Times have changed. It used to be that it was just homework that made you stressed. Now there is so much more home learning that can lead to increased stress and burn out.
Don’t let it happen.
There are ways you can reduce, maybe even eliminate, the stress caused by children learning at home.
Here are 5 easy ways you can use right now.
- Get organized.
Your child used to have a routine. Lessons came in order, recess and the end of school were always at the same time. Your child had a structure to his or her learning. Having a structure took away much of the need for thinking and planning.
Learning at home is different.
Lessons can run into each other and take as much or as little time as the child needs. There may be set times for video calls but the rest of the day is your child’s to use as he or she wishes. Lack of a routine doesn’t lead to freedom it leads to confusion and time wasting.
Set up a learning routine. Having a start time is very important. It puts the day in focus. Then schedule different learning tasks throughout the day. For example:
9-10 am Math
10 – 10.30a.m. Break
10.30 – 11.30 Social Studies
11.30 – noon – clear up
noon – 1.30 lunch
1.30 – 2.30 pm – quiet reading
2.30 – 4 pm – personal time
A schedule like this allows for plenty of opportunity for content variation while covering the main learning points of the day. It also discourages arguments about what your child should be doing next.
Part of getting organized is creating a space for your child to work and having all the pens, paper etc. he might need to hand.
- Break up big tasks.
Nothing is more daunting than a whole page of math problems or being told to write a three-page book report.
Show your child how to break up big tasks into small steps.
You can do this in two ways.
Visually, by covering up all the math problems except the one the child has to do and gradually uncovering new ones as he progresses.
Or by creating a list of steps that need to be taken to get to the goal. Drawing a step ladder and putting each task on one step with the goal at the top works well for Picture Smart learners.
It doesn’t matter if you get some of the steps in the wrong order. You can sort hat out later when the task isn’t so scary.
Use the 20-minute rule.
Anybody can do anything for 20 minutes. When your child knows that after 20 minutes he can stop and take a break the task seems more manageable. Use a timer. If after 20 minutes the task is not complete go back to it for a further 20 minutes.
- Whose job is it?
Three people are involved in homework. The teacher, your child and parent. Each of them has a different job to do.
- The teacher’s job is to set the homework, make sure that your child knows how to do it, mark the work and provide feedback.
- Your child’s job is to finish the work to the best of his or her ability.
- Your job is to provide guidance if and when your child needs it.
When everyone does their job, and only their job, the stress level is reduced. When one person tries to do another person’s job everyone’s stress level goes sky high.
If your child is struggling to do the work let the teacher know so that he or she can reteach that subject. Please don’t try to teach your child yourself – there are too many ways this can go wrong.
Discuss these ‘jobs’ with your child and let your child know that you will not be doing the work for him but you will talk to the teacher if he has problems.
- Focus on strengths.
Don’t fret about what your child can’t or won’t do. Accept that your child will find some work easier than others. When your child finds some work difficult remind your child of his learning strengths. If your child is Picture Smart – learns best by looking – ask him to draw a diagram or mind map or use a graphic organizer. If your child is Word Smart – learns by talking, reading, listening, – ask him or her to talk about the issue, ask questions about what he has to do, make up a story about the task. If your child is Body Smart – learns best when moving – make sure he has plenty of opportunity to move around.
One way to focus on your child’s strengths is to praise the process not the product. By that I mean praise your child for how he works not what he produces. Of course it is fine to comment on a good piece of work but it is much more important to praise your child for how he created that work. You may say – You thought about what you had to do – well done or, I really liked the way you focused on getting your work done.
Your child will try to repeat whatever it is you praise. When you give praise for good learning habits your child will try to repeat them.
- Walk away.
If you feel your stress is growing – even if you don’t – a good strategy is to walk away from the situation. This gives you time to take a breath, calm down, and rethink things and it gives your child time to take responsibility for doing the work.
Remember, you are your child’s guide, you lead your child to learning (I wonder where I have seen that before?). Your job is not to be your child’s teacher.
Walk away and let everyone do their job.
One final note – your relationship with your child is more important than homework. Do what you can to reduce stress, yours and your child’s so you can preserve it.
Please let me know your thoughts and ideas by adding to the comments below. Other parents will benefit from your knowledge.