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Children are more successful with homework when they have a consistent routine for doing it -- but when it comes to the actual time, one size doesn’t fit all. When the school year begins, experiment with various time slots to see which one works best for your child, suggests Juleen Angelo, assistant principal at Rose Warren Elementary School in Las Vegas. Each time period has pros and cons; find the best fit for your child and your family. If a time slot works for your child, she’ll be focused and relaxed. Once you choose a homework time, stick with it. When you plan your family’s schedule, show your children that you value homework by including it on the daily calendar.
Immediately After School
Some children need to do homework as soon as they get home from school, while they are still in the work mode. This is the best time for your child if she has a hard time focusing on schoolwork once she’s started to play. The material from subjects such as math and language arts will still be fresh on her mind. If your child sits down and does her homework right after school, it eliminates the struggle of pulling her away from an enjoyable activity later in the evening. It also reinforces the “work now, play later” work ethic, and it discourages procrastination.
If your child has lots of pent-up energy when he first gets home from school, he might need some time to unwind before starting homework, says Angelo. He can eat a snack and discuss his day with you, then go outside to run around and play. One advantage of this time slot is that he’ll enjoy the daylight before it’s too dark to play outside. You might want to set a timer so he knows that when it goes off, break time is over. This homework time works well for children who can focus and settle down after play.
Some children work independently on homework, but others like to have a parent close at hand. If your child wants you within ear shot when she does homework, consider having her do homework as you prepare dinner. She can sit at the table or at the kitchen island, and you'll be handy in case questions arise. For a more independent child, just say, “Dinner will be ready at 5:30, and you need to have your homework done before then.”
Dr. Charles Fay, author of the “Love and Logic” book series, recommends setting aside a given amount of time each evening after dinner for “family learning time.” During this time, all electronic devices should be off -- even for Mom and Dad -- and while the child does homework, Mom and Dad increase their brain cells in some way (reading or learning a new language are two options). If dinnertime is late at your house, this time slot might not work. Your child could become overly stimulated and unable to unwind before bedtime. You don’t want him to compromise sufficient sleep time for homework.
Is your child an early bird? If so, she might prefer getting a fresh start in the morning before school, says Angelo. This time slot won’t work if your child resists getting out of bed in the morning or is in a fog for the first hour of her awake time. You don’t want to start her day off with stress. One benefit is that if your child does homework before school in the morning, her academic juices will be flowing before she enters the classroom. This time slot works well if the homework typically takes about the same amount of time every day to complete.
Before-Bed Reading Time
Most schools recommend that students read for approximately 30 minutes a night as part of their homework assignment, says Angelo. Don’t include this in the regular homework slot. Suggest that your child read for a half hour right before bedtime. He can lie in bed or choose another comfortable spot in the house. This establishes a lifelong pattern of reading and emphasizes that it's enjoyable and relaxing, rather than an arduous task.