Fall is coming! The weather is getting cooler and crisp, the days are getting shorter, and the trees are changing into the evocative fall color. As mother nature transitions from the summer heat to the crisp breeze of fall, this also beckons the beginning of the school year.
The “Back-to-School” period is perhaps the toughest and most important time of the year to adjust the family schedule. Kids go from a fun-filled “summer mode”—where schedules are relaxed (or non-existent)—to suddenly being expected to be up and out of the door in minutes. Not to mention the homework struggles that so many of us have to deal with when moving into the school year. This transition may come with new stressors for both the kids and parents.
But with some structure and careful planning, you can smooth out back-to-school jitters—and help create a healthy homework and study routine.
Here are some tips to help you set up healthy homework routines for your kids and hopefully take the hassle out of back-to-school transitions:
1. Start with a Routine
If you’ve been drawn to daily battles over unfinished homework or procrastination leading to late nights, you need a homework routine. This communicates clear expectations and helps your kids understand what is expected of them and when.
A homework/study routine also helps prevent procrastination and it helps instill good work ethic and organization skills that’ll come in handy in the future.
Once you have a healthy routine in place, stick to it! Focus on consistency and make it a habit. But consistency does not mean rigidity. It’s best to maintain a level of flexibility with the routine to accommodate changing needs—adjusting it where necessary. This also leaves room to revise and improve the schedule by identifying and ironing out rough spots.
2. Develop a Study Plan
Having a homework routine is one thing – getting positive outcomes from it is a whole ‘nother hurdle. You must instill good study habits. The underlying idea is to make the most of the time allocated for their homework and studying.
Plan ahead and teach them healthy study habits such as getting enough rest, studying in chunks, avoiding cramming, etc. But be careful not to form the habit of helping your kids with schoolwork.
Sure, it’s good to care—and after a day of chauffeuring them around, whipping up their meals, and tending to their every need, it makes sense that you’d want to work on his/her school project. However, kids need to be empowered to be independent. They need to learn the importance of taking time to understand something and putting in the effort.
3. Listen to Your Kid’s Needs and Opinions
One of the best to make a homework routine stick is by getting the kids involved. Don’t just shove your rules and schedules down their throats—lest you continuously engage in an uphill battle to make them follow the homework routine. They need to know that their concerns are heard.
If a concern they raise makes sense, incorporate it into the routine. This may include time to decompress a bit before tackling the assignments, a healthy snack, or some minutes to interact with friends. And if they don’t get what they want, at least give them a reason why their suggestions aren’t feasible.
4. Create a Designated Homework Space
The same way you’re more productive in certain environments or settings also applies to your little ones. Find a designated space for homework that is tidy, quiet, well-lit, comfortable, and stocked with school supplies. This helps improve their focus and study outcomes.
5. Get Rid of Distractions
In today’s technology-inundated households, distractions are everywhere—from cell phones, gaming consoles, to TVs streaming your kids’ favorite shows 24/7. It’s important to get rid of anything that may encourage avoidance or procrastination. Distractions can also include other kids running around in the household. In this case, create separate study spaces.
It’s also crucial to understand what makes your kids tick. Which environment best supports their peak concentration? Do they prefer background music or pin-drop silence? What is their level of self-control?
6. Follow a Timeline
Time management is a valuable skill that when mastered, will serve your kids for the rest of their lives. Work with your kids to carve out a reasonable timeline to complete homework. This can be coupled with a checklist or visual reminder of pending homework tasks.
Having a timeline not only allows your kids to complete homework in a more efficient and structured manner but also allows you to monitor their progress. If they take more time than usual, you can dig deeper to understand the reasons.
7. Set Up Incentives
The idea of incentives partly ties into the concept of delayed gratification. Present the homework schedule in a “When…then…” format. For example, “When you finish your homework, then you can go play outside.” or “When you study for 30 minutes, then you can use your phone.”
This gives them something to look forward to after putting in the homework effort. It motivates them to work on their assignments—while making the activity feel less like a chore and more like a checklist item.
A healthy homework schedule is not only good for the child’s development and learning ability, but it also helps reduce some of the frustrations parents encounter while transitioning to the back-to-school family schedule.
Establishing and implementing a homework and study routine allows your children to build skills that’ll help them navigate life in high school, college, and even the workforce. But remember to balance out homework with playtime—both are equally important for a healthy, happy child.