Some of us remember the dreaded sessions at the dining room table, which usually happened after a negative report from a teacher necessitated intervention of the parental type.
I hated it.
But now that I have kids, I ‘get’ it. I need them I spend a bit of time each night engaging in school-related activities. Sometimes this takes the form of traditional ‘homework,’ and by that I mean at-home practice sheets, or tasks intended to be completed at home and submitted the next day. Sometimes the evening is less formal, requiring 20 minutes of reading or studying one chapter.
But what does ‘doing homework’ actually look like?
So there are two main parts to setting up a homework space for your kids: 1) gathering materials, and 2) engaging purposefully, with accountability.
assembling your ‘stuff’
Since my kids do their homework while one of us is making dinner, we decided the dining room table was a good place for work to happen. Our dining room, however, is not an office, so having materials nearby but out of the way is key. Gather up the basics, which will always be stored together in your homework area:
1 package of blue pens
2 pencils (per child)
2 fine tip black markers
1 package of pencil crayons
1 pencil sharpener
1 highlighter ( per child)
1 ruler (per child)
1 package of ruled 3-hole punched paper
1 package of blank paper
1 package of graph paper
1 binder per child, with dividers
If studying another language, an applicable dictionary
Disguising it all:
The pen and pencil supplies can be sorted into a condiment tray like this one or this one, or my personal favorite here. Blank paper can be sorted into file folders and stored vertically, or in a simple binder. For the ultimate in moveable, fashionable storage and organization, try the raskog from ikea, this great hide-it-all, or my favorite thirty-one bag.
You can tuck everything in a nearby cupboard, on a trendy bakers rack, or in a closet. Every night everything can come out, and then go back where it all belongs.
engaging purposefully, with accountability
The reality is that some teachers don’t mark homework, and others do. Whatever your current situation the guideline I follow is 10 minutes per grade per night of review. So, a child in the second grade should spend no more than 20 minutes reviewing work from the day, practicing skills, and documenting progress, in addition to the nightly expectation of reading for pleasure. In comparison, a student in seventh grade should spend 70 minutes each night reviewing and studying.
But what does that look like?
First, finish any work from the day that isn’t yet complete. Second, compare your notes from the day to your text or your teacher’s website, and add anything you missed in class. Add all new vocabulary to your Book of Knowledge to help that content-specific language really ‘stick.’ Finally, engage with something each night by conveying the information in a new way. I encourage students to use graphic organizers as a way of re-working material. Creating Info-graphics is a great way to dig back into content as well. Cornell notes are a great way to summarize information while you review.
This homework time is also a great time to teach time management. Make sure you include a calendar so kids can add in due dates and plan ahead to get their work done early, just in case. That way if something goes wrong they still have time to finish.
Once we establish the routine of nightly review, in-class confidence begins to soar. Students feel not only more prepared for the next day, but any small misunderstandings can be quickly corrected, supporting comprehension at a deeper level.
So hit your local office supply store and organizing department, and show your kids that you value their nightly engagement with learning enough to support it at home. You’ll be amazed at the differences you see.