Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Homework Skills for Young Children

Homework Skills for Young Children

A Chatham County resident asked about how to teach good homework habits to young children. This is an excellent question because the best time to teach children lasting homework habits is when they are young and impressionable. First, as background, the homework provided to the child should be at the level that the child has already mastered so the child can work independently to practice skills. If the child is struggling with the content of the homework, the parent should contact the teacher to adjust the difficulty level of the work. Assuming that the work level is appropriate, this is an opportunity for the parent to teach good works skills which will last into the future. If the parent is enthusiastic about the chance for new learning, the child may catch some of this positive spirit. A young child has a very limited concept of time and space organization, so the parent can began to teach these skills. The parent should help the child decide the best time for homework for that particular child. It does not always have to be the same time per day if the child has many activities, but the timing should be discussed and approved so that the parent can help the child with the schedule. You can post the schedule on a chalkboard so you can alter the homework schedule when needed. This is an opportunity to teach time, so the parent can show the child the hands on the clock, set a timer, or draw a clock diagram so the child may eventually internalize basic concepts of time and planning. Although adults often think that the child should get to the homework immediately after school, a time for a snack and recreation can often be planned before the child begins work. A young child may need breaks programmed into the schedule. Ideally, the work should be started and completed before dinnertime, so that the child can have some down time, bath time and a good night's sleep. The child should have a special place organized for school work. A desk with appropriate study materials is ideal, although the adults will have to oversee the child organizing the space and keeping it neat. Another concept is to have a folding organizer which the child can bring to a table and set up with work materials. The background of the area should be kept quiet, with the TV off, so that the child can concentrate. It is very important that the adult stress the child's responsibility for his or her own work and the parent refrain from completing the work for the child. The parent should praise the child for work completion, but accuracy is the responsibility of the child. Each parent will want to clarify with the teachers their expectations about parent responsibility for homework. In some cases, for example, the teacher expects the parent to cross-check the homework with the child's planning book. Your child's teacher is a good source of information about appropriate expectations for your child's work. If your child is experiencing difficulty, you can also check with the school counselor as to the special kinds of assistance and accommodations available for your child.