Letter: Homework Space

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I enjoyed reading the helpful article “A Place to Call Their Own” by Jennifer Fauci, as it included some great ideas for parents to create a comfortable homework space for their children. As both a teacher and private literacy tutor in Port Washington, I often speak with parents who are looking for ideas about how to best support their children’s homework needs in order to help them be more responsible. I have taught Kindergarten, grades 2, 4, and 6, and I provide reading support for students that span those ages. There are just a few points I’d like to add that I think will also be helpful for parents.

When creating a homework space, it is important to keep in mind to your child’s specific needs in order to help him or her be most successful. For example, some parents may feel it is beneficial to create a homework space within view of an adult, so that you can recognize if your child needs assistance understanding the directions or might need to take a break. As homework increases throughout the grades, some children need a five or 10 minute break in between subjects or after completing a particularly effortful assignment. Other children do better with privacy and complete silence. Just like adults, some children work well while listening to music, such as classical or jazz, and some work well listening on headphones, while others do not. In homes with more than one child, consider whether your children might work well near each other (some older children gain responsibility by setting an example for their younger siblings) or in separate rooms or during different times. Remember to be flexible and to involve your child in brainstorming ideas that will help him or her be most successful; try out different things and ask him or her afterwards how that worked. As children advance through the grades, adding a calendar to their space will allow them to take ownership over the due dates of their assignments and upcoming tests. Some will need a parent’s help copying things from their school agenda onto the calendar, as well as crossing out each day, before they internalize those tasks and do them automatically.

Always check in with your younger children and show them how to be detail oriented. Remind them to reread the directions after they complete an assignment to make sure they answered the question properly. Also remind them to look again in their homework planners or assignment lists after they complete all their work each night, to teach them how to independently ensure they didn’t forget something. Show them what it means to look carefully at their work to make sure it’s complete. As the year progresses, encourage them to do this more and more independently. It’s a good idea, however, to revisit those reminders at the beginning of each school year, especially during a transitional year like 6th grade. Many middle school teachers put homework and test information on their faculty web pages, making it easy for parents to check in with what their children should be doing. Sometimes a child benefits from the knowledge that you have access to their assignments and tests and are aware of what’s coming up.

As their children get older, many parents are unsure of when and how to gradually release the responsibility of homework all onto their children. The key is that word “gradually,” and sometimes a child who was formerly quite responsible with his or her work may need extra support once again at the beginning of a new year. When in doubt, checking in with a child’s teacher is always welcome, and so is checking in with your child.

—Liz Lazar

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