Making Homework Less Work
Homework has always been disliked by students, but with many American students attending school online, homework encompasses more than ever. Students may feel an overwhelming amount of work simply because it’s all at home.
In a normal school year, teachers consider homework a valuable tool. It can reinforce concepts taught in class, provide new information beyond what was explained in class, and let the teacher know if the students understand the concepts.
While some students have no difficulties with homework, others really struggle. Students can feel overwhelmed, especially if they have very full schedules as they strive to take on lots of extracurricular activities for their college resume. Others find homework stressful after attending a full day of classes. Luckily, there are a few things students can do to make homework less stressful and finish it more quickly.
The first thing students can do to make homework feel like less work is to be strategic about how they get it done. Everyone has times of the day that they are most productive, so help your child determine when the best time is for them to tackle their assignments. Some students lose energy as the day progresses, so waiting until after dinner is a bad idea, whereas other students are burned out when they get home from school and need a recovery period. Once your child has determined the best time to do their homework, encourage them to stay committed to start their homework at that time every day. When they get started, your student should tackle their hardest assignments first. While they may be tempted to start with easier subjects to get them out of the way, they will have the most energy and focus when they begin and will need that mental power on the challenging stuff. Later, when they’re more tired, they can complete easier tasks. Finally, an important homework strategy is to avoid getting stuck on any one particular problem. Students can waste too much time and energy on one specific problem, so if they really don’t know how to do something, they should skip it and move forward with the rest of the homework. They can then ask for help on the problem area in school the next day.
Make a list.
Each day, students should make a list of everything that has to be done that evening for homework, even the minor things like rereading notes from a class or reviewing vocabulary. Once your teen’s list is complete they will be able to work straight through instead of stopping frequently to figure out what to do next, and they will most likely feel satisfaction as they mark each item off their list. Your teen should realistically estimate how long they think it will take to complete each assignment to see how much time they will need and encourage them to stay on task. If your student isn’t able to make an estimate, suggest they time themselves on each task over a couple of weeks so that they will learn how long tasks generally take them so that they can estimate better for future study sessions.
Create a quiet space.
While many teens probably prefer doing their homework in front of the TV, having distractions nearby will significantly slow your child down, making homework time seem much longer that it actually is. Instead, find a place that’s quiet, with as few distractions and clutter possible. Let them know that if they limit distractions during homework, they will have more free time later to do what they want.
Once you have identified a quiet spot for your teen to do their homework, make sure it’s stocked with supplies. Frequently stopping and getting up to get needed items can throw your student off rhythm. Their homework space should have a calculator, pencils, and paper. In addition, before your teen gets started each night, they should review their homework list and gather any additional items needed such as their laptop or textbooks.
Probably the biggest distractions for today’s youth are their phones and other devices. While they never want to be apart from their technology, the constant notifications and the tempting nature of just peeking at who posted what on social media can make it almost impossible to focus on what they are trying to complete. When a teen keeps getting interrupted, it actually takes more of their brain power to get back on track. Your teen can likely cut their homework time in half if they put their phones and tablets in another room while doing their assignments. If your teen is really against this idea, perhaps you can set up a compromise where they put their devices in another room for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute technology break before returning to their work.
Fuel the brain.
To avoid becoming mentally and physically tired, make sure that your teen has some light healthy snacks and plenty of water nearby. Avoid sugary snacks and soda which tend to make students spike in energy at first and then crash before they’re done with homework. Water helps revitalize brains.
While it might seem that you can get more done if you just push through to finish everything at once, research shows that taking short breaks makes us more efficient and keeps our energy up. During their break, they should stretch or just walk around a bit and check their technology so that they don’t feel like they are missing out. So, for example, your teen might try working for 30 minutes and then taking a 10 minute break or work for 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break. Breaks should be timed, though, because most teens will lose themselves in technology pretty quickly.
Even if your teen pays attention in class, studies for tests, and does their homework, they might still come across a subject that is very difficult for them. It’s important that your teen get help in the subject matter before they fall too far behind, which is very demotivating. Some teachers will work with students before or after school to explain things more clearly. If your teen doesn’t feel comfortable with their teacher, ask their guidance counselor if there’s another teacher who might be able to offer some time. Another alternative is finding a tutor.
Our brains work off of reward systems. Help your teen identify simple rewards when finishing their homework, such as watching a special show, eating ice cream, playing a game, or going out and doing something fun.
If you implement all these tips, your teen will be surprised by how much time they can shave off homework just by focusing and committing to a distraction-free study plan.