• Search
A lifestyle magazine for Central Florida's modern parents

Homework Help: 7 Tips to Ease Frustration & Boost Focus

Homework box art and photos by Nina Friend

For many families,  homework time is anything but peaceful. Here are a few surprising ideas from experts that can  help create a less contentious homework hour.

By the time Meira Mednick’s daughter was in third grade, homework time had morphed into lengthy, embattled evenings fraught with angry tears as frustrated daughter and frazzled mom squared off.

“My daughter began showing signs of difficulty in focus on homework in kindergarten. By second grade we were drowning,” Mednick says.

Mednick tried tactics like feeding her first grader an early dinner as soon as she got home from school and giving her time to relax before starting homework. Instead, “We ended up spending the next two years in a tug of war of time, and many tears were shed,” she says.

Many parents can relate and dread the contentious homework hour, which can plunder an otherwise peaceful evening. For kiddos, who struggle to tune out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand, sitting down to do homework doesn’t rank high on their list of priorities. 

Thanks to the distractions of technology, the inability to focus is a growing problem in our culture. The number of children who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also continues to rise. The Centers for Disease Control reports that ADHD is “one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood.”  
Experts agree: the ability to focus is crucial to achieving goals. How can we create a more calming homework atmosphere that will enhance our child’s ability to concentrate and get the job done quickly–without the draining drama?

1. Get organized. 

Make a homework box either out of a large shoe box or plastic container. Have your child decorate it and store homework supplies, like pens, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, paper, a glue stick and anything else he might need. “Having everything together creates an atmosphere of organization and success,” Rudman says.

2. Work in short bursts. 

Kids get overwhelmed with long worksheets and multiple assignments. Break homework into timed chunks. After a busy day at school, parents can typically expect their youngsters to focus on a task for one minute for each year of their age. That means a six-year-old should be given a two or three minute break every six minutes.  

“Expecting 30 minutes of homework out of a first grader isn’t realistic without breaks,” says Rachel Rudman, a pediatric occupational therapist.

The timed approach made a big difference for Mednick’s daughter.

“Previously she would be discouraged even before picking up a pencil. By having a timed environment, she knew that she could tackle one interval at a time,” says Mednick, whose daughter is now an 8th grade honors student. 

3. Chew gum. 

Although the “no gum allowed” rule was grilled into our psyches when we were students, more schools now allow kids to chew gum during state assessments. The chewing movement has an organizing effect on the brain and can help kids focus. 

4. Create smart brain breaks. 

During the timed breaks engage your child in short activities that help reorganize and refocus the brain, like jumping jacks, playing with Legos or playdoh, or snacking on crunchy carrots or pretzel rods or something chewy such as fruit leather. 

Blowing up a balloon can also help ease frustrations. “Blowing forces the child to take deep breaths which increases relaxation and focus,” Rudman says. Avoid electronics, which can be harder to pull a child away from. 

5. Energize with aromatherapy. 

Scent can have a powerful effect on our emotional well-being. Fill a spray bottle with water and two or three drops of peppermint, rosemary or citrus essential oil. Spray the scent around the study area to enhance concentration, focus and creativity.

6. Strike a pose. 

Yoga stretches and breathing exercises can calm and re-energize a tired body. Balancing poses like bird or airplane, and a full body twist combines breathing and concentrated stretching movements. 

“Balancing poses require a level of concentration that are a great way to strengthen those ‘focus muscles’ and create a body and mind that is strong and relaxed,” says Mariam Gates, the author of the new children’s book Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story.

7. Integrate natural elements. 

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that including ornamental plants in a learning area can further enhance a child’s ability to concentrate and learn. 

Place a plant in your home’s study area and have your child water it as a transitionary cue before beginning homework, Rene suggests.

“And weirdly, the more involved the child is in the plant’s life or maintenance, the more learning goes on,” says Magalie Rene, a classroom design consultant, who works with parents and schools to create study spaces that foster learning.

If your youngster continues to struggle with focus and concentration, consult with your family’s pediatrician or a child psychologist.

Christa Melnyk Hines
Written by
Christa Melnyk Hines

Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two boys. Christa is the author of "Confidently Connected: A Mom's Guide to a Satisfying Social Life."

