Setting the standard for homework at the very beginning of the school year helps your child learn your expectations as well as the importance you place on his schoolwork.

Setting the standard for homework at the very beginning of the school year helps your child learn your expectations as well as the importance you place on his schoolwork.

A few very important factors should be in place when setting your child up for successful work periods. The first is consistency in routine and expectation. The second is tool readiness. The third success factor is your presence and support.

Setting a schedule

Before becoming consistent in routine, you need to determine the best time for your child to be successful with his work each day.

To determine a homework schedule, consider your child’s age and after-school activities. Some parents feel their young child needs the opportunity to play after school, to run off energy after sitting all day. Those children then eat dinner and hit the books before bed. For some that schedule works. For others, it is not optimal for success, as fatigue sets in near the end of the day, making it difficult to focus on work. Also consider that while playing outside is a great burn-off, the lingering thought of homework usually puts a damper on a child’s full play.

Reconsider: If a snack can be provided after school while doing homework, with the incentive of play time after homework, many children will eagerly comply and complete their work. Often a child will excel if a parent is near, providing a healthful, energy-boosting snack to carry him through until dinner.

After-school activities ultimately will determine your child’s daily homework schedule, but most children are successful when they are on a schedule and understand your expectations. Schedules can vary from day to day depending on after-school commitments, in which case a weekly schedule can be put into place.

For example, if Monday and Wednesday are karate lessons until 6 p.m., then dinner and homework might be regularly scheduled before a bath or shower and bed. On those evenings your support is critical to ensure that he completes his work, even though he may be tired. On alternate days when he gets home earlier in the afternoon, homework time can be regularly scheduled before play for optimal focus. It is amazing that so many children are successful with their rigorous schedules.

Tool readiness

It can be very helpful for a young child to have a homework basket at the ready with all the tools he needs to be successful with any homework project: pens, pencils, eraser, ruler, calculator, crayons or colored pencils, scissors, tape, glue, extra paper, etc. This eliminates frustration and wasted time in searching for materials when special projects are due. It also adds some excitement when new, decorative pencils or other materials are added.

Be there for success

Lots of parents report that their younger child is a distraction so they can’t help their older one with homework, as they are constantly quieting or “entertaining” the younger one. In that case, place simple workbooks, activity books or coloring books in the homework basket for your younger child.

Younger children feel important or older and love a scheduled opportunity to do “work.” That will allow you to sit at the table and help with homework while teaching your younger one the importance of work time.

Make the decision to spend homework time with your child, whether you are close by and preparing dinner, folding laundry or sitting at the table writing bills. Your physical presence is received by your child as emotional support, providing help and encouragement that can eliminate hours of frustrating complaints such as “I can’t do this, this is too hard, and I don’t understand this!”

By being there, teaching him how to work it through, organized and at the ready with all the tools he needs to complete his work, you are building his self-confidence and teaching him to work in a structured manner that will be the foundation of how he approaches homework for years to come.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton OH 44702.