MS Head's Blog
In the Middle of It All
Middle School Musings by Trevor O’Driscoll, Bancroft's Head of Middle School
Most weeks, MS Head Trevor O’Driscoll writes a short note to parents and faculty about middle school, education, parenting, and other topics relevant to our community. We share these Middle School Musings here for the benefit and enjoyment of all who are interested. Read recent entries, browse the archives, and delight in Mr. O’Driscoll’s take on our Middle School and the amazing people who inhabit it.
Homework Tips for Parents
I had a lightbulb moment last week when my third-grade daughter sat down at our kitchen table after dinner to do homework. As she pulled out her folder and papers, I sat down next to her and cracked open my laptop to do my own work. What followed was mostly silence, but I think both of us felt more relaxed and efficient than we would have working alone. For Oona, I imagined my presence allowed her to see that engaging in homework outside of school/the office is something many people have to do, not just kids. My proximity not only made the occasional question easier for her to ask when she had one (I avoided the mistake of peppering her with questions, and instead let her decide when or if she needed advice), but also seemed to make both of us less susceptible to distractions. Our individual focus resulted in a kind of “library effect” where our studious behaviors reinforced each other. Most importantly, from my perspective anyway, the parallel working environment gave me more time with my daughter, time being a precious commodity that feels especially in short supply for many of us busy parents.
Have some work you need to bring home? I encourage you to set yourself up alongside your child and see how it goes. In the meantime, here are some more homework tips to consider…
- Establish a consistent, distraction-free homework space.
Having an area for work in a public space, such as a kitchen, can be especially helpful when it comes to students who are still figuring out how to be more independent and efficient.
- Schedule a regular time for homework completion.
A routine can work wonders when it comes to reducing stress over starting work.
- Help with time management, if your child needs it.
Ask your child how long they think their homework should take to complete. Using a timer can help children become more aware of how long they are spending on work vs. being distracted.
- Encourage short breaks.
We all need them.
- Encourage your child to do the “hard” homework in school.
Many kids put off the hardest work until last. Flip the script and encourage them to tackle the most challenging work in school, where lots of help is available. Have a conversation with your child about how s/he is using Halftime and/or X-block to do work.
- When your child asks for help, provide guidance and not answers.
Answer questions with questions (not to frustrate them, but to drill down and help them access relevant knowledge that may lead them to an answer). If your child asks you to check their work, point out areas they may want to re-check rather than fixing the mistakes.
- Don’t do their work for them.
Your child’s teachers want to see where your child truly is. Revising writing, correcting problems, and generally having a heavy hand might result in “perfect” looking work, but can mask misunderstanding while sending your child a signal that they are not capable of independence.
- If you see something, say something.
If homework is taking a very long time and stress is consistently high, reach out to your child’s advisor and/or teacher. We want to know.
- Sleep trumps everything.
Pull the plug and send them to bed when it’s late and the returns are diminishing. Then see the bullet above.
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