DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Even youngest pupils should focus on study skills
By Vicky Katz Whitaker
Copley News Service
Teaching young children good homework habits may be the best lesson they'll ever learn.
In addition to giving them a chance to fortify and expand upon what they've absorbed in the classroom, homework sharpens organizational techniques and self-discipline needed to work independently, education experts say. Students will need these skills to tackle the tougher homework load they'll face in middle school, high school and college.
What's the best way to make sure your children are on the right track?
Give them the tools and support they need, say professionals like Heidi Liss Radunovich, University of Florida assistant professor of human development and author of a popular online manual for parents, "Helping Children With Homework" (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy866). It's one of several print and electronic guides filled with advice for parents trying to get a grasp on how to best help their child handle homework.
It's not an issue confined to older children.
Today, homework assignments can start as early as kindergarten, points out the National Education Association, the nation's largest organization of professional educators. From kindergarten through second grade, children may have to spend anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes a day doing homework. Third to sixth graders can expect 30 to 60 minutes of homework a day and a significant amount more by the time they reach junior and senior high.
Though the amount of homework varies by subject, middle and high school students may be assigned research projects and oral reports with extended deadlines in addition to regular homework. "They may need help organizing assignments and planning work times to make sure homework is ready to turn in on time," the NEA says.
That's why it's important to create the right climate in which your child can do his/her homework, Radunovich says, a view endorsed by other educators. She recommends creating a daily "quiet time" each afternoon or evening in which the whole family participates, whether it is for doing homework, reading, writing letters, studying, research or similar activities.
During this time, turn off the television and put other distractions on hold (such as video games or telephone calls), recommends the U.S. Department of Education in its guide, "Let's Do Homework," now archived online, that offers parents advice on dealing with homework issues. Among its other recommendations:
- Pick a place to study that's fairly quiet and has lots of light such as a desk, kitchen table or corner of a living room.
- If you live in a small or noisy household, you may need to take a noisy toddler outside to play or into another room during family quiet time.
- Make sure your children have pens, pencils, paper and other supplies. Radunovich says parents should help their children get access to the information they need, taking them to a library or letting them use a computer. But, she warns, you may need to monitor their use of latter. "You don't want them to wind up using the computer to surf the Internet or play games."
You can help your child follow homework directions and work through a few problems together, the NEA says, but let your child do the rest. Afterward, check the work, praise right answers and show your child how to correct mistakes. To do otherwise sends a signal that you think that they can't do the work and that homework is really unimportant.
Keep a special folder with their outstanding work or post it on the refrigerator. "When a child shows you something he or she has done well, share his or her pride and make positive comments about it," says Radunovich.
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