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Bright ideas from our readers: Homework help

GreatSchools' readers share their ideas for avoiding battles on the homefront over homework.

By GreatSchools Staff

Is homework a struggle at your house? You're not alone. Many parents have been there and wrote to share their advice about what helped end the homework battles with their kids.

Establish a Routine

Many parents say setting a regular time and routine for homework is crucial.

Making homework a habit:

One parent of a fifth-grader writes: "We pick up our son from school and immediately sit down at the kitchen island to open the backpack, eat a snack and immediately start the homework.

"Our son has been doing this routine since he was in the first grade. As such, on rare occasion when a friend comes home with us after school, the friend has said, 'Bobby, what do you want to do?' My son responds, 'Well, we can do anything but not until we get our homework done.' If ever a routine has established a pattern, this is it.

"One day we were talking about colleges and we said that sometimes you can choose which days to attend classes in college, like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and when you want to take class, like in the morning or afternoon, or evening. His comment was, 'If I did my homework right after class, then I am free to do whatever I want?'

"Let's hope this thinking pattern for homework is for a lifetime."

Five simple rules:

"Consistency is the key. Stick with a homework routine," another parent writes in sharing rules that worked for her:

  • 1. Establish a daily routine.
  • 2. Structure after-school activities to allow for homework at a set time every day.
  • 3. Stick to the routine so your child will know what is expected.
  • 4. Stay organized and keep homework area free from clutter, noise and distractions, such as television, games and radio.
  • 5. Praise your child when the homework is complete and allow free time after homework time is over.

Vary the Scene

Other parents said changing the scene helped their children focus, particularly as kids get older.

Study in a cafe:

An Illinois mother of a sixth-grade boy and eighth-grade girl writes: "When homework becomes a dreaded chore, I find new places to go and do homework, for instance, Starbucks, the library, a cafe. It's interesting to find that when you offer up a new place to study, homework appears where they said there was none."

Make the library your home base:

"One thing I have done is to take them to the library to do their homework," writes a Colorado mother of three boys, 12, 16 and 20. "There are no distractions from home, and they can focus just on the task at hand. Plus, there are all the available resources we need there. It is especially helpful to get a study room when we can. That way, we can talk and study things without disturbing anyone. The library we go to has white boards in the study rooms, which we have used occasionally just for something different (doing spelling words on it instead of writing them on paper, for example). This seemed to also break up the monotony of the homework ordeal. An added bonus is that our library has a coffee shop inside with Italian sodas, etc. This can be used as an incentive!"

Help With Time Management

Break projects into manageable chunks:

"If there is a project due, we separate it into how much time we have and then do a little each day," one mom writes. "We do the same for a book report. I count the number of pages and divide it by the number of days they have to read it and give them two days to write it. We do a 'sloppy copy' and we do a final draft. ..."

Build in breaks:

A California mom of a kindergartner writes: "Have short time frames planned out. Kids get restless without breaks. Maybe 15 minutes of work, then a three-minute break.

"Remove any distraction - TV, snacks, cell calls, don't let them think they are missing out on anything by doing homework.

"Reward them if they are focused on any given day.

"Talk about homework as if it is a natural part of your schedule. "Don't say, 'You have to do homework first.' It becomes too much of a task. Say, 'OK, it's homework time. Let's get started.' Always start (at the) same time every day. In that way, they feel it's just what you do, there are no options!"

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/6/2011:
"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. "
09/6/2011:
"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. "
09/24/2009:
"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"
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