How would your inner artist depict the homework scene at your house? If you find yourself reading this post, your homework sessions probably look more like the scene on the right.
You’re stuck in the endless homework battle: After school hours are filled with arguments, tears, and unfinished assignments. Maybe you’re lucky enough to win the battle, and your kiddo actually places (tosses?) the completed homework into his backpack. But that doesn’t matter much, because somehow it gets lost before third period when it’s due.
You are not alone. The number one school-related complaint I hear from families is Homework Sucks!
It doesn’t have to suck quite so much. I know that may seem more like a dream than a reality. Let me show you how to make it real.
Take a minute and picture your ideal homework scenario. Really think about it. Even jot down a few ideas or draw a picture. Go on, do it. I’ll wait.
You CAN make this image a reality. Let’s get started now.
First, you need to know it won’t happen right away, but each afternoon can be one step closer to your ideal image. If your homework battles resemble a dirty hockey game, you won’t find 100% peace in one night, but stick with me awhile. You may be surprised at the changes you can make! Maybe your homework hours will be like the boring hockey games: the ones without a brawl.
Ready? commit yourself to the long game here. You can’t wave a magic wand and fix it overnight. Sure, you could bribe with an ice cream buffet (I’ve actually read of desperate parents doing this), but how does that help your kiddo in the long run? It doesn’t.
I could give you the Ultimate Guide to Winning the Homework Battle, but that would be too much too soon.
You’ve committed to the long game, but we still have to start with small pieces.
Here’s your one small step towards winning the Homework Battle for today: The Pomodoro Method.
It works like this:
- Be productive for a set amount of time.
- Take a short break.
- Be productive for the same set amount of time.
- After several work-break intervals, take a long break or call it a day.
Here’s what this might look like for kids:
Step One: Choose the amount of time/completion intervals
Extra points if your kiddo helps figure this out!
First, make a decision about your work intervals.
- Will your kiddo work for a set amount of time (measured in minutes)
- Will your kiddo work until a goal is reached?
Work completion intervals will depend on the type of work. Perhaps it’s answering two math problems (or five). Or reading a paragraph. Or filling out half a worksheet.
Do your homework hours look like a bloody boxing match? Then I suggest starting with a short amount of time or a small work completion goal. What’s reasonable for your kiddo? Pick a time or completion goal that you know your kid can achieve RIGHT NOW. Maybe it’s only two minutes. Maybe it’s 20-30 minutes.
Your first few tries are not the time to push your kiddos to their limits.
You’re better off starting with an easily achievable goal. This will allow your kid to experience success. Immediate success makes homework seem not-so-bad. His confidence will increase, and reaching longer work intervals will be in the near future. Two minutes now can turn into 30 minutes before you know it. On the other hand, starting with 30 minutes when each minute is a battle will waste time and energy. We’re aiming for the elimination of screaming, not perpetuating it.
Step Two: Choose break length
Now it’s time to decide how long breaks will be.
Breaks should be short, especially with short work intervals. Think 1-2 minutes. Longer work intervals might lead to slightly lengthier breaks, maybe 3-5 minutes.
Break should be long enough to recharge your brain batteries, but short enough to not forget what you were working on.
Step Three: Decide what to do during breaks
Bonus points if you have this discussion with your kiddo!
Break activities will vary from person to person. Think about what kind of stimulation (or lack thereof) your kid needs. Does he need to tune out and put his head down? Or maybe he needs to get the giggles out?
You might have to do some experimenting with what works. Sometimes an active kiddo may get too much stimulation from wiggling and jiggling during break. It’s possible he needs to snuggle with a blanket and listen to a quiet song. Or maybe 25 jumping jacks and a mini dance party are just what the homework doctor ordered. (Figuring this out can be a bit tricky, so I’ll save that for another time. For now, go with your gut and experiment.)
Once you figure out what works, you can create a short list of break activities to choose from. I suggest keeping it to no more than 5.
Check out these websites and apps for some go-to break ideas.
- Go Noodle- has energizing and calming activities
- Just Dance Kids videos (you can often find them on YouTube)
- Head space- has meditation for kids
- Storyline Online
Hang in there, you’re almost ready to do homework. And Win!
Step Four: Set the number of time/work intervals
More bonus points if you involve your kiddos in this discussion!
Now that you’ve gotten the work intervals and breaks figured out, you’re almost ready to work. All you have left to figure out is how many of these work/break intervals you’ll do.
If you’re using time intervals, think about how much time you think it should reasonably take your child to complete the homework. Do you expect this homework to take 30 minutes of work or closer to 3 hours? Choose the amount of work intervals that add up to the expected completion amount.
If you’re using work intervals, you’re finished when you get to the the end of the task(s).
Congratulations, you’re ready to win the Homework Battle. Homework doesn’t have to suck so much.
If you’re trying to change only slightly chaotic homework time into solid productivity time, hopefully your kiddo will respond positively right away and complete all homework the first time you try this method.
But if homework time is a full out game of Road Runner vs Wiley E. Cyote, don’t expect all assignments to get finished the first few times you try it. YOU CAN DO IT, but it takes some time. You know the phrase “It takes 21 days to make a habit”? I’ve found it to be true. How about you? Give it a month. Be consistent for the whole month. Use this method every homework day. Perfect it. By the end of the month, maybe all of the assignments actually get finished each night.
Ready to call Homework 911? Contact me here for personalized coaching to implement this method with your kiddos (or you!)
No matter where you are in the homework help process, I’d love to hear your comments. Click here to tell me what homework time is like at your house. Be brave and post it to the Facebook Group. If you try the method I laid out for you, I’d love to hear about your results. If it sounds ridiculous for you, I want to know that too. Remember, I’m here for you and your kids, so HELP ME READ YOUR MIND because they didn’t show us how to do that in teaching school.