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Bright ideas from our readers: Homework help

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By GreatSchools Staff

Help Your Child Identify What Works

A trick to stay focused:

"I let my 7-year old daughter chew gum while she does her homework," says a Washington, D.C., mom. "She says it keeps her 'focused.'"

Reward a Job Well Done

Star system:

"I have a 10-year-old that sits right down the minute she gets home and does all her homework. Unfortunately, the same is not true of our 7-year-old," a mom writes. "We tried nagging, taking away privileges to no avail. Homework was a chore and stressful for all of us. Until we devised the star system. He has 30 minutes to finish his homework (they are given about 10-15 minutes worth of homework). Neatness and correct spelling count. If he beats the clock, he gets a star. He must get all five stars that week for the reward to take place. Once he has five stars he can pick anything he wants to do, and the whole family has to come along. Our weekends are now occupied with bowling, mountain biking, eating at his favorite hamburger place and the homework woes are behind us."

Use healthy activity as a reward:

"Homework has been a breeze with one of mine but with the other it has been an unbelievable uphill battle, especially this year," writes a single mother of three daughters, two of them school age.

"Our town just built an indoor pool and since it is winter in Vermont, swimming at this time of year is considered 'awesome' by all three of the kids. So, we set up a reward program: Every night that they can show me that they have completed their homework while at the after-school program or did as much as the people there could help them with, then we will grab a quick sandwich at home and swim for about two hours before the pool closes. Either one whose homework was not done due to lack of genuine effort has to come and just sit on the pool deck to do their homework while the sisters and I swim. This has worked like a charm!

"Find a good, wholesome activity that your kid really likes and that you know you can commit to every night if your kid lives up to their end of the bargain, then make it contingent upon their completion of homework (or for older kids, hard work on it for a set amount of time). If they can't do the activity because they did not do their part, they have no one to blame but themselves, right?"

Turn Work Into a Game

Beat the clock:

Our son has yet to get real homework, but he does math and reading practice work," an Oregon mother of a six-year-old writes. "There are many times that he tries to complain and get out of it. A good tool is using stop watches for math. Boys like being challenged and to beat their previous time. ...

"We also try to divide some of the homework (on weekends), half in the morning, the other half at night (reading is good at night and for 30 minutes). It also helps if mom/dad or sibling is sitting too, doing their homework or busy work at the same time to show that he/she is not the only one who has to do something."

Comments from readers

"I appreciate the useful information provided by this site but where is the insight from working (and single) parents? Really, an afternoon snack is not going be a practical solution to homework issues when you can't physically be with your child after school. I am sure in a perfect world we would all be "stay-at-home" moms (well, no actually a career is just as important for women) but I would suggest broadening your help articles to accommodate real working parents and to maintain a diverse audience base. "
"I have an 8th grader and a 4th grader. Our most important homework rule is: no TV, video games or gameboys from Mon-Thur. We have a busy after school schedule with sports, daycare (and Mom's at work until 4.30pm), so homework gets different time slots and venues every day, but it gets all done. "
"I am the mother of a 1st grade. and I would like to suggest, if the teacher can hand out home work everyday to student, because not all of the student had Internet or the parent's have time to look up thru Internet"