WHEN is best time to do homework with 6 year old?
October 19, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

WHEN should I have my six year old first grader do her homework?

Do you have advice on the best way to distribute homework after school? My daughter is 6 and in first grade.

Every night she has a different book to read from school. They want her to read about 20 to 25 minutes each night. She reads the words to me and then tells me what she comprehended. We have been doing this right after school (after snack).

I don't want her to be too tired (if we were to do it later at night like at 7), but at the same time, it doesn't seem fair to have her start in with school work right after school.

Right now I'm having her do the reading right after school, and then at 7 we do 20 minutes of piano and then the math homework (10 minutes). Do you have a better method of when we should be doing all this? Another words, should I let her have fun and run around outside after school to get all her energy out, and then do homework later, or should I just keep the momentum of school going and have her do most of the homework right away?

Thanks for your time. :)
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Education (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We used to do our homework right after getting home from school. The material is fresher and there's a better chance of it sticking. It's a very good habit.
posted by anniecat at 2:48 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Do written homework first before dinner. Do reading before bed time.

This worked for us, it sets things up for the future where written homework needs to be done before evening activities (sports, etc.) start. And where reading before bed time becomes a natural thing to do independent of whether it's for school or just for fun

Just my 2c
posted by NoDef at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, my parents never helped us with homework. We were self-motivated because we knew that our parents expected good grades, and that doing homework/studying was important. But that might be a cultural thing.
posted by anniecat at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a 7-year-old second grader. After experimenting in first grade, we discovered that just sitting down and getting all the homework done right after school works best for us.

I pick her up, we come home and sit at the kitchen table and have a snack, and she dives right in. She doesn't have to do her 15-20 minutes of required reading at the table (she usually reads longer than that, and gets credit for however long she reads, that's just the minimum) but all worksheets and writing get done and put away before we go do anything else. Non-reading homework takes about 20-30 minutes, and then she can curl up on the couch or her bed or wherever she might be comfortable and get her reading done.

Then she's free for the rest of the afternoon/evening for various activities or playing or whatever she wants to do.

We've found that this helps keep everything focused and under control, and we don't have any pre-bedtime stress about homework being done or not, and no morning stress about things not being in her backpack.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 2:52 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a nanny.

My rule has always been homework right after school.

I second that this sets a good work habit... and it's also "work first, then play."

They get home at like 3:18 so I they usually come in the house and get to watch the last 10 minutes of a show while I unpack their schoolbags and get their homework ready and laid out for them. I set up a snack and drink at the table and they come have their snack while they do homework...

We do reading last... it is sometimes saved to do later with their parents at bedtime.
posted by mittenbex at 2:53 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second mittenbex, as a nanny/babysitter I insist on homework first.

What that really means is: school ends, chat/check-in in the car ride home, get settled with a snack, survey the homework that needs doing, make sure they have everything they need to complete it (worksheets, pencils, rulers, books, etc), work on homework hardest to easiest for the child (this prevents wrangling with the hard stuff when everyone is tired or trying to get dinner on the table) and then any optional schoolwork or projects.

Unstructured reading can be saved for later, but if that's something that gets rushed or forgotten, then it needs to happen before they play games, do art projects, see friends, watch TV, etc.

In my experience, kids (like adults) are going to do their best work when they're not sleepy, have had a snack, have a quiet space to work and aren't rushed or distracted.
posted by annaramma at 3:11 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it depends a lot on your daughter. If what you are doing is working, keep doing that.

There are good arguments for doing homework right away while the material is fresher and also teaching the discipline of doing the work before getting to go play. There is also a good argument that children benefit from physical activity, and a break to run around and play can help them be able to sit and concentrate later. I don't know that there is a one size fits all answer to this.

anniecat: A lot more homework is given now, and at a much younger age, than was done when I was a kid. Many schools also have a stated expectation of adult supervision/participation in a child's homework, especially in the younger grades. Personally I'm not particularly convinced that there's a long term benefit in giving six year olds nightly homework, but that seems to be the norm these days.
posted by ambrosia at 3:12 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love the idea of doing homework immediately when you get home, but I think it really depends on the kid. I had friends whose parents did the "work then play" thing, but my parents never really forced that on me because I was always completely mentally exhausted when I got home from school. I really needed a good bit of time to snack, relax, play, and generally recharge before I was mentally capable of doing homework. I typically did my homework sitting at the kitchen table while my mom cooked dinner, and if there was anything I had trouble with I could ask my parents for help after we ate.

