Helping Kids with Homework Isn’t Always Easy
Helping kids with homework seems simple on the surface, but helping your kids develop good study habits can be frustrating.
Even the best study habits are just that, habits. Good habits are learned behaviors.
Even the brightest children don’t automatically know how to study effectively. Some kids learn best from rote memorization while others learn by doing, or repeated practice. Some people just learn easier and faster than others and need to study less.
At some point, though, everyone needs to study, whether it’s for a chapter test or a driving test. Kids need to learn the best study habits from an early age to avoid frustration, struggle, and cost. And helping kids with homework becomes a lot easier with good study habits.
Help your kids identify their learning style so they can tackle homework.
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences theorizes that people have areas of intelligence and abilities beyond a measured Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Teachers frequently incorporate this concept into their classrooms by creating opportunities beyond just reading and writing to show understanding.
These different types of intelligence include interpersonal, bodily/ kinesthetic, naturalistic, musical, and more. When different areas of intelligence are described, parents can often identify their own (and their children’s) areas of strength and weakness.
This concept can be applied to helping kids study through strength areas. Once these areas are identified, you can also teach kids how to grow in their areas of weakness.
Au Pairs can support Host Parents when it comes to helping kids with homework.
You don’t have to do this alone! Au Pairs can be the perfect teachers and models of good study habits. Since many Au Pairs are bi-lingual (or even tri-lingual), they are often familiar with using the best study habits to internalize knowledge.
Helping kids with homework comes naturally to many Au Pairs, who are often highly-motivated individuals. They must complete at least six college credits as part of the Au Pair Program. Your child will witness their study habits as they go through college classes. This can be a fantastic way to set an example for cultivating the best study habits in your home.
Cheryl, mother of two young boys, says her Au Pair has been instrumental in supporting her kids’ homework habits. “They have a patient and talented person to help them with homework at 4:00 pm rather than 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm when they’re exhausted from their day.”
As extended family members, Au Pairs are also able to help with anything child-related. This means helping kids with homework, guiding kids to establish personal routines, and encouraging them to develop the best study habits.
The earlier children learn good study habits, the easier it will be when they’re older.
Good study habits should begin at a very early age, even before kids go to school. (Yes, kids can learn good study habits even before school starts!) They watch us parents and learn by what we do.
It’s vital to expressly state to children high expectations for their participation, effort, and success, even if the child struggles.
Think about studying as a general approach to life. If you go about life with very little or no plans or structures in place, life is hard, messy, and falls apart fast!
Here are a few ways you and your Au Pair can help your kids develop the best study habits (and life skills) in kids of all ages.
Write a homework schedule and stick to it!
If my family doesn’t have dinner on time, it can throw off our entire week’s schedule.
Childcare providers commonly feel they’re dead in the water without a schedule. As a parent, you may already feel this way, too.
When I substitute teach, a lesson plan is important, but sometimes a schedule is even more important. Kids thrive on routine and structure, your kids included. Students will let me know if I go past snack, lunch or recess time, and your kids will thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it.
Kids need their own set time and place to study and do homework. This doesn’t mean you have to schedule your life down to the millisecond, but you can help your kids set up a structure to succeed. Provide a quiet time, maybe when younger siblings are napping or otherwise occupied, for older kids to complete homework after school.
This consistency will help your children develop the best study habits early on. For kids not yet in school, have a quiet time or study time each day when kids just look at books or work with their hands.
A clean workspace encourages the homework habits by minimizing distractions.
You can’t cook dinner on dirty dishes.
Neither can kids successfully complete assignments (or keep them organized!) in a messy workspace. Provide kids a quiet, spacious and clean area of their own to complete assignments after school.
My kids sit on opposite sides of the table and keep their work separate, or sometimes work at the desks in their bedrooms. To minimize distraction, the television is off while my kids do homework. No devices are allowed, other than a radio.
I like to be within view of the kids to keep them on task or answer questions, just like I like to supervise when my tween does the dishes.
This is one of the best ways to cultivate the best study habits. Just think, when your kids are in college, they’ll already know they need a focused study space.
