For many families, nightly homework struggles impact every area of life. Family relationships are stressed. The atmosphere in the home reflects the tension. There is less time available for hobbies, sports, family time or fun. Financial resources are often impacted as tutors are hired year after year.
In other words, it’s not uncommon for homework struggles to become a defining factor in the quality of life for many families.
Here are five suggestions that can help make the time spent doing homework less stressful and more productive:
Homework Tip #1: Start by having what you need at hand.
Pencils, paper, scissors, poster board, markers, calculator… you know the list. When you have study supplies readily at hand, it can reduce tension. Homework takes a significant time commitment as it is. Don’t add to that time by spending an hour looking for the slide rule, or having to drop everything and run to the store for poster board.
Homework Tip #2: Practice familiar cues.
Some kids thrive on routine, and you can create fun habits that can help your child’s brain take familiar paths to settling down and being productive. One writer explained that anytime he sat down to write, he wore the exact same ball cap. Before long, his brain began associating that ball cap with focused writing, and he found himself able to transition quicker into a state of productivity when wearing it. How about a Homework Hat? Or Lucky Math Pencil? What if you had your child write a list of affirmations on an index card and read them aloud every day before tackling homework assignments? Affirmations might include, “I can be focused when I need to be.” “I can do this.” “I’m ready to learn.” “I can do more than I think I can do.”
Homework Tip #3: Try a new setting.
Routine is good, but sometimes it can also help to shake things up a bit, either as a reward for a productive week, or to see if your child actually studies better in a different setting. How about a local coffee shop? A picnic table beneath a backyard tree? Dad’s favorite leather chair? A blanket tent in the living room?
Homework Tip #4: Feed (and water) your child’s brain.
Did you know that dehydration can reduce your child’s ability to focus and remember? Or that it can cause headaches and brain fog? Similarly, processed or sugary snacks can also make it more difficult for your child to study well. The solution? Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, and fuels his or her body with brain-healthy meals and snacks.
What are brain-healthy foods? Think good fats, lean protein, and complex carbs. Good fats can be found in omega-3 oils from fish, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens. Lean protein can be found in raw almonds, baked chicken, and organic plain yogurt with fresh fruit. Complex carbs can be found in whole grain tortillas, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
How important are healthy snacks for your homework-wrestling kid? Let’s talk about healthy fats for a moment, shall we? The difference between a diet of healthy, unsaturated fats and a diet of unhealthy, saturated fats is huge. In fact, in one study, rats on a diet filled with unhealthy fats developed learning difficulties. Dr. Philippa Norman, writing about that study, explained that “a child eating mostly processed cakes and crackers, French fries and fried meats loaded with trans- and saturated fats, will build a different brain than a child who is eating broiled fish, nut butter, salad dressings made with olive or safflower oil, eggs and lean meats.”
Homework Tip #5: Help your child to exercise his cognitive skills.
Your child’s brain uses specific skills to think, read, learn, and perform. These skills include:
- Short-Term Memory
- Long-Term Memory
- Auditory Processing
- Visual Processing
- Logic & Reasoning
- Processing Speed
According to Dr. Ken Gibson and many others specialising in the field of cognitive skills, when children engage in short bursts of intense mental exercise before attempting to learn or study, they get better results. Before opening that text book, play some brain-boosting games with your child. Add a timer or distractions to make the game more intense. For example, can your child win a game of tic tac toe (noughts and crosses) with you in less than a minute? Can your child finish a crossword puzzle while you are creating distractions with funny faces and noises?
Homework Tip #6: Address any cognitive weaknesses.
Cognitive skills are so important that if even one of these core skills are weak, learning and/or solving problems is harder. When these core skills are strong, learning and/or solving problems is easier.
If your child struggles with homework year after year, there’s a very good chance that a cognitive weakness is at the root of the problem. A one-hour cognitive assessment can measure your child’s cognitive skills and identify specific weak skills. This is invaluable information because weak skills can be targeted with exercise and strengthened.