As I've grown older, its become clear that my natural mental peak is much later in the day than the typical 8-5 school/work day, so I'm sure that factors strongly into my experience.
posted by gatorae at 3:12 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

anniecat: A lot more homework is given now, and at a much younger age, than was done when I was a kid. Many schools also have a stated expectation of adult supervision/participation in a child's homework, especially in the younger grades. Personally I'm not particularly convinced that there's a long term benefit in giving six year olds nightly homework, but that seems to be the norm these days.

I grew up in India and attended a private school there through high school, and we had A LOT of homework, hundreds of problems (not very humanities focused curriculum though). The expectations of mastery and practice (especially in mathematics) was heavily emphasized, which is why I think my fellow international students and I tended to outperform our American peers in our math-based majors. I realize the US standards and approach to education at the elementary level is probably different, but I think it made a real difference to be so focused on excellent study habits and focus on schoolwork as our job as kids. I actually remember my grandfather quizzing me on multiplication tables when I was five (we also drank had this thick black/brown syrup in a glass bottle that I forget the name of and on the label there was a cartoon little boy burning the midnight oil studying -- it was supposed to be ayurvedic but I suspect it was really sugar of some kind), so that's why I say maybe it is cultural.
posted by anniecat at 3:36 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about math right after school, reading as a quiet wind-down near bedtime, and piano to the morning before school?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2010

My personal homework routine was largely dictated by the fact that I was stuck at school every day usually until 6pm. (My mom is a teacher at the school I went to K-12 and is a workaholic.) Right after school let out I made my way to my mom's classroom and ate a snack while I spread all my homework out in front of me to prioritize. Then I immediately started on the homework, starting with the heaviest books first so I could return them to my locker and not have to drag them home with me. Then I'd do whatever was left. If anything was ever left over for after dinner it was reading, which I'd do in bed.

In high school, when I was able to drive myself home and not wait on my mom I did the same thing. Spread out the homework while I ate a snack and watched some TV, then got started on the homework within an hour of coming home.

When I've babysat/been a nanny I've done the same thing. Collect the child, eat a snack while laying everything out, then get crackin'. The sooner it's done the sooner you can play.

None of this was guided by my parents because they had to worry about my less-motivated brother. I would suggest encouraging your daughter to find her own system. Suggest (strongly) that she start on it as soon as possible, but don't sit there and hover. You may find out that she paces herself very well on her own, she may not. But you won't know unless you step back to watch what happens. (It'll be a big stress-reducer for both of you if you can work out a system she's happy with early.)
posted by phunniemee at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

On one hand it's best to get it done right after school, but it irks me that the waning daylight hours are spent cracking a book instead of outside.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:28 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was just coming here to say what St. Alia said. For those of us who are solar powered, it's TORTURE to be stuck inside during the 60 minutes or less in the winter that you could theoretically be out in the sun.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:49 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

What St. Alia said. Daylight hours are for running around outside.
posted by Lucinda at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

What does your daughter think about the situation?

Instead of dictating the schedule, perhaps you can help her learn to manage her time. Maybe you review what needs to be done immediately after school and determine if you've got everything you need (paper supplies, library books). Then you schedule what you're going to do that day. If you daughter needs to blow off steam today, then she can play first. If she's ready to tackle homework first, then that's great too. Either way, she's learning to manage her own time.

You still have to maintain your set blocks of time. As in: We get home at 3:30, eat at 6, go to bed at 8pm. It's a really good lesson that playing now means no time for tv later.
posted by 26.2 at 6:37 PM on October 19, 2010

26.2 is right about teaching the lesson of time management early. The earlier you start, the better.

