school homework assignments

When Do You Let Your Kids Do Homework on Their Own?

Originally published on the Ridgewood Moms website

With demands at schools increasing rapidly, many kids are receiving more complex and challenging assignments and projects. It can be tempting to immediately jump right in and help your child tackle this work, without giving her the opportunity to try it on her own. Yet homework can offer a multitude of benefits when your child completes it alone: it can help her become more self-sufficient and independent, and can give her the the extra practice needed to fully grasp new material. Encourage your child to become more independent and complete her homework on her own with the ideas detailed below.

Set up a distraction-free study space

‎When kids come home from school and sit down to begin their homework, they are often overwhelmed with distractions. There are tablets, computers, and phones; background noises; a kitchen filled with snacks; and so many other temptations. Help your child avoid these distractions and better focus on school work by setting up a well-lit, distraction-free work area. Your child might prefer to work on a desk in his room, on a table in the dining room, or in another quiet space of his choosing. Just make sure you designate that area as his “homework space” and load it with all the supplies he may need – pens, pencils, looseleaf paper, scissors, highlighters, and so on, so he doesn’t need to rummage for supplies when he needs it. Also encourage him to have a snack before he begins his homework so stomach rumbles don’t distract him from the task at hand. Additionally, you should make sure there is ample light, technological devices are powered off unless needed for homework, and the area is as quiet as possible.

Teach her study skills

Some students naturally develop effective study skills. They figure out how to take notes, complete their homework in an organized fashion, and ‎manage their time, all on their own. Other students, however, need guidance for developing stronger study skills. Teach your child to open her assignment book as soon as she is ready to begin her homework. She should make sure ALL assignments are written down; if they are not, she should immediately call a friend or check her school’s online portal (if her school has one) to determine which assignments are due, in both the near and far term. If she has any long-term assignments or projects to complete, teach her to break each one down into steps, and write each step into her planner. If she has a test to study for, she should do the same – break the studying into smaller steps (complete a study guide, create note cards, re-read book chapters, etc.) and put each one of those steps in her planner. You can also teach her to prioritize the tasks she has due. If she has five assignments to complete, for instance, she may want to work on the harder, more arduous ones first (and label them 1, 2, etc.), then move on to the shorter, less taxing ones, and so on. Teaching your child time management, prioritization, and homework management skills will help her become a more effective and efficient student.

Help him get started

Many students are perfectly capable of completing their homework on their own but simply have trouble getting started. Say your child has an essay to write on why he does or does not like winter. He may be stuck on where to begin. If so, help him start by brainstorming. He can draw a circle in the center of a page and write the word “winter” in it. Then he can branch out on the top side of the bubble with smaller bubbles detailing why he DOES like winter‎ (skiing, snowboarding, sledding, etc.), then branch out with additional small bubbles below the middle bubble containing reasons why he does NOT like winter (cold, short days, stuck inside, etc.). He can then decide which reasons (top or bottom) are more powerful, choose a stance, and begin to write his essay from there – on his own. Sometimes getting started is the most challenging part of assignments!

Give her praise!

If your child completes even a small assignment on her own, without your help, give her praise! Make sure your praise is specific to the task at hand, like, “I’m so proud of you for completing that reading comprehension assignment. You did it all on your own, and you should feel very proud of yourself.” Even a small victory like that, and just a touch of praise, can build her self-confidence and encourage her to try tackling more assignments on her own. You can also try integrating rewards. If she completes ten assignments on her own without your help, for instance, she might earn a trip to the movies or ice cream store. Help make homework a postive, self-fulfilling experience and your child will be more inclined to try completing her work on her own.

As students move through school, they will inevitably receive an increasing amount of homework. By teaching your child to complete assignments on his own at a young age, you will help him become an independent, self-sufficient, and successful student.

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