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Homework & study skills

My High-Schooler Has So Much Work to Do Over the Break. How Can I Keep It From Ruining Family Time?

By Jenn Osen-Foss

My high-schooler has so much work to do over the holidays. Winter break doesn’t feel like much of a break! What can I do to keep my daughter’s homework from ruining our family time?

Jenn Osen-Foss

Instructional Coach, Clear Creek Amana High School, Tiffin, Iowa

For starters, it’s a good idea to explain to your child why she’s being assigned homework over the break. I teach high-schoolers, and I’ve been known to make my classes do some work during the holidays. Why? Over a long break, homework can be very good for students because it:

  • Limits the loss (or “regression”) of new skills. When it comes to student learning, there’s definitely some truth to the saying, “Use it or lose it!”
  • Provides a way to improve academic grades. Teachers will sometimes offer grade-boosting opportunities over the holidays like make-up work or projects that can be completed for extra credit.
  • Helps teens prepare for college and career by having them work on their time-management skills.
  • Gives the teacher time to catch the class up on an assignment or two if it’s behind schedule. Doing these assignments over the break can be less stressful than trying to squeeze them in during the second half of the year.

Understanding why homework is being assigned can help improve your child’s attitude about having to do it over the break. As a parent, you can assist your teen in deciding when and how to tackle these assignments. Here are some practical tips:

  • Pick the best time of day. What time of day is your teen the most productive? Ask her when she thinks she can get the most work done. If she works best in the morning, help her plan a couple of mornings to work over the break.
  • Make good use of travel time. Do your holiday plans include a long car ride? Traveling by plane? Have your daughter pack homework in her carry-on so she can do it on the plane or in the airport if your flight is delayed. Long car rides can be a great time to listen to an audiobook.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Taking the first day off to rest has benefits, but encourage your daughter to finish her work sooner than later. Talk about how stressful it will be if she tries to cram all of her homework into the last night of her vacation.
  • Take a break. Carve out some time away from homework! Your daughter should take a day off to be with family, a day off to be with friends or any other special days she designates.

If you help your teen come up with a game plan for completing assignments and she still seems overwhelmed with work, it’s OK for you to reach out to her teachers with your concerns. But keep in mind that even though holiday breaks may seem very busy to you, there are also lots of times when your teen will have nothing to do. Encouraging her to use those downtimes efficiently can make winter break more enjoyable for everyone.

About the Author

Portrait of Jenn Osen Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin, Iowa, where she assists teachers in improving student learning.

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