Are you staying up till after 9:00 p.m. helping your child with homework—from big projects to worksheets (yes, unfortunately, these still exist in the 21st century digital age) to “busy work” to real-world learning activities that’ll make him/her well-equipped to solve 21st-century problems to all the other assignments that are just too much to complete in a seven-hour school day? We know your struggle. We’re in it together, and as they say, we’re in it to win it. Let’s get to the heart of the matter in six short steps:
- Change your mindset: You might be thinking, “I send my child to school to learn, then I reinforce that learning at home by providing homework assistance”. Let’s rethink that: You are your child’s first teacher. Explicit teaching should also happen at home, and this can save you tons of homework time. Are you a super busy professional? If so, efficiency is the key. Every minute counts. Read on to see how this works!
- Make sure you know what’s being taught in class and what learning materials (e.g., textbooks, workbooks) are used. If your child’s teacher distributes a weekly newsletter with the lessons that will be taught for the week (providing topics, textbook/ workbook information, in-class assignments/projects, etc.), this is priceless for turning homework struggles into opportunities. If there’s no newsletter, advise him/ her to create one.
- During “homework time”, based on what will be covered in class the next day, explain one key concept or skill from each subject (e.g., one from math, one from science, one from language arts)—five minutes each with a few practice questions in between. If you have access to an online textbook, great! Use it!
- What will happen next? When your child goes to class the next day, additional explanation and practice will connect like Super Glue with the prior knowledge or foundation you, yes YOU (you’re the first teacher; don’t forget!!) built the day before. It’s a science of learning thing: We build new knowledge or meaning by making connections with prior or existing knowledge.
- What happens after this? Are you ready? Homework time will be more efficient; more of an opportunity to solidify what your young learner is now practicing for about the third time. As they say, “The third time’s the charm!” Homework will become more like a learning opportunity—not a struggle to reinforce something you didn’t teach to begin with.
- Here’s the extension. No, not more homework, just real life. Your home and entire surroundings are filled with learning opportunities. Whether it’s addition, subtraction, water cycle, or vocabulary, connect concepts to be learned with real life. For example, if you’re in the supermarket with your little learner, (s)he could add the cost of various items; and if you happen to put something back, (s)he could subtract. These are the experiences that make learning stick, not worksheet stuff. Our children learn best when they are able to live or experience what they’re being taught, not just read about it.