Category Archives: homework tips

Completing the 2019-2020 school year and preparing for 2020-2021

My grandson, who has been studying at home with his mother and me since mid-March, finishes kindergarten next week.  His classroom teacher has been diligent about sending daily homework:  writing journal entries and illustrating them, writing new sight words in sentences, completing pages in a math workbook, listening to someone read picture books and then filling in worksheets about how a character is like another character  or identifying and drawing the setting.  Then there is online work at a phonics site and a math site three times a week.  Phew!

The question now is what kind of work to do during the summer months so my grandson enters first grade well prepared.

I went online to find out exactly what skills are required for a rising first grader.  I made a list and of the ones my grandson has not accomplished.  He needs practice holding a pencil properly, and he needs to consistently write his letters and numerals frontwards.  In math he has more to perfect:  counting to 100, counting backward from 10, displaying data in graphs and tables (really?  in kindergarten?), and extending patterns.

That, plus reviewing and extending his reading skills, is our summer curriculum.

If you are wondering if your child is ready to start the next grade, go online to your state’s department of education and find the standards for the basic subjects of the grade he or she is completing.  Make a list of the standards your child hasn’t met and let that list become his or her summer school work.  Sometimes you can accomplish these goals by finishing up workbooks.  Or you can order workbooks on particular skills for your child to master.   Or you can create your own materials, but of course this takes time.

And if you don’t have time to do everything?  If your child is in the primary grades, focus on two things:  basic reading skills (phonics) and simple addition and subtraction.  Keep reading to your child for enrichment but focus on the essential skills of reading and math.

7 good practices for getting after school homework done

  1. Establish a place to do homework. This might be a desk in her bedroom, the kitchen table or the coffee table.  It will have good lighting and be quiet.  No radio.  No TV.  No video games.  No cell phone calls.
  1. EPSON MFP imageProvide necessary supplies. Sharp pencils, erasers, pens, colored pencils, notebook paper, a tablet or laptop, and a good dictionary should be at hand.
  1. Establish a time for homework. This could be immediately after school, or after a snack, or after an early dinner.  Try to make it routine with visual, sound or other clues.  The kitchen table is cleared and homework begins.  The piano practicing is done and school homework begins.
  1.  Make a habit of doing the hard homework first. Once it is out of the way, the child will relax and be able to do her other homework without thinking about the tough homework still to come.
  1. Anticipate the child’s needs. If your child has difficulty keeping on task, sit by her and encourage her.  Interrupt her daydreaming.  Fetch her a bottle of water so she needn’t get up.  Make sure she has sharp pencils.  Remove baby brother so she can focus.
  1. Establish yourself as a “go to” person. Encourage her to go to you to ask questions if she doesn’t understand directions or a vocabulary word.  Explain a concept if she doesn’t get it.  Ask questions if she seems stuck.  Offer hints.  Find another explanation online and read and discuss it together.  Offer easy examples.
  1. Don’t do your child’s homework. For her to learn to think, she needs to do the work herself.  Help her to persevere through the difficult assignments, but don’t do them for her.
  1. Create a reward for her hard work. Tell her you know she has worked hard and you are proud of her.  Fix her a warm bath or shower.  Read her a book in bed or tell her a story.  Develop bedtime routines that relax and reward her for doing her work.

What is the best place to do homework for an elementary school student?

A desk in a bedroom?  The kitchen table?  The public library?  Is there a best place for little kids to do homework?

boy reading

A child’s bedroom offers privacy away from house noise. On the bed, on the floor, at a desk—the child has options for posture.  For a self-sufficient and focused child, a bedroom can be great.  But for a daydreamer or a procrastinator, a bedroom can be disastrous.  Also, bedrooms are usually upstairs or down the hall from the refrigerator.  And Mom or Dad are in another part of the house, making it difficult to consult with them.  Kids like to hang around the family in the evening.

The kitchen table or counter offers little privacy and is busy—the dishwasher chugging, someone cooking, and the family crisscrossing the room.  For a child sensitive to noise, the kitchen table is not ideal.   But for a child who needs someone prodding him to continue his work, it can be ideal if noise and distractions are limited.

The family room couch and coffee table can be great.  They offer a comfy seat and various postures.  They  are near the kitchen.  But what if Dad wants to watch the TV news at 6:30?  Or the baby or dog is crawling around?  The rest of the family has to respect the student’s need for quiet.

Girl reading Junie B. Jones.

The floor can be a great homework area, especially if the child has a mat designated for homework.  Roll it out in any part of the house, and the child can sprawl and relax her body.  But again, the rest of the family needs to respect the student’s need to focus without noise.

Public libraries are generally not good for young children unless they need to work on a group project.  Then some libraries have private conference rooms where children can talk, exchange ideas and work together, providing an adult reserves and is responsible for the room.  Transportation can be a problem for some students.  If a student does not own a computer, and if he needs to do internet research, a library can be a great place to work.  Reference materials abound.  But usually an adult needs to reserve a computer, and transportation can be an issue.  Some libraries are not open evenings.

The best place to do homework depends on a number of factors—the student’s personality and study skills, noise levels, hunger, interruptions, time of day, transportation—so there is no perfect spot.

I did homework at the dining room table surrounded by my brothers and sisters while another one practiced the piano in the next room.  The older children acted as experts to the younger children, and our mother looked over our shoulders frequently.  Ideal?  Maybe not, but it worked.

Let your child try many different places.  After each one, ask him to consider why it worked or not.  The more the child knows about his learning style, the more he can determine what kind of environment works best for doing homework.