Homework Strategies – Avoiding Avoidance

Homework Strategies – Avoiding Avoidance

Maybe it is the first warm night of spring and running in circles outside seems infinitely more fun than homework. Or maybe it’s the night with both late school pickup and swimming practice, and my student has dozed off on the car ride home.

Homework Strategies - Avoiding Avoidance: two children work by lamplight
The Lopez children doing their homework on the kitchen table/U.S. Farm Security Administration

What I know  for sure is that there is a folder stuffed full of worksheets that need to be done!

But, after such a long day, how can I get our daughter into homework mode? I talked about what times work best in our house. But what if the timing is the best that it can be, and my student is still in non-homework mode?

Time to gear up with some strategies.

1. Take care of yourself first. This is a night when my frustration could rise, and I could end up hissing “Just do the worksheet!” instead of calmly helping. Whether it be a snack, or a 5 minute sofa crash, I need to make sure I am calm and ready to arrive at the homework table.

2. Allow the student some warmup time: I know that it may take about 5 minutes for our daughter to settle into homework mode. During this warmup time, she may wiggle, look for excuses to do the homework later, or give up easily on a problem. If I am ready for this warmup period I do not let it distract her – or me from the task at hand. I just accept it, and remind her that it takes a few minutes to go “into the homework zone.” The more understanding she gains of her process, the better. And hopefully this is a skill she can take with her.

3. Be prepared with a bag of tricks:

“Oops! I dropped my pencil” I keep one on hand. Stopping to pick up pencil may interfere with homework momentum

“My pencil broke/is dull/I don’t like this kind” I keep one on hand. Allowing my student to get up and sharpen may break the homework momentum. We have a jumbo, bright blue, electric sharpener and it is very fun. Then we might have to start over with the warmup process.

I’m thirsty: Start homework with glass of water on table. This is also a nice mini-break during homework, as my student can refresh with a sip whenever she needs to regroup

I’m hungry: I make sure my student had a healthy-ish snack prior to starting.

“I don’t get it!” followed by sigh of frustration:  Sometimes we shuffle the work about as necessary. Maybe we start with the easier tasks that we can do together, such as spelling words or Spanish vocab.

Then tackle the pre-algebra. This way we can talk about all she has accomplished already. “Look honey, there’s just this one eensy-weensy math worksheet to go!”

4. Give mini-breaks if necessary, but mini is the key term: Bathroom. Tell a quick, fun story about her day. Organize folder.

There is no better feeling than packing a folder full of completed worksheets for the next day. Even on tough nights, this moment can be reached – and should be celebrated. For every successful night of homework encourages our children that they can accomplish more than they ever realized. Good work!

Homework Strategies - Avoiding Avoidance: two children work by lamplight

Photo credits: © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (top) LC-DIG-fsa-8d25834 (bottom) LC-DIG-fsa-8d25885, photographer: Collier, John, 1913-1992 / U.S. Farm Security Administration


Homework Strategies – Avoiding Avoidance