Scheduling playtime and homework time

I have a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old who are going back to school. We have a problem with homework. We live in an apartment and they like to go out and play with their friends after school, but I have a problem finding them when they need to come in for homework. If I make them do homework as soon as they get home, they might take all afternoon and then not have time to go out. Do you have any suggestions on how I could better organize their time?

Question:

This is a great question, especially for people who live in climates where nice weather is rare.

There are a couple of ways to handle this. One is to have them do their homework as soon as they come home, giving them a snack break before the start in on their work. If they know that they can go outside as soon as their work is done, they may complete it much quicker. Watch out for this, because it may backfire in some cases where a child might hurry too fast and either make careless mistakes or end up with a messy product. It's best to lay out the ground rules ahead of time, defining quality work for them so that they know what is expected.

Another alternative is to allow your children a set amount of play time right after school, say from 3:00 to 4:30. If they are playing at a friend's apartment, talk with the child's mother and see if you can work together to get the kids to wind up their playtime at the same time, then go to their respective homes to do homework. You may want to invest in an inexpensive digital watch (although I am not in favor of digital watches as a first watch for a child -- in this case it would be used as an alarm), set the alarm for five minutes before they are supposed to be home, and tell them that when the alarm goes off, they should clean up and then head for home. Your older child may be responsible enough to use an analog watch to keep track of the time without using an alarm.

Whatever you decide to do, be consistent. Plan an alternative arrangement for days when your children have dance lessons or soccer practice. If you are consistent, the kids won't question the rule (although they may complain once in awhile) and they will learn that they can have their play time and get their homework done, too.

Do no wait until just before bedtime to work on homework. At that time, kids are generally too tired to really concentrate, and may feel frustrated or lack the energy to do the work. Sometimes this cannot be avoided because of lessons or club activities, but do try to stay away from doing homework close to bedtime.

Wishing you a wonderful school year.

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