Let’s face it – we’re living in unprecedented times. With many school districts across the country extending spring breaks or teaching online for the foreseeable future, many parents and educators are finding themselves in a whole new world of schooling. Kids are now home all day without the structure that school provides. You are most likely helping with your child’s homework a lot more (if so, check out our teaching methods for parents!). However, depending on your child’s situation, you may be struggling to get him or her to complete school work from home. Parents and educators alike know some of the tricks kids try the most… maybe your child asks for a snack, or asks a series of unrelated questions, or gets up to use the bathroom four times. Because it’s important to keep children learning, calm, and healthy (body and brain!) during this time, as leaders in at-home education and enrichment, A Grade Ahead is sharing its favorite strategies to get kids to do homework during a pandemic.
Keep reading for tips that will not only get through these unexpected times but will help you for years to come!
A Grade Ahead’s Favorite Strategies to Get Kids to Do Homework During a Pandemic
Keep a routine
Many, many studies show that kids thrive with stability and routine. Establish a certain time for homework and stick to it each day as much as possible. To help motivate your child even more, let him or her have some choice in the schedule. You may have one child that is an early bird and does best doing school work right after breakfast. You may have another child that loves to sleep in but thrives after lunch. Giving children the choice to plan part of their days is an easy way to help create a routine that works for you both.
Make a homework station
If you don’t have this already, dedicate a part of your home solely to your child’s homework and schoolwork. Make sure this station is stocked with supplies that your child needs. If your homework station is in a common area, like a kitchen or dining table, put these supplies in a packable box to easily move it as needed. Try to make your child’s homework space as appealing as possible with what you have at home.
With multiple children, be sure each child has his or her own space that is comfortable, relaxed, and free of distractions.
Split it into short chunks of time
Schedule some breaks into your child’s study plans. Taking a break before your child feels frustrated or burnt out can truly improve the quality of the study session. Depending on your child’s grade level, he or she could be facing 10-120 minutes of homework. You can adjust the times to your child’s needs. For instance, if you’re having a lot of trouble keeping your 5th grader on task, and he or she has 50 minutes of homework to do, split it into 2-3 short sessions of 15-25 minutes each!
Right now, you don’t have to worry about balancing homework with soccer practice, play rehearsal, volunteering activities, or dinner plans at restaurants… Give you and your child some flexibility with this extra time.
Reward your child, but in a meaningful way
Help your child understand that homework is about progress and achievement. We want students to complete work because they see its meaning and they appreciate the feeling of achievement.
In our blog about academic rewards, we advised avoiding any transactional model – whether it’s adding money or withholding affection! Read more here.
Expert Tip! Avoid bribing your child in any way. Of course, it’s easy to tell your child he or she can have or do something in return for completing homework. I would be willing to bet almost every parent has done this before – no judgment here – but making this small change can turn a child’s motivation from “what do I get?” to “what can I achieve?”
Get involved (without taking control!)
Another option is the classic approach to make learning fun. For math problems, help your child visualize them by using small, interesting objects. If your child is reading plays in English, act it out with him or her. By simply being part of the homework experience in a fun way, you can vastly improve your child’s experience during this time.
Remember, homework is your child’s job. Your job is to help and encourage!
Expert Tip! Avoid completing your child’s homework: let him or her learn consequences in a healthy and safe environment of school. If this situation occurs, and he or she does face consequences, ask questions that encourage your child to reflect: “Are you satisfied with your situation? What do you want to do about this? How can I help you reach your goals?” Remember, our goal is to build your child’s intrinsic motivation!
Make it clear to your child that he or she is responsible for the homework. At the beginning of each homework session, encourage your child to communicate the goals for the session. Then, have him or her check in again at the end of the session. If your child likes feeling official, consider giving them a clipboard to get signed every day after the end-of-session check in. (Some children may feel demotivated by this – read the previous section about different ways to approach this end-of-session chat!)
Expert Tip! With this extra time, now is the perfect time to make a homework chart. Get your child involved in making it! On a source like Pinterest, a quick search for “homework chart ideas” will bring up great results! Or, like our super helpful Ask Emily post suggests, fire yourself and appoint your child CHO (Chief Homework Officer!). This is another great way to get your child feeling motivated to complete work.
Daily fights about school work truly don’t help. Even as parents, you can’t force your child to complete homework or to care. What you can control is your reaction. As easy as it is to punish, argue, or threaten, these reactions just increase the anxiety level surrounding homework. Plus, these reactions actually reinforce negative behavior because it’s giving attention. According to the parenting essentials on the CDC’s website, attention of any type increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again.
Therefore, ignoring, or not reacting to, negative behaviors is the best approach. Keep the message simple: relay your expectations for homework, express disappointment, and communicate your hope for tomorrow to be better. This is especially important if you have teenagers who are adjusting to a new normal and may feel unmotivated.
Back off a little
Especially with teenagers, you may feel like the more you push your child, the less he or she complies. This is a hard time for older kids. While younger kids may be celebrating the opportunity to be home with parents all day, teenagers might not feel as comfortable being at home and separated from friends.
Once again, this is where staying calm and remembering that homework is your child’s job comes into play. Allow your teens to plan their homework time (with your approval, of course). Some parents enforce a no-technology-before-homework rule, and the homework magically completes itself much more quickly.
Of course, if you start seeing a pattern of bad grades or missing assignments, then you can step in and impose your own schedule. First, let your teen feel the repercussions. Some parents step in and “save the day” when it comes to late or missing homework, but facing the outcomes may be just what your child needs to build that intrinsic motivation. Encourage your child to reflect (and make a new plan!) after facing these consequences.
And, always, be sure to keep up the praise and encouragement!
Take a deep breath – you got this! We know this is a tough time, but we’re all in this together. We hope that these tips can offer some help during this tumultuous time. Which of these strategies to get kids to do homework during a pandemic have you tried before? How are your routines changing? Share your story in the comments below!
Author: Brenna Waugaman, Curriculum Development Assistant at A Grade Ahead
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