How To Avoid the Homework Wars

  • Respect your child’s natural rhythm. Some children come home from school and need to engage in physical activity or have a snack. Others do best getting to work right away
  • Some children need to work in silence: find a room where you can close doors to shut out noise. Others work better listening to music. Gum-chewing can provide stimulation and increase attention. Some children work better moving between different work “stations.” Just be sure he can remember to pack up all work done at the previous station.
  • Keep plenty of extra school supplies conveniently located. If homework is done in the dining room, reserve a drawer in that room. Stock up on 3-hole punchers, tape, pencils, erasers, poster board, paper, glue, markers, rulers, and calculators. Buy colored post-its and encourage him to use them for reminders or as place-holders in texts.
  • Your mere presence next to them while they are doing homework provides them structure and a model. Quietly keep them company while paying your bills, going through your mail, or reading.
  • Review the planner nightly with your child. If your school posts homework on the internet, check against it for accuracy. Schedule in long-term projects: If on Monday his homework says “essay due Oct. 1st, make sure he writes in on September 30 “essay due tomorrow.” If on Monday he is assigned a quiz for Friday, write in “study” on the Wednesday and/or Thursday slots.
  • Help your child prioritize: He should do the most challenging assignment first while still fresh. Plan what must be done tonight, tomorrow, and how their extra-curricular activities impact the available time.
  • Take out only one assignment at a time. A pile of books on the table can seem overwhelming. Fold worksheets in half to further break it into smaller chunks. Or use index cards to cover the bottom part of a page.
  • Schedule in a 5 minute break. Use the kitchen timer to keep track. The break might be for water, a snack, 20 push-ups, or other movement. Avoid TV/computer breaks.
  • Respect your child’s “saturation point.” The rule of thumb is that homework should take 10 minutes per grade. Thus a 4th grader will have 40 minutes of homework, a 5th grader, 50 minutes. If homework is taking hours on end, both parent and child will be frustrated. This often ends in nagging, yelling, temper tantrums (both the parent’s and child’s). Let your child know that homework time is finite-if he’s a fifth grader, he can shut the books after 50 minutes of work. Use the kitchen timer. Children are often surprised and relieved by this: if they know homework isn’t interminable, they will often work past the allotted time in order to complete something. Let them know you will communicate with the teacher: they will not get “in trouble” for incomplete work. The teacher does not want your child doing homework for hours on end either; brainstorm with the teacher ways to modify the assignments. Answering all odd-numbered math questions is sufficient to provide your child with review and have him show the teacher that he understands the concepts. Or, longer writing assignments may be broken into smaller parts and deadlines extended. Answers may be given in short phrases rather than complete sentences.

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