By Joe Bruzzese, MA
"My homework is done!"
Imagine hearing the words above, before having to ask the question. Wouldn't it be wonderful to know that the homework was complete and your child was ahead? The reality of middle school is most kids struggle to manage their workload and the expectations of multiple teachers. The transition from elementary school with one teacher and one classroom to multiple classes and expectations creates a plethora of paperwork and increased pressure to stay organized.
Parents can help their children stay ahead of the homework game with the following strategies:
Designate a Consistent Homework Time
Most families don't have the luxury of eating dinner every night at 5 pm followed by a few hours of uninterrupted homework time. If your child's after school schedule varies, the homework schedule may need to vary as well. The goal is to create a schedule and stick to it as often as possible. Recent research suggests that students who study in the same location for a consistent amount of time show far greater academic growth than students who continually vary both their study schedule and location.
Create an Effective Study Space
The child should be the driving force behind the design and location of their study space. If the amount of noise in the study space is a concern, consider asking your child this question, "Is there anything that might distract you while you work?"
Designing and adapting a study space to meet a person's individual needs, takes time and experimentation. Allowing your child to try a variety of locations will ultimately result in a consistent location. Keep the focus on what counts--completing quality work by the deadline.
Bring in the Snacks
Following the "Smarter, not Harder" philosophy allows kids to alternate blocks of study time with short breaks and gives parents a chance to drop in with favorite snacks. With a small snack in hand, kids regain their focus for the next chunk of study time.
Keep the Supplies Stocked
After returning from the annual school supplies trip, hand over responsibility for setting up the study space to your child. Support your child's efforts to work efficiently by regularly checking the stock of supplies. When critical supplies begin to run low ask your child this question, "Are there any supplies you need from the store?" If he hasn't recognized the need to replace anything, follow the first question with, "I noticed you might be running a little low on ________. Would you like me to pick up a few more?"
The parents' role is to support the child's effort to maintain the study space not take charge of maintaining it. Whenever possible give your child opportunities to demonstrate responsibility and independence. Maintaining an effective study space is one way for middle schoolers to practice these skills.
A Parent's Guide to the Middle School Years
and parent education expert, speaks to parents across the United States offering practical and long terms strategies for overcoming the struggles of the middle school years. Download your free checklist, "Is My Child Thriving or Just Surviving" at
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