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KNOXVILLE — Schools are back in session and students (and parents!) may be facing that often-dreaded evening activity: homework.

How can you successfully get back into the homework habit?

Here are five suggestions from Amy Broemmel and Kristin Rearden, both associate professors in UT Knoxville’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. Broemmel teaches elementary education and reading education; Rearden teaches elementary education and science education. In addition, each woman is the mother of three children age 13 and younger.

1) Boost Brain Power — Make sure children have the fuel they need to do their work. Do homework after dinner or give kids a high-protein snack before they begin. Good snacks include apple slices with peanut butter, graham crackers and milk, cheese cubes or granola. Also, Rearden said, break up long stretches of homework with some exercise. “For instance, you might say, ‘Do your math homework and then come outside with us for a while,” she said.

2) Secure a Space — Find a good spot for children to do their homework. “Some kids can focus no matter what; others need quiet,” Broemmel said. “You have to know your child.” You also may need to limit possible distractions, including the TV, cell phones and iPods. Also, whether kids do their homework at the kitchen table or in their bedroom, make sure you check in periodically to ensure the work is getting done.

3) Advise without Answering — Remember, it’s their homework; not yours. Look over your children’s homework and, if you see they’ve made mistakes, coach them — but don’t just give them the answers. When it comes to reading, don’t always insist the child read to you. “Fifteen minutes of you reading aloud beats 15 minutes fighting to get your child to do the reading,” Broemmel said.

4) Look Long-term — In addition to tackling tonight’s homework, make sure your children are keeping track of what’s due at the end of the week and at the end of the month. Parents have to help their children learn how to organize “even if it takes sitting down together and plotting assignments out on a calendar,” Rearden said.

5) Monitor the Minutes — The National PTA suggests that the appropriate amount of homework is 10 minutes per night per grade. That means a first-grader should have about 10 minutes of work, a second-grader should have about 20 minutes, etc. “If your child is spending significantly more than that on homework, have a talk with your child’s teacher,” Broemmel said.

For parents who have more than one young child, the experts suggest trying to get one working independently on an assignment while you work with the other — and then switch. Staggering bedtimes can give you one-on-one time with children. And having an older child read to a younger one can help them both.

And, when you’re on the go, have your children log some reading time by listening to one of their favorite chapter books on CD.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,