Getting kids to practice or complete schoolwork and projects at home can be full of tension. As a parent, what can you do . . . and what should you do . . . or not do? Here are ways other parents have encouraged academic skills, have come alongside their children, or have released the schoolwork and deadlines to their kids.
Find ways to make learning more active
One fun way I found to help my kids when they struggled in memorizing math facts was to tape flash cards on the floor and have them hop onto each card as they gave the answer to that flash card. For example, I would tape multiplication facts about one foot apart. If they said the next equation with the correct answer, they could jump onto that card. They would spend more time on their math facts because it was fun to jump to the flash cards. It was a great way to get my kids moving and memorizing.
When possible, build sibling relationships through homework
Home-schooling six children can be tough, but what helps is designating time in the day for my older students to tutor the younger ones. Not only do the younger ones receive quality time with an older sibling, but the high schoolers also get a little teaching experience, which can count as credit on their transcripts in some states.
Engage your kids' senses to reinforce what they're learning at school
As my kids began the new school year, I supplemented their schoolwork with sensory activities:
- Instead of just teaching my children about shapes, I poured water into different-shaped containers and froze them. Then I placed all the shapes into a long, plastic bin with low edges. They spun and moved the ice pieces around. They felt the roundness of a sphere or the corners of a rectangle or cube and watched them melt into other shapes. By adding washable paint, I reinforced colors, too.
- When my children lost interest in practicing their alphabet, they wrote in cornmeal poured into a flat container. This made writing fun enough for them to continue practicing.
- When they were older, I used candy to explain math. If they had 3+2 as a problem, they counted out three pieces of candy and added two. Eventually they would get to eat the candy. I used whatever I could — playing with mud, slime or whatever was on hand—to pique their curiosity and ignite an eagerness for learning.
11 Activities That Help Improve Handwriting
Learning to write can be challenging for children, especially in a world of predominately digital communication. To write, children need strong visual and gross motor skills before they can achieve the necessary fine motor skills. Here are several fun activities you can do with your kids. These exercises strengthen muscles and sharpen the skills that can improve a child's handwriting, and they're also a fun way to spend time together as a family.
Fine motor skills
- Play cotton ball hockey on a table.
- Pick up pennies, one at a time, holding them in the same hand.
- Crumple a piece of paper with one hand only. Then flatten it back out with that same hand.
- Use tweezers to pick up or remove items from an ice cube tray.
Gross motor skills
- Race while crawling, crab-walking or rolling.
- See how long you can hold something at shoulder level or higher.
- Create an obstacle course, and then race through it.
- License plate game: When riding in the car, find letters of the alphabet in order on license plates of passing cars.
- View a tray of random items, cover it and try to remember what was there.
- Trace a letter on a child's back. Have the child guess what letter it is. Then draw it on paper for her to see.
If you want to reinforce handwriting techniques, play tic-tac-toe with your child. This simple game uses basic handwriting strokes.
The Bug Project
When a letter arrived from my daughter's middle school, I immediately began to worry. "I'm nervous," I confided to my husband, Dennis. "We got this today."
Dennis scanned the letter. "Why is the school sending information in June about a sixth-grade bug project due in September?"
"So the kids can get started now, I guess," I said. "I'm afraid Rebekah will procrastinate."
"She probably will. And?"
"What if she doesn't get it done?"
"Then she learns a great lesson about time management, responsibility and consequences. Seems like a good deal to me." Dennis grinned.
"Are you suggesting we let her fail?"
"Better she fail by her own effort — or lack of it — than to succeed by our nagging. We've taught her how to manage her time and how to break a project down into manageable pieces. Let's give her a shot at this."
I frowned. "I still think she should start sooner rather than later."
"This is more serious than I thought," Dennis mused. "We don't have one problem. We have two."
"Two?" I raised an eyebrow.
Dennis continued. "Problem No. 1: Rebekah is a regular kid who would rather have fun than work. Problem No. 2: Rebekah will not grow out of problem No. 1 if we don't let her try some things on her own."
Saturday over breakfast, I told Rebekah about her project. "You can either collect bugs or take pictures."
"I'd like to take pictures," Rebekah said.
"Great. You can get some neat pictures in Texas at the family reunion."
"OK. Can I play with Aubree?"
"Sure. Why don't you take the digital camera?"
"Mom. It's June. My project isn't due until September."
"I know, but if you use your time wisely now . . . "
Dennis cleared his throat, giving me his "remember-our-conversation" look.
I sighed. "Yes, you can play with Aubree." Rebekah bolted from her chair. Letting go was going to be harder than I thought.
Alone in my room, I prayed, "Father, I don't want my emotional stability tied to a sixth-grader's bug project!"
I turned to my Bible and read Isaiah 40:11, which reminded me that He gently leads those with young. I felt a tinge of conviction. I knew I needed to trust God as He led me through this parenting challenge. Next, I flipped to Philippians 1:6. It assured me that God would finish the good work He began in me. And Rebekah, too, Lord?
I closed my Bible and took a deep breath. "I get it, Lord. I'll cut the nagging."
Rebekah needed a grand total of 30 bug pictures. At our July reunion, she netted seven. In August, a sixth-grade mom invited the class to gather bugs or take pictures from her massive garden. Rebekah snapped seven photos of bugs — and 13 of herself and her friends jumping in midair. She thought the day was a huge success. I nervously checked the calendar; she still needed 16 bugs. Time was rushing past us like water over Niagara Falls. I bit my lip.
School started. Over the next several days, Rebekah studied, finished her homework and even told me, "My project is due in two weeks!"
But on Saturday morning, two days before her project was due, Rebekah was still only half done. She woke up and announced, "I want to have fun all day!" I breathed deeply, pouring another cup of coffee.
Dennis put his arm around my shoulders. "It's hard, but you're doing great."
Several times that day I fought the urge to nag. I made frequent trips to my Bible to remind myself of God's goodness.
The night before the long-dreaded deadline, Rebekah finished her project. She took the rest of her photos, created her PowerPoint presentation and turned it in on time. If I had insisted on nagging her, I would never have known she was capable of completing this project on her own. She earned my respect.
As for me, my emotional stability is tied more to the Lord and less to my kids' school projects. I'm far from perfect, though. I have to hit the Book again for a test I've got coming next week. You see, Rebekah has a book report due in four days.
— Heather Trent Beers