We’re turning the tables – or the homework tables. Parents’ advice for parents. Last blog post (here), I shared ideas for how you can get your kids more organized, by modeling, teaching and sharing what you already know. These are suggestions for letting your kids teach you what they know about themselves … and their best conditions for getting more organized. I work with adults on simplifying and organizing, not with children – so these are stories and good ideas my clients have shared with me as we work together.
This is intuitive for some people. These are skills some parents have learned. And not so for others. And it’s all more difficult when we’re crazy busy and feel like we don’t have the time. With all that, here’s some advice from clients. Always happy to have you share and comment with your own suggestions.
Ask about the kinds of homework they’ve brought home. How the child works best and where. You may get blank stares at first, but by asking the question, you will both begin to notice what works best for this unique person. And noticing is the biggest step.
Different types of assignments may require different locales around your house for the best working conditions. Different materials can be kept in each of those places based on what’s typically needed. Especially with technology, it’s very easy to get spread out all over the house. If you do this, strive to have one “home” for homework review occurs and where it gets returned to, once complete (the “in” and the “out” processing). One place, so it does get returned to the school on time. On the technology front, look into networking your computers and tablets and such, so that work is accessible no matter where they actually sit to complete the homework.
How does your child focus best? Some can’t focus unless there is silence. Others can only focus if there’s white noise (music, family talking). Some benefit from using a timer to educate themselves on time passing: What does it feel like for a 1/2 hour to pass by. For some, the clock provides focus, motivation, and adrenalin making completion far easier. Observe how long your child can focus. For some, frequent breaks actually support focus over a longer period of time. Watch how fatigue and food/energy affect their focusing ability.
Kids need to learn this life-organizing skill of breaking down a big thing into smaller things. Think brick wall and individual bricks. Does your child/teen understand how to build that brick wall by completing bricks, one by one? Or does he/she get overwhelmed by only seeing the brick wall? Teach this skill and you’re teaching much more than a homework planning skill, don’t you?
“Do your homework.”
This can be too vague. What is the homework in each class; when is it due; what’s the history with that teacher – his/her standards. By asking these questions, you’ll notice whether there’s an issue in understanding the work assignments, of keeping track of them throughout the day, of managing time on all of them.
This is related to the brick wall; does “do” your homework mean to finish a whole project? How much is enough to get done tonight? Getting to what point in the assignment, specifically? There’s “done” with a project and “done” with the steps needed to move it forward just enough this week, so that the deadline in the future is met.
Ask the questions.
Listen carefully to their understanding as they answer you.
Observe (both of you).
Things may not get organized the way you would organize your work, but that’s the idea here. If you play to the child’s strengths and minimize or work around what’s not as strong, then that’s the right system for that child. Do share how you’d organize because there is learning there; what they learn is more important than whether they use exactly the systems you do. And then teach those life organizing skills.