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As long as there’s been school, there’s been homework. References to homework go as far back as ancient Rome, when Pliny the Younger gave his oratory students speeches to practice at home. The modern version of homework can be traced to German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. American educator Horace Mann encountered Fichte’s ideas while studying in Prague and brought the concept of homework to the United States.
Just how much homework teachers should assign students has always stirred up controversy. In the early 20th century, Ladies Home Journal openly campaigned against homework, arguing that children should spend the time playing outside instead. From 1901 to 1917, the state of California went so far as to outlaw homework for students in grades K-8!
Homework, however, does have its benefits. It reinforces what children learn during the day. It teaches valuable skills like time management, problem-solving, and independent study. Homework also keeps parents aware of what their children are learning in school.
If you want to maximize the benefits of homework while minimizing the stress, try these 7 hacks for organizing and optimizing after-school assignments.
Create a distraction-free zone for doing homework. Turn off TVs and cell phones until homework is done. The absence of distractions helps your child finish work more quickly and retain more of the material.
Make sure homework stations have good lighting, an ergonomically supportive chair, and an appropriately sized desk. Encourage your kids do homework at a desk or table and not on a bed in their room or a couch in the den where they’re more likely to get distracted or fall asleep.
It’s easy for kids to feel overwhelmed by the amount of homework in their backpacks. Help them break assignments into doable chunks.
For example, if your child has a worksheet with a lot of questions, cover the worksheet with a piece of construction paper so that only one or two questions show at a time. This visual trick lets your child focus on the question at hand instead of worrying about how much is still left to do.
Try using a timer to make finishing assignments more manageable. Set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes. The time limit makes it easier for your child to focus because the end is in sight. Plus, they’ll be surprised by how much they can get done in a short amount of time.
Encourage your kids to keep their homework space organized. A simple desktop organizer, like mDesign’s Office Organizer Cube, keeps pens, pencils, erasers, sticky notes, and markers ready to use and easy to reach.
This side table with bookshelf is great way to arrange books by subject so the texts your child needs are right there at their fingertips. These file bins are perfect for organizing syllabi, hand-outs, and other important papers. When your kids have everything they need to study, they won’t waste time looking for supplies and materials.
Help kids develop a plan for completing homework assignments. Every child is different. Some children need a break between school and homework, while others like to dive right in as soon as they get home. At the start of the school year, agree on a homework start time and stick to it.
Teach your child to plan ahead by doing things like working on big projects a little bit every day to avoid last minute panic or completing easy projects first to get them out of the way. It’s a great way to teach time management, a skill they’ll need in college and the workplace.
For a visual reminder of their after-school schedule, use dry erase markers and a clock to break down study time per subject.
Give children something to look forward to after homework is done. Skip bribes like candy or money; instead, brainstorm positive incentives both you and your children agree on. Consider fun, healthy activities as a reward for work well done —things like playing outside, spending an extra fifteen minutes on a video game, or having a friend over. It’s one way to introduce the concept of delayed gratification to younger children and reinforce it in tweens and teens.
Studies show exercise affects cognition; it impacts hippocampal memory, the seat of remembering details and retrieving information. Researchers have found children who learn while moving retain the material longer.
It seems counterintuitive to suggest taking a break once you’ve got kids settled down and studying. But breaks reset the brain. After a break, your child can shift from one assignment to another and focus more easily on their new task.
These homework hacks are simple ways to ease back into a homework routine. The bonus is you’re also teaching your children valuable life lessons about the importance of time management, the mind-body connection, impulse control, and self-regulation—skills that can help them realize their potential and have an academically awesome school year.
Check out our Back to School mBlog series for more inspiration for the new year.
Lisa Langford is the Senior Copywriter at mDesign
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Aug 18, 2021