Another thing to consider is that it isn't a binary decision. The options aren't "homework" and "everything else". Going outside and playing is a good use of time. Watching TV mindlessly or playing the video games isn't. ESPECIALLY with DVRs and the like, there is no reason a kid should be watching any television until they are done with their "work" for the day, whatever that is. I suppose an exception would be for that rare kid who can shift gears easily between work and play, but that is rare.

I'm not anti-TV, I love TV. But I also know that it almost always doesn't improve motivation to accomplish one's responsibilities.

(and help the kids learn how to unpack their own schoolbags and organize their work. this is something they will have to learn, better to start early. "Someone else will do it" is not a good lesson for children.)
posted by gjc at 7:02 PM on October 19, 2010

When I was a kid, we lived next to a family with 5 kids. I was the same age as the youngest, and we were playmates. We would come home from school together and go to our separate houses...

In my playmate's family, you had to do your homework before doing anything else including playing. She would come home, do her homework, and in 30-45 min come outside ready to play.

In our family, homework was to be done by bedtime but you could choose your time to do it. I would come home from school and sit around waiting for my friend to come out and play. I'd play with her, fritter away the rest of the afternoon and evening playing or watching tv or goofing around, and finally my parents would step in and I'd sit down and do it, making excuses, wriggling, etc.

I don't know if it would have gone differently if we had the homework-before-play rule, but to this day, I'm a terrible procrastinator.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:32 PM on October 19, 2010

A first grader has homework??? As a teacher, that drives me nuts...there's no real reason for it.

Anyway, all you want to do here is set up good homework habits, so it's really your own kid's level of energy that matters.

Some people are suggesting homework first, but I think that can backfire sometimes and they just end up resistant to homework, long-term. Many kids need downtime, time to process their day, time to chill the heck out before tackling more school. Their brains are fried. And if the goal is enforced reading (and I assume that's to build the habit of reading), you really want her to enjoy it, otherwise reading becomes just another sucky chore.

You can find a workable balance of letting her chill, getting outside and playing (yes, PLEASE let her outside to play), and then hitting the books maybe before dinner or right after dinner.

See her reaction. If she's fried from school, let her unwind.
posted by dzaz at 3:07 AM on October 20, 2010

The truth of the matter is when can you sit down with her and play school. It's more important that you're involved than what specifically you're covering. If afternoon works best for your undivided attention then that's what she will enjoy the most. To a child there is no such thing as quality time, there is only time. And the more time she spends with you the more you will enjoy her as she grows up. ahh, the worst part of childhood and school is that it ends way too soon.
posted by ptm at 6:11 PM on October 20, 2010

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the winter days are short short and sunlight is rare, rare, rare. The basic rule for the kids on my block seems to be that if the sun is shining when they get off the bus, then they need to go inside, lay out their homework, and then come out and play for an hour or so before going inside to do their homework. If it's raining, then homework is done before any kind of inside playing.
posted by KathrynT at 7:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Our general homework rule has always been right after school and a snack. The required reading was a scheduled "bed and book time" that is still a nightly habit that works well for both of my kids. If it seems overwhelming, I suggest a bit of outside time and then coming back to it.

Now that my two are in 7th and 8th grades and both taking honors algebra (high school level class), I've been letting them handle the homework on their own preferred schedule, unless they need some help with something. Especially with my daughter, that happens after I've had a cup of coffee, because she gets home before I do and tends to hit me with 20 questions right after I get in from work. My son has a long-ish bus ride home in the afternoon and has been getting his homework done on the bus. They are both their own people at this point, and very capable little folks.

I've not been stringently double-checking them at this point because it's the first 9 weeks and grades are coming in soon. Mid-9-weeks grades were good, so I decided to see what happens. Of course I ask how things are going.

We've also been adding in chores gradually. They have to be able to take care of themselves, or I'm not doing it right.

The goal, of course, is to send relatively self-sufficient people into the world in a few years. I think the hardest part is giving them the skills and then setting them loose gradually. It's certainly the hardest thing I've ever done.
posted by lilywing13 at 10:41 PM on October 22, 2010

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