Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?
If any of these are you, you are not alone by a long shot. The school year is officially in full swing along with all that goes with it. It can seem like more homework and study material is coming home every day, juggling this with all of the other activities and obligations your family has can bring the whole "learning at home" thing in to the pulling-out-your-hair category very quickly. So the question is, what do you do when learning, homework and everything else isn't fun anymore?
When its not fun anymore...for anyone...especially your kiddos...your face may look a little like this..
I can guarantee you there are many other parents in the word with that exact expression on their face at this very moment. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, especially as schools assign more and more homework and projects.
Chances are your kid might look like this...
Your child is expected to sit and focus for hours at school, this can definitely lead to fatigue and the inevitable breakdown when it comes to homework.
What are you to do? Every situation is different, but there are things that you can try to alleviate the stress and strain that school work and studying is putting on your family. This is also a great opportunity to teach your child skills that will help them as they grow in to adults. Think about the stressful situation on your plate right now- teaching your child proper coping skills will help them navigate those waters as they become older.
If you have decided that something needs to change in order to keep everyone sane, try some of the suggestions below to make homework time smoother for everyone.
Create a "homework space" in your home
When I work, I have a corner of my home that I go to get things done. It is, tucked in our guest bedroom with a small desk and most of my tutoring supplies at hand. When I sit down in my little work space I feel that it is time to do work, there are limited distractions, and I am not in view of the other pressing things that need to be attended to (piles of laundry, dishes, dirty floors ect.).
A similar working environment for children can be very beneficial. Your child does not need a home office dedicated to their studies, just a small corner will do. The goal for this space should be for it to have most supplies that your student might need for their work at hand and limited distractions. If homework is done in the "designated homework area" every night, your child may feel more productive in this area due to its association. Having supplies gathered in one spot may also shave time off of the homework experience by avoiding the "why don't we have any pencils in this house???" panic.
Consider some of these ideas to organize a homework station:
Homework station supply turntable by mom in timeout
A cozy little corner homework station by tiny oranges
Homework supplies caddy by clean mamma (one of my favorite blogs)
Use brain breaks
It is said that a child can only focus for as many minutes as their age plus or minus one minute. Did you just add a minute to your age and ask yourself if you can focus that long? Because I just did... Using brain breaks during homework time can help your child refocus and reset that short attention clock. A brain break can be anything that your child enjoys that helps them reset and refocus. Consider some of the below:
dancing to a favorite song
coloring a portion of a picture
watching a short youtube clip (try sick science)
playing simon says or follow the leader
crossing the midline exercises (what I use in my tutoring sessions)
dance with the help of a youtube video to songs like gummy bear
It is always a good idea to set a timer for a few minutes to ensure that the brain break does not go too long.
Experiment with playing background music for your child as they complete their homework. I suggest music with mostly instrumentals. Try the Mozart station on Pandora to begin or explore other composers (my favorite is Johannes Brahms). Music helps the brain concentrate and can help drown out any distracting background noise in the home. Bonus- your child may begin to develop a appreciation and enthusiasm for classical music if they don't already.
As I write this blog post, my phone sits on silent, in a different room, with the door shut. It is hard for me to focus on the task at hand when it is so tempting to pick up that little screen to see the latest post..tweet..text..insta..ect. Your child may need to use a computer, phone, or tablet for their homework. (More and more teachers are integrating the internet and devices in to their curriculum which it's about time for them to do!) The electronic use that can be helpful to avoid during homework time is the phone that sits at the right hand. When your child can hear their device alerting them that someone has messaged them, or has done something on a game, it can derail homework and their concentration very quickly.
Sometimes homework time is difficult because a child does not understand a concept and it is hard for the parents to explain in a way that makes sense to the child. This usually happens with math or science concepts. For these situations I usually suggest popping over to Khan Academy. The site has great videos on a wide variety of math concepts as well as concepts from all other subjects. The videos and modules often include quizzes so that your child can practice what they just learned.
Not all children can learn by listening and watching a video. If Khan Academy or similar strategies are not working, consider contacting your child's teacher or tutor who may be able to assist you in helping your child understand the concept.
When I am writing lesson plans for my students, if a concept can be practiced in a game- you bet it's going to be a game! It is amazing how inserting a little fun can excite kids about what they are learning. During homework time, if certain concepts need practicing, try a game instead of pencil and paper. Below are some ways you can spice up the boring routine practice:
Have a race to see who can write each word the most times
Play tic tac toe- each person is one of the spelling words instead of X or O
Play HORSE but each player must spell a word correctly before shooting the basketball
Use letter tiles or magnets to spell words
Post sight words around the house and have a scavenger hunt
Play tic tac toe- write sight words in each square and each player must read the word they wish to cover up
Write words in hopscotch squares and play
Shout out math problems, every time your child gets a correct answer they shoot a hoop or kick a ball.
Write math facts on note cards and play war with them. (whoever's answer is highest gets to keep the cards)
Jump rope to a math a fact cadence
I hope that with these suggestions, what was not fun anymore can become enjoyable once again. In the stress and strain of homework time a few changes can make a BIG difference. What adjustment during homework time has worked for your family?