Prioritize studying according to the most difficult & least difficult assignments.
I teach my kids to eat the grossest things first at dinnertime.
Teach kids to tackle the ugliest and most difficult assignment first. Hint: This works for adults, too!
For younger kids, since “homework” in primary grades is essentially either math or spelling, it will be whichever is more difficult for the individual child. For older kids, this will be the most difficult subject for them or the assignment that takes the most time.
Willpower is a limited resource. The American Psychological Association says, “Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.”
If you don’t feel me on this, you must not have children. Or be adulting, like, at all.
Once you recognize that you only have a certain amount of willpower (and the amount can vary from person to person), and that it drains as the day goes on, it becomes apparent that the things that take the most willpower should be a priority.
I teach my kids, after you “eat the green stuff,” relax and eat all the things you like. Doing the most enjoyable assignments last also acts as a reward system for finishing difficult homework. Ask your Au Pair to support you in this strategy and enforce it when you’re away.
Teach kids to make a habit out of pacing themselves when studying.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You’ll choke!
Doing an assignment sooner rather than later is one of the best study habits you can teach a child. After all, procrastinating only leads to rushing, which produces shoddy effort and product. It’s also important to think about pacing.
Sometimes, when starting a project, it’s easy to take on too much at once, which can also affect the quality of work and motivation later on.
This is why planning ahead is a strategy successful students use to manage projects of all sizes. Helping kids with homework becomes a lot easier when you teach them to plan ahead and manage their own workload.
Show your kids a project you’ve worked on over time, maybe a painting, work presentation, or home improvement project. Explain which parts you worked on first and why. Explain how you prioritized different stages of the project, and how your kids can do the same thing with their homework.
Au Pairs illustrate this, too! See if your Au Pair will share how long it took them to plan their participation in the program. Becoming an Au Pair is a huge project! Or see if they will show your kids some current college projects or assignments. Larger or long-term projects require more time, planning and an earlier start than smaller or short-term projects.
When kids just plain don’t want to study, good habits become more difficult.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
It’s true that your children need good habits to successfully navigate school and life. However, you cannot force kids to love learning, studying or homework. Think of ways to make studying feel less like drudgery. This could be anything from implementing a reward system to allowing small breaks between projects.
Au Pairs are great role models and hosting naturally creates an opportunity for sharing areas of interest and multiple modes of reaching the same destination. Most problems in life, and school, have multiple solutions, but sometimes require plain old hard work. Au Pairs can share their own struggles, because we all know our struggles and experiences have little to no value to our kids (not really).
Good studying also means getting help when you’re stuck.
Don’t pour that milk by yourself. Please.
Good studying means getting help when you need it.
Teach your kids to stop and “ask for directions” when lost. When you keep arriving at the same “intersection,” or wrong answer, ask for help!
Helping kids with homework is much easier when the kids tell the adults what they’re struggling with.
Au Pairs are another perfect example and role model of this for their Host Kids. They need to ask for directions all the time, at least in the beginning. (It’s important to clarify what’s expected of them in their work with kids).
Au Pairs ask for help all the time and can teach kids the value of getting help to avoid frustration and failure. If Au Pairs feel lost in their classes or how to engage the host kids, asking for help is the best solution, just like successful students ask for help when needed.
Now, get your kids started with some great study habits!
If you can practice these skills with your children (or ask your Au Pair to help your kids practice developing these habits), you’ll be that much closer to cultivating good study habits in your children’s lives. Before you know it, your kids will be well-practiced with the best study habits available.
Over time, your children will need less direction during study time. Au Pairs can support these habits and behaviors while interacting with your kids. Plus, your Au Pair can be a great example of maintaining good study habits, since they attend classes during their stay with your family.
Did you know that Au Pair childcare is affordable and flexible? The cost of paying a babysitter has risen right along with inflation, according to a recent Today.com article, to levels more than double the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If your child(ren) need extra help with school work, or your job takes you away from after-school time with them, an Au Pair can be a perfect tutor and coach for your kids to become habitual lifelong learners.