Helping your 6-year-old child with homework should be pretty elementary, right? Well, it can be, and you won’t need a lengthy study guide to pass the quiz. If resisting the temptation to supply more than paper and pencils to your little scholar proves challenging, consider some of the reasons her teacher assigns the homework in the first place. Sure, your child gains practice with new skills taught in the classroom, and her teacher gains perspective about who struggles with the skills, but there’s more to think about than a review of daily classroom curriculum. Here’s how to help without doing.
Weigh the Rewards
Yes, the immediate goal of turning in a homework assignment is to receive a good grade -- no argument there. But did you know that homework teaches your 6-year-old skills she can use beyond the present moment and environment? Homework helps your child to understand a relationship between her choices and consequences. Children learn about managing time, prioritizing tasks and doing their best. Self-confidence grows from doing a good job, and doing it independently. Children receive more than good grades when loving moms provide positive support for homework tasks instead of the correct answers.
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Establish a Routine
You've set up routines for meals, snacks, bathing and bedtime. Don’t stop now. You know that routines provide children with a predictable set of events and expectations associated with daily life. Your child does not have to guess or connect imaginary dots to know what happens now and what will follow. Establishing a routine for homework establishes when, where and how the homework will be completed and defines your role in supporting your child’s efforts.
Set the Scene
Unlike an older sibling who may prefer completing homework in her room, your 6-year-old will work best when you are in close proximity. Designate a quiet work area that provides adequate lighting. Let your child decorate a box that will hold homework supplies such as paper, pencils, glue and crayons. Keeping in mind that your child will need a snack and "reconnect to mom" time before beginning her homework, schedule a time for homework and stick to it. Give yourself a gold star for providing a place, a time to work and lots of supplies.
Keep It Positive
Ensure that your child understands the instructions associated with the homework assignment, and then be available to field questions, provide suggestions or reframe a problem to offer an additional perspective. Praise her efforts, even when the going gets a bit bumpy. Encourage your child to work independently, but be accessible when she has problems. Intervene if you observe that your child appears overwhelmed or agitated by suggesting a break. Your child will learn to shine in a starring role when you choose to assume a supporting part in her homework routine.
Model Lifelong Learning
You are an influential role model, so do your homework. Model and share your love for learning with your child. Demonstrate the application of learning to real-life events by reading a book, computing the cost of a grocery list or reviewing your email. Discuss with enthusiasm how you have continued to learn new things as an adult, and how learning continues to enrich your life.
Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.