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Empty lunch bag, complete with half-eaten peanut butter sandwich? Check. Dirt-and-grass-stained gym clothes? Check. Tonight’s homework? Oops. Forgotten again. Shortly after he starts grade school, your tot's homework will likely start rolling in — unless, of course, he's lucky enough to be enrolled in a school that forbids it.
Whether it’s reading, math, science or Spanish, chances are that on a nightly basis, your little learner will be asked to complete some type of schoolwork at home. If your child seems to have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to remembering to bring his homework, well, home, you'll want to try out following tips and tricks.
Planners, Agendas and Folders
Just like adults, children can feel overwhelmed by their “to-do” lists. This is why purchasing a kid-friendly planner or agenda book can be especially helpful. Julie Hazlett, a fourth grade math teacher of over 21 years from Lower Burrell, PA, says that all of her students are required to use a planner or agenda in her classroom.
"All homework assignments are gone over together at the end of the day, which students record in the planners," she says. She then instructs her students to organize all of the materials they'll need to complete the night's homework. "Parents then sign the planners that night, and I check for signatures the next morning," she says. Signing the planner, she says, lets the student know that his parents and teachers are communicating.
If your child is a habitual homework-forgetter, talk to his teacher about implementing a similar process, even if it's on an individual basis. Hazlett, who taught fourth grade for 21 years before becoming a math specialist, also suggests that parents provide their children with a special homework folder, as well as a special place to place the folder when they return home. "Parents can check that spot every day before their children leave for school to make sure homework is put in their backpacks," she suggests.
Hazlett also employs an incentive-based reward system in her classroom. She issues each child in her class a punch card, and each time the students return their homework over the course of a two-week period, they earn a hole punch in the card. "Once you have 10 punches, you pick a prize from the prize box and start on a new card," she says.
This system could easily be adapted at home for younger children. Simply create a colorful "I Remembered My Homework" card or sticker chart, and then, each time your child remembers to bring home his homework (and completes it), you could either hole-punch the card, stamp it, or add a sticker. Once the child has collected 10 stickers or stamps, he can choose a reward, such as a small toy, a trip to the ice cream store, or staying up a little later to watch TV or play a video game.
If the planner and incentives aren't working — or, even if they are and you want to add an additional layer of accountability — you may want to have your child pick a "homework buddy." This is a method that Hazlett uses in her own classroom, and she finds it effective.
According to Hazlett, a homework buddy is when "a student is paired up with another student and they remind each other to take homework home and check with them the next day to see if it was returned." Even if this isn't a system that your child's teacher uses in the classroom, talk to your teacher about using it for your child, and involve yourself in the process of helping your child choose a buddy.
While all of these tactics will hopefully help your child learn to remember to bring his homework home, there is no substitution for ongoing communication with your child's teacher. "Don't hesitate to contact the teacher if you as a parent feel that you aren't seeing homework or if you have a question about it. Communication between teacher and parent is important and will prevent a lot of problems," Hazlett says. In addition, your child's teacher may post upcoming assignments on a website, and your school may provide online parental access to your child's grades and assignments through a website like PowerSchool or Edline.
Parents also must inform a teacher if their children are having problems at home. "If students are consistently forgetting homework, there may be a reason at home that the teacher is not aware of," says Hazlett. "Parents need to let the teacher know if something at home may be causing the child to forget the work. Consistency between the parent and teacher is important."