How I Got My Daughter to Do Her Schoolwork Without a Fight

Family Matters on 04.17.12

Image: snow0810/Creative Commons

My daughter just sat there: arms crossed, a defiant look in her eyes, and body language that screamed, "I dare you to make me finish this work!" Sound familiar? Now instead of raising my voice, bribing her, or making threats (like I might normally do), I decided to try something totally different -- I told her to go and play, while I set off to do some research.

What I discovered was both simple and powerful -- a child's learning style can take education from boring and tedious to fun and engaging. With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can put an end to late-night homework battles or enjoy a more peaceful homeschool day.

Discovering Your Child's Learning Style

Understanding how your child learns best -- from their preferred method of instruction and physical study space to their stress triggers -- is the first step in eliminating those daily schoolwork battles.

There are an abundance of learning style inventories and quizes available online (my favorite child-friendly one is provided by Scholastic) so you're just a few click away from getting the basic information you need. For a more indepth and comprehensive look at learning styles, I turned to my library where I read The Way They Learn and The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles. These books took the abstract concepts of learning styles and gave me practical tips which I incorporated immediately -- and with great results.

Teaching Tips You Can Implement Today

Once you have determined your child's prefered method of learning, it's time to start changing your approach to schoolwork -- and end those battles.

If you have an auditory learner on your hands -- a child who does well when they not only hear something, but when they hear themselves say it -- then you'll need to limit distracting background noises while implementing strategies like talking aloud while working, using word association, or finding rhythmic patterns to memorize information. For you, this may mean playing an audiobook version of Charlotte's Web while your child listens or reads along, rather than asking them to read silently. Or, since auditory learners also retain information well when it's set to music, work together to come up with new educational lyrics set to a favorite song. The words of those songs will stick long after the test is over, and you'll both be less stressed while singing your lessons.  

If your child has ever been discribed as a fidgety bundle of energy who never ceases to move, then you probably don't need an online assessment to know that you have a kinesthic learner. Adults often try to get these learners to sit still and pay attention, but the truth is, they need that movement for the learning to stick. Try these strategies with your wiggley worm: Allow them to pace while reading, or to track the words with their finger on the page. When doing math work, have them add two numbers by doing jumping jacks -- two jumping jacks plus five jumping jacks equals one kid with an answer (and some spent energy). And when they face a particularly grueling task that requires them to sit for an extended period of time, let them play with a stress ball and provide breaks as frequently as possible. 

Visual learners -- those who learn by seeing and watching -- can often be thought of as daydreamers who don't listen well. But knowing that your child reponds well to mental pictures and physical images allows you to implement strategies that will ease their learning woes. First, you'll need to set up a work space that is visually appealing to your child (be sure to ask for their input), find school supplies that are colorful and flashy, and build in plenty of time to look at pictures and illustrations. When completing math assignments, forget the abstract numbers on the page: Instead, give your child some crayons and let them draw out equations. And remember to be slow in chastising them for daydreaming, because they are probably just trying to grasp a mental picture of what you just said. 

There are many benefits to homeschooling, but tailoring my child's education to her unique style of learning is especially exciting to me. Discovering that my daughter is a combination auditory and kinesthetic learner allowed me to custom design tasks and activities -- so to help her grasp tricky math concepts I quiz her aloud while on the trampoline, have her roll dice to perform simple addition problems, and read lots of books that teach her concepts through stories. We also play games that teach her to read, so instead of sitting in front of a book, I send her on a wild scavenger hunt through the house looking for clues which she must read in order to solve the mystery. 

Whether you choose traditional, private, or home school, make sure whomever is teaching your child is aware of their learning style(s). Speak up for what your child needs, and use that knowledge to help your child complete their school and homework. It will make life easier on your child -- and on you!   

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