15 truly helpful homework hacks
Homework! Sweet mercy, you either love it or loathe it. Either way, it generally needs to get done, so here are a bunch of ways to make the most of your children's after school time.
I'm not going to throw you the usual 'homework, oh how we hate homework' spiel. Let's just accept that we all loathe it as much as the kids do (and if you don't, you probably know all these hacks already and can help us out with five more... please do!) So, with the whole 'why do we have homework' thing out of the way, may I present the 15 most useful little tips to help get the darn stuff done. My very favourite is #10 but I reckon #8 will see the most progress towards meeting the homework deadline.
Hacking the homework space
1. Pack a homework caddy
While many experts suggest that a dedicated area for homework is key for good study habits, for younger kids it's often a case of setting them up wherever the family happens to be (like out by the pool, perhaps?). It's easier than you think to create a portable homework station. You can buy a cheap cleaning caddy at department stores and they are perfect for housing pens, pencils and all the paraphernalia that a kid needs to get their homework sorted.
2. Stand up for productivity and health
Office workers all over the nation are opting to stand at their desks all day. Standing is said to be better for core stability, weight control and energy levels and you can only assume the kids will benefit from standing to do their homework. The kitchen bench is probably the perfect height to set them up with their books and no chair. If they are really resistant, try them out on a fitness ball at their desk and upgrade them to standing later.
3. Sort out the pencil grip
Check your child's pencil grip as an incorrect grip can make handwriting tiring and sometimes even sore. An easy way to fix a poor pencil grip is to get your child to hold a tissue in their hand while they hold their pencil. It works like magic to bring all the fingers into the correct position.
4. Divide and conquer
If you've got more than one child doing homework simultaneously, where to put them can become a problem. Becky at Organizing Made Fun solved this problem by making some desk dividers to separate her boys. As well as helping the kids stay focused, the dividers also house pockets for things like pens and pencils and a calculator as well as pegs for clipping up the homework list. You can find out how to make this genius item on Becky's blog.
5. String up a line
Thumb tack a piece of string across the room and add some pegs to make a 'homework line'. Your kids can peg up this week's homework sheet along with any resources they need to keep organised. If you don't have a study, put the line up in their bedroom so they don't forget about it...
6. Display a calendar
Get a cheap calendar just for homework (or print off some pages) and let your child be the boss of their own schedule. They can put what's due when and add any other important school dates. Peg the pages to your child's homework line.
Make best use of homework time
7. Routine, routine, routine
Set up a separate routine just for homework. This is an especially good tip for homework refusers ... those kids for whom homework is a unique form of torture. Set aside a set amount of time before or after school each day to get the job done. You can find more tips for luring homework refusers here.
8. Meet Pomodoro
It's not a 'who', but rather a 'what'. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that increases efficiency by structuring break time into the work schedule. You set a timer for a set period of time and when the bell goes off, it's break time. This would be an excellent way to keep kids on track, no matter their age. Set a short period of homework time (say 10 minutes) for younger kids with a five minute break followed by another 10 minute work period. Older kids could have the work period increased to say 20 or 25 minutes. You will be surprised at how motivating working to a timer can be for kids. Incidentally, 'pomodoro' is Italian for tomatoes and the technique was named after the tomato-shaped timer founder Francesco Crillo used when developing the method.
9. Learn to type
I remember doing a touch-typing course in 1990 and my tutor telling me that the keyboard would be obsolete within five years. Twenty years later, I'm still waiting. Just in case it takes another twenty, it might be a good idea to get the kids learning to touch type now. Aside from helping them do their homework faster, their ability to type can help them effectively communicate in this online world.
Here are three cool (free) places for them to learn online:
- Big Brown Bear keyboard game - a simple and effective way for kids to learn the computer keys
- Keyboard Climber - help the monkey jump to the moon as quick as you can
- Cup Stacking - type the letters as they appear on the cups
10. Do your own homework, not theirs
The kids will feel less isolated and put-upon if mum is sitting beside them doing her own 'homework'. We have all got things we need to research, organise and sort out, so make homework time your time to do exactly that. You'll be right there if the kids have any questions, but you'll also have your own work to get on with once they're back on track. Nothing worse than a hovering parent... just say to them, "I'm right here if you need anything, otherwise let's all get on with our own work."
11. Reward effort
Don't forget to make the time after homework a rewarding and fun stretch. Your child has been busy learning all day and deserves some time doing whatever they want to do, preferably something outdoorsy that doesn't involve sitting down!
Making homework easier
12. Don't sweat the times tables
There are some cool little tricks to learn most of the times tables. Try some of these out:
- Try a 3x tables song
- Play some Jet Math to learn 4x tables
- 7x is all about tic-tac-toe
- 9x tables using your fingers
- So are the 6, 7, 8 and 9x tables (I got a bit lost on this one...)
13. Get appy
Kids are more likely to enjoy doing their homework if it involves screen time. There are plenty of apps that can help them with their homework. Try a few of these:
- Friends of ten - helps number learning for younger students
- Mathsterious Mansion - maths for bigger kids by the same team who bring us Mathletics
- Spelling City - awesome help to learn the spelling lists set by your teacher
- Britannica Kids - all-round resource for school assignments
- Facts for Kids - a fact a day to help spark additional learning
Click here for more apps that get kids excited about learning.
14. Make a glue sponge
When the kids are working on big homework projects, glue can get really messy really fast. The easiest way to keep things neat is to make a glue sponge. Cut a dish washing sponge the size of a small container, fill the base of the container with PVC glue and put the sponge on top. Pour more glue over the top of the sponge. Allow the glue to penetrate up through the sponge (overnight is good) and the kids are good to go. Simply press anything you want to glue onto the top of the sponge and then paste it into place. Makes gluing faster and easier.
15. Make homework a part of life
Each week your child will have key homework concepts that that you can really bring to life. For instance a trip to the supermarket can reinforce addition, multiplication, money skills and more. Road signs and advertisements are a great tool for practicing reading and spelling. Talk about their science and health science topics around the dinner table. There are so many ways to extend their learning and help them see that homework is teaching them skills for life.
This article has been republished with permission from Kidspot.