents should help with homework, volunteer at school when possible and be sure to go to school open houses and teacher conferences. “We are our children’s first teachers,” Craven said. Wiesbaden Parent to Parent provides a variety of workshops for parents, including how to stay connected during deployments, how to make smooth school transitions and how to be involved in your child’s education. The program’s team members welcome workshop requests from groups, Craven said. To contact Wiesbaden Parent to Parent with a question or workshop request, email email@example.com.