Even children who are not particularly school enthusiasts are excited about returning after summer vacation.
But at this time of the year, with the holidays over, the weather often nasty and summer vacation an eternity away, even the best students can get into a slump.
Suddenly children who are usually self-motivators may begin complaining about their homework, or worse, stop doing it altogether.
If this sounds like an all-too-familiar scene in your home, don’t panic … but don’t ignore the situation either. Make a plan of action and then have a serious discussion with your child.
Here are some tips that have worked for us and other families we know:
• Speak to your child’s teacher to get the true picture.
Ask if your child is struggling in a particular area and how you can help. Teachers are always happy to discuss ways to remedy problems or head off problems before they fester.
• If necessary, schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher.
A friend of mine had a conference with her child and teacher. Together, the three brainstormed for ways the child could remember to turn in her homework. My friend said the system they came up with has been successful, no doubt because the child was a big part of coming up with the solution.
• Help your child stay organized.
Make sure your child is using his or her agenda book. If necessary, ask the teacher to initial the book, indicating it has been checked. Children usually don’t like this, so if you just have a "forgetful" child, this usually nips that in the bud.
• Buy some new school supplies.
Remember how excited your child was to buy school supplies for the first day of school? Try letting your child pick out a new notebook or other items.
This would also be a good time to examine your child’s current notebooks and folders. Maybe the entire organizational system needs a checkup.
One of our children once needed some help reorganizing. She came up with the idea to put two folders with pockets into her three-ring binder. She labeled one "turn in," and the other "to do." It was a simple solution that worked for her and gave her confidence since she came up with it on her own.
• Make sure your child has a quiet place to do homework.
Check his/her supplies and restock if necessary. All homework sites should have paper, pencils, pens, markers, glue stick, ruler and probably a computer.
• If your child is struggling with homework, and the problem is not academic but lack of motivation, try to come up with some type of "no complaining" reward system.
If homework is done every day for two weeks with no complaining, the family goes out for ice cream or a movie. Make a chart and have your child check off every day he/she does homework with no complaints.
• Take an interest in what your child is studying.
Talk about what subjects you liked when you were that age. Similarly, admit what you struggled with.
My children all know about my childhood struggles with math. I used to tell them, "I’m not smarter than a fifth-grader when it comes to math," and I am fairly certain that rings true.
By showing your own weaknesses, your children will realize that nobody can be perfect at everything.
• Start a reading club in your family.
Choose a book that you can all read then discuss during dinner. The classics are great, of course, but alternate who selects the book. Keep an open mind when they ask you to read their latest favorite book.
One of my friends said her husband read to her two children the entire "Harry Potter" series when they were younger. Even though her children could read, the routine became a bonding experience for everybody.
• Lastly, try to keep your approach positive.
Our children take their cues from us on everything. By showing them you are concerned and helping them come up with solutions, you are giving them life lessons that will last well beyond their school years.
Adlen Robinson is author of "Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home." E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.