Alleviating Homework Headaches

The following post is from Jennifer Burke, a lifelong educator:

child doing  homework
source: Tony Crider

As we look ahead to a few more months of school, does your child’s homework feel more like your homework? Are there too many arguments at your house over school assignments?

As a teacher and a parent, I have to admit that the very word “homework” evokes mixed emotions. The educator in me wants my students to review lessons and prepare for tomorrow. The parent in me, though, resents the time that some (can I say dumb?) homework assignments robbed from my precious family time. Some of my sons’ projects were enough to literally give me a headache.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are things I can do as a mom to make the process a smoother one:

Designate a place for homework.

Most kids function best with structure. Doing school work in the same place each night helps them to focus on the task at hand. Depending on the space available at your house, you might have one child at the table and another at a desk in the kitchen. Or, spreading your kids around the dining room table might be your preference.

In the elementary years, children benefit from the proximity of a parent – to hold them accountable, as well as to answer questions. Teenagers usually prefer more privacy when doing their work, but it’s reasonable to check in with them periodically.

Get a set of school supplies just for home.

Having everything at hand in a cute box or tote will save the time and stress of searching for a glue stick in the “junk drawer.”

Create a homework time.

Set aside time for homework in your nightly schedule, as opposed to trying to squeeze it in. If possible, carve out a niche that is at the same time most days – whether that’s right after school, after a snack, or when sports practice is  over. An alarm or timer can remind your kids to start their homework in the same way the bell starts their school days.

Make homework time a non-negotiable.

Even if your child says “I don’t have any homework!” require that they read for at least 20 to 30 minutes. If they can’t find something interesting to read and you haven’t had time to get to the library, try these suggestions:

  • Have your child read aloud to enhance their fluency.
  • Play free interactive math games online to help build proficiency.
  • Let your child teach you something they learned that day, then give you a pop quiz.  Correcting your answers will reinforce what they are learning.

Remember that your job is to support, not to complete. 

Teachers would rather see a wrong answer in a child’s handwriting than the right answer in a parent’s.

Encourage your child to do their best.

Neatness and solid effort are good habits for every child to develop!

Do a quick check of their work.

If you see something that needs immediate correction (so that your child doesn’t memorize the wrong facts), use that as a teachable moment. Then, look for ways to encourage them – great handwriting, an interesting sentence, even the fact that they remembered to put their name on the paper. Find a way to end on a positive note.

Homework is part of the journey called childhood. Making the road smoother benefits the whole family!

How about you…what have you implemented to make homework feel less like your homework?

Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.