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Homework is not only an opportunity for your child to learn but also is a chance for you to get involved in your child's education. Teaching your child good homework habits in 1st grade will prepare your child for more challenging work assignments in later years. Here are 13 tips on how to get started from parents, teachers, the National Education Association, and the U.S. Department of Education:
1. Talk to the teacher at the beginning of the year. Ask about her homework policy: How much time should your child spend per night? First graders are rarely expected to work more than 20 or 30 minutes a night. What's her grading system? How does she use homework – to prepare for upcoming lessons, to reinforce work in class, to test ability levels? Her answers will determine how much you should help with the work.
2. Set up a regular time for homework. Some children work best right after school, before they lose focus. Others are restless and need to work off energy before they can concentrate. Some need to eat dinner first. Find a time that works for your child and stick to it.
3. Keep track of assignments. Most first graders need help staying organized. Most teachers send home an assignment list, but if your child's teacher doesn't, make your own calendar and ask the teacher to fill in assignments and due dates. Keep a homework folder and make sure all papers are in the right place each night.
4. Give your child a work space for homework. A desk or table works best. Provide a comfortable chair – one that's high enough for your child to write comfortably – and ample lighting. If you have a separate space for working, decorate the area with your child's favorite artwork.
5. Provide all the supplies. Pencils, pens, rulers, paper, – whatever your child needs for each assignment.
6. Put away the phone. Turn off the TV show. And the radio. And video games. Try not to talk on the phone in the same room. Give your child enough quiet time to finish the assignment. Your child may perform best if everyone in the family reads or writes during homework time. Some children work best with soft instrumental music playing in the background Remember what homework was like: It's hard to work in the bedroom if everyone else is having fun watching television in the den.
7. Go over the assignments together. Before your child begins working, talk about the homework. Make sure your child understands the directions. Ask questions: "Have you done this work before?" "Do you have everything you need for the assignment?" "When is this due?"
8. Help when appropriate. Talk to the teacher first, and find out how much you should help with homework. If she introduces new material in homework assignments, she might want you to work closely with your child (but give hints, not answers). But if she uses homework to reinforce material already covered, she might want your child to work alone. Either way let your child know you're interested in the work, and ask to see the finished assignment.
9. Check completed homework to make sure the work is finished. If you aren't home when your child finishes an assignment, ask to see it when you get home (and check the homework folder regularly). Depending on the teacher's request, you might not need to correct work or discuss mistakes, but you should stay aware of your child's progress and make sure all the assignments are completed on time.
10. Ask to see corrected homework. Get your child into the routine of showing you homework at every stage, even after the teacher has marked on it. You'll get a chance to praise the great work, and you'll be aware of which subjects are difficult for your child.
11. Call the teacher as soon as you notice a homework problem. If work is too difficult or too easy, or your child is having trouble concentrating, let the teacher know, and discuss ways you can work together to help. You need to talk to the teacher if your child regularly refuses to do homework, if you can't provide the materials necessary to complete an assignment, if you and your child don't understand the instructions, or if the work seems to take too long.
12. Praise good work. Point out specific things you like about it ("Your writing is really neat" means a lot more than a simple "Good job"). Frame it. Laminate it. Hang it up. This will show your child that homework matters, and regular praise will boost your child's ego.
13. Set a good example. Read and write in the evenings. If you're reading the paper, putting together a shopping list, or writing a letter, you'll demonstrate the importance of reading and writing.