View all articles
Instagram has returned invalid data.
Christa Melnyk Hines Written by Christa Melnyk Hines

Categories

Follow us

Proactively formulate resource-leveling imperatives through alternative process improvements.

Family Events

iCalRSS

September 2019

September 13, 20195:00 pm
Volunteer https://www.eventbrite.com/e/family-volunteer-night-registration-61796440818?fbclid=IwAR0xL0zRe-JpbGv5drTzhe2jXHlPOXDxegu0uOwea1o1GXvVyM6q29-AGdc


Family Volunteer Night at The Sharing Center is a wonderful opportunity to spend an evening of service and togetherness with your loved ones.





Volunteer projects will help local struggling families rise above and ...

More
September 14, 201910:00 am
Kiddie Culture https://orlandophil.org/event/three-little-pigs/


Enjoy this classic brought to life like you've never experienced before!





Brought to life by narrator and complete with beautiful music by violin and cello, your entire family will love this classic story ...

More
September 14, 201910:00 am - 12:00 pm
Central Florida Zoo
3755 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771
Kiddie Culture https://centralfloridazoo.doubleknot.com/event/wild-zoo-art-for-families-september-2019/2553496


Kids and canvases! It’s art gone WILD at the Zoo! Join us for an exciting opportunity to meet a special animal up close and paint its portrait. An art instructor will guide everyone to create their own masterpiece as both kids and adults meet some amazing animals at the ...

More
September 14, 201911:00 am - 1:00 pm
https://tugboatandthebird.com


Happy Birthday!





Celebrate 18 years of one of Central Florida's finest children boutiques! Pop in and congratulate tugboat & the bird on their longstanding success and stay for the discounts galore, face painting, ...

More
September 14, 20191:30 pm
Class https://www.inklingbykate.com/workshops


You'll want to show up early to our September 14 workshop at Good Crowd so you have plenty of time to browse this lovely new shop in the former home of Alchemy in College Park.


More

You'll want to show up early to our September 14 workshop at Good Crowd so you have plenty of time to browse this lovely new shop in the former home of Alchemy in College Park.


September 14, 20196:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Central Florida Zoo
3755 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771
Nature Play https://centralfloridazoo.doubleknot.com/event/kids-night-out-september-2019/2553491


It’s KIDS ONLY at the Zoo on this special Kids Night Out!





The fun begins at the Discovery Center at 6:30 p.m. Everyone will get to enjoy meeting cool animals up ...

More
September 14, 20198:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Kiddie Culture https://www.altamonte.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=3942&fbclid=IwAR2hbcOkJMc9H3pLjHWe5DxeJB1xqn_HEiPFqQlOvZejZcdZi9KoY2xT7Fk


Enjoy a free movie night under the stars. September's feature is the live action remake of the Disney classic Dumbo. Arrive early for seating and check out the fountain show. Food and beverages available for purchase.





&...

More
September 15, 20192:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Play Date


Join EPIC Comics and OCLS for a day of reading and crafting, Jedi style.





Join them as they once again host their friends from the Alafaya Branch of the Orange County Library for ...

More
September 19, 201911:00 am - 3:30 pm
Kiddie Culture https://www.osc.org/visit/?fbclid=IwAR2j2Jw9HYJPLpqbZ5qYMdz3RkH2cBS4VA97QKqToEEFzA3zno7DSWgl3no


Ahoy, young buccaneers!





Take your crew to the Orlando Science Center for special themed activities during Pirate Week: September 18-22! The ...

More
September 20, 20196:00 pm - 10:00 pm
https://www.eastendmkt.com/events/evening-exchange/?fbclid=IwAR2gIRuKR8gSHbTaLwK28-KV3bZkTSSIByecrFGH0hKUFYqvgchBMbS6_Ks


Take a chance to try a little bit of everything Orlando has to offer with this collaborative market featuring food and drinks, crafts and arts, workshops and demonstrations from the tapestry of vibrant talent that makes up our City Beautiful.


More

Take a chance to try a little bit of everything Orlando has to offer with this collaborative market featuring food and drinks, crafts and arts, workshops and demonstrations from the tapestry of vibrant talent that makes up our City Beautiful.


More