As a teacher, I often hear from parents that homework is one of the biggest battles they face at home when they have school-aged children. With some simple strategies and systems in place, these struggles can be alleviated or even eliminated and will actually help homework to happen.
1. Have everyone do homework at the same time, and start as early as possible.
It can be very frustrating for a child to see their sibling playing while they’re wrestling with a math problem or trying to focus on getting their reading done. Avoid this frustration by having everyone do their homework at the same time. It is helpful to establish a period of time when everyone is expected to be quietly working, and if they finish early, they can have time to read, write, or draw. Have this work time happen as soon as possible in the evening so that kids are not too tired. The more tired the child is, the longer it can take them to complete tasks because they lose focus more easily.
2. Create a homework zone.
The amount of paperwork that arrives home from school can be overwhelming. Having a central location to put papers to be signed or reviewed can help keep everyone organized. Establish a place in the house where kids know to put papers and homework sheets from school. Having a basket or bin for each child is a good way to do this. As the parent, be sure to look in each bin with your child to see what needs to be done. Sign any necessary permission forms, return these to the backpack so they don’t get left behind in the morning, and get homework organized for homework time. It can be a helpful life skill to have your child learn to use a planner to record tasks. If your child has a planner, go through the tasks they have to do when going through the paperwork.
In addition to having a place for documents, establish the zone where homework will be completed. This could be the dining room table, the counter in the kitchen, or the family office. Wherever it is, make sure it is stocked with pencils and other necessary supplies.
3. Spread out multi-day homework tasks and projects evenly throughout the days until they are due.
Often times a teacher will give students a packet to complete that will be turned in at the end of the week instead of nightly homework to turn in each day. If this is the case at your house, sit down with your child at the beginning of the week and help them determine how much they should do each evening to get it done throughout the week. This makes a large packet less overwhelming if they know it does not all have to be done at once. Younger children will certainly need guidance in figuring out how much to do each night.
As kids get older, they are assigned projects or papers that will be given a longer time period before they are due. Even though older kids should be more self-guided in choosing how much to do each evening, it may be helpful to talk through that week’s schedule (sports, activities, etc.) together. This allows your child to know which evenings have less going on and therefore offer more time to get larger chunks of a project done. The ultimate stressor for families is when a big task is left to the last minute meaning a late night and extra frustration for everyone.
4. Have homework be part of each child’s chore list.
When a child is in school, it is their full-time “job” during the day to be a learner. If we think about homework as another responsibility they have in the family, it helps connect school life and home life seamlessly. Incorporate homework into the chore list. It will be rewarding to cross it off in addition to other home tasks they complete (setting the table, cleaning their room, etc.). It can also alleviate the fight to do homework if your children realize the incentives they receive at home for completing chores are tied to their biggest job- being a learner at school.
5. As a parent, be available and willing to assist your children.
When establishing the homework zone, be sure it is near where you’ll be in the same vicinity at the time when homework time is taking place. Children often need assistance and reminders to stay on task. Being nearby and available to help is important so kids don’t get stuck and frustrated when they don’t know what to do. Although the intention of homework is to be something students can complete on their own, they might need help reading directions or getting through more challenging problems. This does not mean you are doing the homework for your child, but it does mean you’ll be needed for some direction and guidance.