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"After you finish your homework."
You have probably heard your mom or dad say these words. It might seem like all the good stuff has to wait until your homework is done. There's a good reason why adults make a big deal out of homework. Homework helps you learn. And getting a good education can help you build the kind of future life that you want. So homework is important, but how can you get it done?
First, you need a quiet place without clutter and confusion. Writing on top of potato chip crumbs while talking on the phone is not going to help you finish your history lesson. Turn off the TV and other distractions. You'll be better able to concentrate, which usually means you'll finish your work more quickly and it's more likely to be correct.
Set aside enough time to finish your work without rushing. You can't just squeeze your science assignment into the commercials during your favorite TV show. Really learning something takes time. But if you find that you're struggling even after putting in the time, you'll want to ask for help.
Why Do Some Kids Need Homework Help?
Aside from just not understanding the lesson or assignment, kids might need homework help for other reasons. Some kids are out sick for a long time and miss a lot of work. Others get so busy that they don't spend enough time on homework.
Personal problems can cause trouble with your work, too. Some kids may be dealing with stuff outside of school that can make homework harder, like problems with friends or things going on at home.
Kids whose parents are going through a divorce or some other family problem often struggle with getting homework done on time.
Even students who never had a problem with homework before can start having trouble because of problems they face at home. But whatever the reason for your homework struggles, there are many ways to get help.
Who Can Help?
Talk to someone (parents, teachers, school counselor, or another trusted adult) if you're having problems with schoolwork. Speak up as soon as you can, so you can get help right away before you fall behind.
Your parents are often a great place to start if you need help. They might be able to show you how to do a tough math problem or help you think of a subject to write about for English class. But they also can be helpful by finding that perfect spot in the house for you to do your homework and keeping supplies, like pencils, on hand. Parents also can cut down on distractions, like noisy younger brothers and sisters!
Teachers also are important resources for you because they can give you advice specific to the assignment you're having trouble with. They can help you set up a good system for writing down your assignments and remembering to put all the necessary books and papers in your backpack. Teachers can give you study tips and offer ideas about how to tackle homework. Helping kids learn is their job, so be sure to ask for advice!
Many schools, towns, and cities offer after-school care for kids. Often, homework help is part of the program. There, you'll be able to get some help from adults, as well as from other kids.
You also might try a local homework help line, which you would reach by phone. These services are typically staffed by teachers, older students, and other experts in school subjects.
You can also use the Internet to visit online homework help sites. These sites can direct you to good sources for research and offer tips and guidance about many academic subjects. But be cautious about just copying information from an Internet website. This is a form of cheating, so talk with your teacher about how to use these sources properly.
Another option is a private tutor. This is a person who is paid to spend time going over schoolwork with you. If cost is a concern, this can be less expensive if a small group of kids share a tutoring session.
Do It Together
Some kids will hardly ever need homework help. If you're one of them, good for you! Why not use your talent to help a friend who's struggling? You might offer to study together. Going over lessons together can actually help both of you.
Information is easy to remember when you're teaching it to someone, according to one fifth grader, who says she helps her friend, Jenny, with multiplication tables. "It helps me to learn them, too," she says. "I practice while she's practicing."
You might want to create a regular study group. You could set goals together and reward yourselves for completing your work. For example, when you finish writing your book reports, go ride your bikes together. Looking forward to something fun can help everyone get through the work.
Still Having Trouble?
Sometimes even after trying all these strategies, a kid still is having trouble with homework. It can be tough if this happens to you. But remember that everyone learns at a different pace. You might have to study for 2 hours instead of 1, or you might have to practice multiplication tables 10 times instead of 5 to really remember them.
It's important to put in as much time as you need to understand the lessons. Ask your mom or dad to help you create a schedule that allows as much time as you need.
And keep talking about the problems you're having — tell your parents, teachers, counselors, and others. That way, they'll see that you are trying to get your homework done. And when it is done, make sure you find time to do something fun!
Whenever I present on effective interventions, one of the most common questions I receive is: “Too many of our students just won’t try . . . how do we motivate them to do their homework?” While there are certainly students at every school that lack the self-responsibility to get their work done, it is misleading and often inaccurate to assume student desire is the primary cause of missing homework. Before jumping to this conclusion, I recommend a school staff consider the following questions . . .
- Are you sure our students have learned the skills required to complete the homework? Homework is to reinforce what a child has learned, not to teach the concept. Students cannot complete what they do not know how to do. If we have not checked to make sure our students have learned the skills needed to complete their homework, then it is unreasonable and unfair to hold students accountable to do the work.
- Is the homework truly essential work . . . or busy work? Let’s be honest, there is a lot of homework that really is not tied to essential standards.
- Does the homework require extra supplies at home? Some students can’t go to the craft store to get supplies.
- Are there factors outside of school that interfere with a student’s ability to complete their homework? Some students work after school to help their family make ends meet. Others may go home and serve as the primary caregiver to younger siblings. Imagine how a student must feel who cooks, cleans, and cares for younger brothers/sisters after school, just to be told by their teacher the next day that they must learn how to work harder and be responsible because they did not do their homework.
- Are you catching the problem early? When too many assignments are missed before we help, students can dig a hole so deep, it becomes their grave.
- Finally, have you asked struggling students why the work is not getting done? If students feel you care, more often than not they will honestly tell you why.
In the end, it comes down to this—very few kids want to fail. If we would start by making sure that our assignments are meaningful work tied to essential standards, and that every student has the skills and materials necessary to do the work, then most kids will do the work. When they don’t, we must remember that missing assignments are not the problem, but a symptom. We must ask the question, “Why is the student not getting the work done?” The answer to this question is the key to solving the problem of missing homework.