By Nohad Mouawad
Most moms and dads are well into the school year right now. Maybe you’ve gotten your kid’s first report card, or some of their work has been graded. Many Dubai and UAE schools these days have opted not to give kids lots of daily homework or studies, but as kids make their way through elementary or primary school and on to middle school or secondary school, studying, homework and revising become a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives. If you aren’t yet tearing your hair out because of your kid’s homework, you might be soon in the future. There are a few ways to ease the frustration of dealing with homework and to help your kid get their studies done with minimal tears shed by kids and parents alike.
Find the Right Spot: The first step to helping your kid with their studies, is to create the right atmosphere. Find a spot in the house where you both can sit comfortably with minimal distractions. Make sure none of their toys or devices are nearby to ensure that they focus with you as much as possible. So that they do give you their full attention, make sure they have already had a good snack, and that they have their water bottle at hand, or else they will be interrupting their work to keep getting food and drinks. If your child has siblings, this would be the right time to send them to another room in the house and make sure they are playing or having their screen time and not bothering you during the study session.
Use Visuals: I’ve found that, when doing math homework with my daughter, visual demonstrations and everyday explanations help. I keep a small, inexpensive white board (the kind you can find at Daiso) at hand and use a white board marker to draw fractions, write down explanations and have her do the same. The more visual the explanation, the more she tends to remember it. For younger kids, and even older ones, using Lego blocks and objects to represent numbers can be especially helpful.
When I explain addition and subtraction to my 5 year-old and even my 10 year-old, I like to talk about eating cupcakes or buying Pokemon cards instead of addition and subtraction, because it just makes more sense. With fractions, I almost always refer to parts of the pizza and try to draw it, because it makes a lot more sense to kids than thinking about it abstractly. For multiplication, drawing groups of numbers on the white board, like 5 groups of 5 cookies or 5 boxes of tennis balls, can really help kids understand the concept at first.
If your child needs to do reading homework, I recommend that you make sure they haven’t hidden a device nearby, or else you might find them an hour later watching YouTube instead of having read their chapters. For kids who have to write a story or essay, have them sit down with you while you do your own work or type on the computer, so that they see you modelling the work and can ask you questions.
Do NOT lose your cool: One of the most important parts of teaching, or working with your own kid, is not losing your temper. Sure, this can happen once or twice, but if you regularly raise your voice and get frustrated with them, they will shut down and start to hate homework time (even more than they already do, believe it or not). Walk away if you need to and regroup once you’ve calmed down. After you have your cup of tea, come back and try again with a different explanation, or by reminding your son or daughter of what they need to do. Give them a time limit and have them try to answer the question or complete the task on their own with you nearby. If all else fails, have them finish as much as they can, and tomorrow is a new day to try again. I have to admit that doing homework in my house often takes a lot longer than it should, but I have learned to embrace the new normal and just get through it.
Use Online Tools: If you are teaching your kid math or any other subject these days, online resources are more important than ever. For math, Khan Academy seems to be the best free resource out there with videos covering all concepts. IXL math application and the MyMaths website are also great for extra math practice. For extra reading, use an app like Epic to motivate your kid to read more. Any time my kids need help with a concept that I don’t understand, I will go ahead and look it up online, although I try to make sure I’m getting the information from what looks like a trustworthy resource.
Create a Reward System: Once you’ve gotten through it, so that your kid will want to stick with it, it’s a good idea to create a little reward system. By that I mean, a sticker chart leading to a weekly treat on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, or, if you have a very patient child, a monthly book or toy. If you have a kid that really hates waiting, or is younger, fill a grab bag with tiny rewards like stickers, stamps, lollipops, very small pop-its, bubbles and other inexpensive knick-knacks that they can choose as soon as they finish their work. Another immediate reward can be 15 to 20 minutes of screen time. As a parent, after all that work, you need it as much as they do! You can go ahead and reward yourself with a treat and a few minutes of quiet too.
If That’s Not Enough: Sometimes, we just can’t help our kids enough, or in the way they need, and that’s okay. That’s why the extra support of a tutor can be necessary. With Ostaz online tutoring and a 10% discount until the end of February when you book via the QiDZ app, tutoring can be convenient and affordable for your family. Ostaz offers tutoring in multiple languages, all school subjects and even test prep for SAT and IELTS, and GCSEs as well as help with college applications for older students. By booking with an online tutor, you know that your kid is getting the help and support of an expert, and that extra push to help them through the school year and improve their skills and knowledge. Sometimes a tutor is just the thing to close the gap for your kid and give them a boost of self-confidence.
With the right amount of patience, healthy snacks and a few parental hacks, we can all get through this school year in one piece…hopefully!
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