I've been asked to do a post about homework and how I manage it. Alone. With four kiddos at home. I have to be honest, homework is not my favorite. And I'm super thankful that my kids' teachers send home relevant work that isn't homework for the parent, but rather the student. In the past, I've dreaded opening up the backpack to find an assignment/project that seems to be more for me than my child.
What I do love is that homework provides us an after school routine. And I like that it gives my kids some quiet time after they get home. But, I don't love nagging, arguing, whining or any of the other undesirable behaviors that are brought on by this activity.
First of all, if you remember my post HERE, I like to give the kids some sort of large motor activity right when they come home from school. If the weather is nice, they'll run around in the backyard or we'll choose one of the activities I mentioned before. They'll get worn out for a bit and inevitably come in chiming, "I'm hunnnnngryyyyyy". It's never just, "gosh mom, I'm hungry." No, it's long, drawn out and has a nasal sound attached. Slightly annoying, yes.
As I get snacks ready, I try to sit them all down at one time. Homework is best done on our dining room table. It's away from the TV and other distractions. We have a hand-me-down table that will someday need to be replaced, but because it's the place where my kids do art projects, homework, and other activities, I'm happy to have a used and very well loved table, for now.
Here are my "HOMEWORK RULES". Ya know, if there were such a thing.
1) We do 30 minutes of homework every day, unless it's a special occasion or we have a big conflict. This means that even if we have done everything in our binder/folder, we work quietly at the table for 30 minutes. This helps to establish a routine and discourages them from speeding through their work just to get done early.
2) We eat a snack during homework. Kids are hungry and allowing them to eat while they work, is easier than making them wait until they are done. Besides, I like to space out the snack and dinner time. In the pictures I took, we did things a little backwards and made a quick grocery store trip (including a snack before we left), so homework wasn't started until almost 5pm.
3) Even siblings with no "homework" should participate. Ever since my kids were old enough to sit on a chair (or even if they could sit in a high chair with crayons), I've insisted that they work on something during homework time. Imagine the distractions that 1 and 2 year old girls can provide. Instead of allowing that, or constantly shushing them, I encourage them to join in and even say things like, "if you are sitting quietly at the table, you can have your own homework." Funny how homework is exciting at that age. Just wait, sisters. Just wait.
4) Allow kids to struggle through their work. The teacher in me wants to be a perfectionist and help them through every mistake, misspelled word or grammatical error. But, I have to hold myself back and let them do it on their own. If they ask for help, I'm happy to chime in, but otherwise, I stay hands off as much as possible. I find that the less I intervene, especially with more of the creative writing, the better they do. I can proofread, or provide feedback when they are done, but stepping back and not being critical is helpful in keeping them motivated during the entire activity.
5) Use technology to your favor. My kids both have weekly IXL math homework. Because this is an online program, it can be done from any computer, smart phone or tablet. My kids LOVE to use their kindles, so if I say they can get out their kindles to do IXL, it's like Christmas! For some reason, homework on a kindle doesn't feel like homework. I have them bring these to the gym with me and while their sisters are in the childcare and I'm working out, they sit at the tables next to me and do their IXL math. It's a total win win! #tipsfromamultitaskingmom Your welcome.
6) Set firm guidelines. Believe me, just because this is our routine that I try to stick to, doesn't mean my kids are happy to follow this every day. In fact, most days, they are begging for the neighbors to come down and play even before they've fully stepped foot in the house. If I use homework as leverage, they are more apt to be on board. "Once your homework is done, they can come down." Or, "If you complain about homework time, we won't be able to use any electronics tonight", or fill in the blank. Now, just because I have firm guidelines doesn't mean I'm not flexible in my routine. There are days when the weather is gorgeous and I'm okay with the neighbors coming down after school. I'll make exceptions and we'll shift homework time to right after dinner. The key point, though, is that once you've set your foot down that it's homework time, there is no arguing, or their will be a loss of privileges. Ack! I sound like a mean mom!
7) Take homework on the go! We are not strangers to a busy schedule. Homework doesn't have to be done at the dining room table. In fact, two days a week, I have my boys do homework during the opposite boys' swim lesson (they are back to back). I've also had them bring homework in the car if we are going to a soccer practice, or some other place where we'll be sitting for awhile. Sometimes, doing homework in a new environment is fun and exciting for kids!
8) Don't let your child's homework become your homework. It shouldn't be designed that way! If they don't get it done, let them face the natural consequences. I know this is a hard pill to swallow, but all it takes is one missed recess. Or, hopefully, anyway! And they won't be forgetting again!
So, I guess what I'm saying, is let homework be a tool for repetition, routine and sanity in your house. If it becomes a battle or something that is negative, it's time to re-evaluate and try something different!
Disclaimer: No, these photos were not staged. This was a very real picture of tonight. What you are missing, however, is the moment when Brylie ate a blue crayon and I had to fish it out of her mouth. That provided a few minutes of great entertainment and distraction....until they finally got back to work! ;-)