“My kid always rushes through her homework!” I hear this complaint from many parents. As adults, it’s difficult for us to understand why our children can’t slow down, take time to focus, and check their work. Rushing is not a serious issue if your child occasionally races through homework because she has “better things to do.” Rushing only becomes a problem when your child can’t slow down, seems unmotivated to do well, and often turns in work that is inaccurate and contains careless errors. For this type of student, rushing is frequently a daily habit.
I’m a big proponent of establishing a Dedicated Homework Time, oth¬erwise known as DHT. It’s a scheduled block of time each weekday that is dedicated to homework, whether the student says she has it or not. DHT helps break the rushing habit. Regardless of how quickly your child finishes homework, the entire DHT should be dedicated to academi¬cally related tasks. If she finishes before the DHT is up, she can study for a test, work on a long-term project, organize her notebook, or read.
The general rule of thumb is that the total time spent doing homework should be equivalent to 10 minutes per grade level. For example, a third grader’s DHT should be 30 minutes; 4th graders should complete 40 minutes and so on. Once 7th and 8th grade rolls around, I recommend an hour. Students in grades 9 – 12 benefit from 90 minutes of DHT. I’ve found that for many parents struggling with the homework issue, implementing DHT is the best place to start. The question then becomes, “How do I do it?”
To establish a Designated Homework Time, sit down with your child and discuss why you’re implementing this new concept. It’s best to have this discussion either at the beginning of a month, a new school week, or a new grading period. At this time, you may say, “I know homework has become stressful for both of us. Let’s try this for the next month,” or “Let’s start this quarter off on a positive note.”
A common question regarding DHT is “What do you do if there’s no homework assigned?” It’s been my experience that there is almost always something to do. Ask your child to do a binder check. She’ll probably find assignments she forgot about or is putting off. If there is really no homework, consider the following options:
For younger children:
• Begin to work on an upcoming book report or project.
• Learn to keyboard if handwriting is consistently difficult to read.
Try Type to Learn software to teach or improve typing skills.
• Drill math facts on an educational website or computer software. Some great websites are www.funbrain.com and www.multiplication.com.
• Simply read a required book or choose one for pleasure.
Older students can:
• Plan ahead. Use this time to record long-term projects along with incremental due dates.
• Work on anything that’s not due the next day. All incremental deadlines have associated work. Getting ahead during the DHT is one of the best uses of time.
• Study for an upcoming test. Review old tests and quizzes or cre¬ate a study guide similar to what may be on the test.
I recently worked with bright, warm, and engaging sixth grade girl named Gianna. Gianna’s parents reported that their daughter would do the least amount of work necessary to get by and often proclaimed that she was finished in less than 15 minutes. Before they turned around, she was out the door, hanging out with the kids in the neighborhood. When there was no one in sight, Gianna was quick to jump on the computer and begin instant messaging with her friends. I recommended that a full 60 minutes be carved out of Gianna’s schedule for DHT. Her parents agreed and were more than happy to add this to their schedule since homework time had become such a battle.
DHT worked wonders for Gianna’s situation. She and her parents no longer argued about the minimal amount of time she spent on home¬work. In fact, Gianna’s grades improved because she was turning in better quality homework. However, her parents encountered one common problem. On some days, Gianna did not have much homework. When this oc¬curred, they felt like they were constantly repeating the same ideas over and over. So, with Gianna, they created and posted a DHT menu on the family bulletin board. It contained a list of activities available to Gianna when she had no homework left to do.
Establishing Designated Homework Time and a DHT menu helped Gianna to com¬plete her work independently. When her 60 minutes of DHT was up, one of her parents asked to see her completed work. They did not check every answer but they made sure the work was generally correctly and more importantly, completed.
Establishing DHT is an easy and highly effective solution to homework woes. You may find that your child is resistant to her new found schedule at first, but stick with it. It truly does take 21 days to change a habit. In just three weeks, your child will adjust and the precious after-school hours will be a whole lot less stressful.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her new book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at anndolin.com or ectutoring.com.