Katie Marshall, a middle schooler from St. Louis has to read two books before school starts. That's 350 pages in all, and each one is turning slowly, says her mother, Jan, with a sigh. "Great. She only has 330 more to go." Last year, Katie ended up bagging the book and watching the movie version, Holes, the night before school began.
It's the worst feeling: Summer's almost over, and your child hasn't cracked that first book open yet. Or gotten a grip on the poster project. Or started the report on Neil Armstrong. To keep you both from getting steamed over summer homework assignments, try a different approach from the one you use during the school year. Sara Lise Raff, creator of the blog "Ask The Educator" and a former K-8 teacher, tells you how:
Summer-ize the schedule
Sit down with your child and choose two or three days per week for homework. Saturday and Sunday may work best for day campers, plus one other evening, Raff suggests. If your child wants to keep weekends free, opt for his least-scheduled days. Try to keep the days consistent so your child knows what's coming up.
Play to his strength
Match the weakest subject to the child's best (and happiest) time of day. If he's more energetic and thinks more clearly after a lazy breakfast and before the movie at the mall, hit the hardest subject during that time frame. Let him choose the times he wants to work on the other subjects.
Incorporate technology -- to a point
Access to a computer or laptop is a given by now. But talking or texting on the cell during homework time -- especially to pals trying to lure him to the pool -- won't get the job done. Set the ground rules upfront: He can check the phone every 40 minutes or after he has finished -- whichever comes first.
Loosen up on the setting
Summer is about freedom. If a child has a laptop, let her take it to the backyard for writing assignments. Tweens can tote their laptops to a coffee bar and settle in with a muffin, provided a parent is nearby to stem forays into Facebook. "The cool factor can make a big difference to kids this age, who want to look social and hip," adds Raff, herself a mother of three.
Bend the rules
Impromptu trips to the lake and spur-of-the-moment barbecues are the special gifts of summer. When they get offered to your child during a scheduled homework time, be flexible once in a while. On the spot, decide together when he's going to do the work, then tell him to go have fun. "Your flexibility will prove you're willing to compromise, so perhaps next time there's a battle brewing, he will too," Raff remarks.
Keep her reading
Some schools require students to read a certain number of books of their own choosing; others allow them to select titles from a list. In either case, your child should choose carefully, according to advice from the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. A child is more likely to complete a book about a passion or in a favorite genre than one selected randomly. Breaking the reading into small chunks also helps, says Raff. She recommends a minimum of 20 minutes every night -- more if your child can handle it. Suggest reading in different parts of your home or outside and bring your own book or magazine along to keep her company. To entice a reluctant reader with new technology, consider buying a wireless book reader, like a Kindle, that the whole family can use. At $300 and up, "it's expensive," says Raff. "But it's worth the investment if it encourages a child to read."