When both parents work outside of the home, children might not have an opportunity to start their homework until after supper.
I give my children free time while I'm preparing a meal. While we're eating, I'm careful to listen to the stories they tell me about their day. This gives me clues about how to help them in their studies and about whether there are other issues that need to be dealt with before we start homework. After all, it's difficult to learn a new math concept if your best friend was unkind to you that day.
There should be rewards for good work, as well as punishments for resistance to work. Find out what motivates your child. Would he or she like to have a play date Saturday with a friend? That could be a reward for doing his homework each night of the week. Or, perhaps a trip to the park, ballgame or other inexpensive outing would be enticing. Likewise, if the work isn't done, take away privileges to play video games, watch a DVD, etc.
The game time could be a review of the concepts he is learning. You can develop some easy, fun ways to review those concepts. Try to make studying fun. If I can make a game out of the information, I do. For example, this week I was helping my son memorize a list of the sense verbs - taste, feel, smell, sound, look, appear, etc. I asked him to write each word on an index card. Then we spread the cards out on the table, with the words facing up. I told him to go down each row and say the words. Then I asked him to point to a card. I turned that card over and asked him to say all the words again. This way, the child practices once while writing the words and again each time he says the words. Memorizing one word at a time is a lot easier than memorizing the entire list at once.
When considering review games, think of what would appeal most to your child.
How does he learn best? Do you think he responds well to visual aids, auditory (spoken) cues, tactile projects (things he can touch) or kinetic activities (learning through movement)?
Experiment with several different activities to help him learn a skill and see how he responds. For example, if he's learning a times table, does he like it when you use flash cards (visual), does he prefer to speak or sing the answers in a song (auditory), does he like to use manipulatives (items he can hold in or move with his hands) or does he like to move while saying the tables - saying "two times two equals four" while doing a jumping jack or hopping on one foot (kinetic).
If you can determine his learning style, you might be able to appeal to him more effectively and capture his interest more easily. I recommend the book "The Way They Learn" by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.
Be creative and keep trying until you find something that works for your family. Your child needs your encouragement.
If you'd like to share how your family handles homework, send me an e-mail. I'll share your suggestions in a future column.
Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.