3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Homework

By Rebecca Bauer
Get the Most out of Homework. Learn how to handle homework in this Notes from the Backpack episode.

What does homework time look like in your household? During some school years it may not be so bad, but there are some subjects and lessons that cause stress, tears and anxiety for your child—and YOU too! So, how do you handle homework and how can you help make it a less stressful affair?

During a recent episode of Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, Steve Sheldon, a professor at John Hopkins School of Education offered three insights on the role homework plays in the learning process and how you can help your children—without doing their work for them!

Tip 1: Encourage effective time management

Sheldon shared that time management is the biggest challenge. As parents, we are constantly negotiating and setting limits. He often tells his children, “You can watch YouTube for five or 10 more minutes, but then we need to sit down and get your work done.”

“If when you come home from work, one of the first questions you ask is, ‘Hi, is your homework done?’ day in and day out, and your child knows that that question is coming, it reinforces that this is something that I want you to value,” said Sheldon.

Tip 2: Look at homework as a way to learn more about what’s happening in the classroom

Sheldon looks at homework time as an opportunity to help his children practice concepts and other lessons and see where they excel or struggle.

 “I can see that one of my children might be struggling with multiplication, in math, or maybe it’s something about writing,” said Sheldon. “And what I think they need is a little bit more practice or some kind of structured way to help them think through it.”

Tip 3: Take advantage of the “That’s not how the teacher did it!” situation.

When you try to assist your child with homework, it’s not uncommon to hear an outburst that you’re doing it differently than how they learned in the classroom. Sheldon says, this is the time to step back and say, “Can you teach it to me?”

“If your child can explain to you how they’re doing math in this new way, the act of teaching to somebody else is a powerful way of learning,” said Sheldon. “Then homework’s doing a lot of things. It’s helping teach you how the math is being taught, it’s helping reinforce what they’re learning. It’s exposing places where there’s misunderstandings and it’s created for communication, parent to teacher in this case.”

For more tips about homework and info on how schools are handling homework, listen to the full interview with Steve Sheldon on our podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts!

Rebecca Bauer is the family engagement specialist with the Center for Family Engagement at National PTA.

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