Homework without Tears

It’s one of the most controversial words in education and can send fear down the spines of parents and students alike: HOMEWORK.  Educators frequently debate the merits of homework.  Research shows that homework only has a minimal educational impact on elementary students and a moderate educational impact on secondary students.  Some educators assign homework as a way to teach life skills.  Others only assign homework when work isn't finished in class.  


Parents have mixed opinions on homework as well.  Some parents feel that homework is a critical part of their child’s achievement.  Others dread the impact it has on their family time or the conflict it brings between parent and child.  


The reality is that homework is part of the academic experience, whether frequent or not.  Simple tips for completing homework at home can not only make homework a positive experience for your family, but also help your child’s teacher feel that you are supporting their work at home.  Establishing a few simple routines can help make life easier.  Homework doesn’t have to be miserable!


Find the Right Time

Every child is different.  Some children are better at doing homework right away when they get home.  Others benefit from a good break after school.  Talk to your child about what they feel is the right time for their needs, and stick to that time.  Never start homework past 5:00 p.m., however.  This could lead to an exhausted child working during a time where they should be eating dinner and spending time with their family.  Avoiding homework after 5:00 will also prevent any late-night meltdowns before bedtime.


Provide a Distraction-Free Work Area

Find a place in your home that will help your child focus.  You may need to give them noise-canceling headphones or use a visual barrier to help them pay attention to the task at hand.  They should be close enough to you that they can ask for support if needed, but not in view of toys, screens, or other distractions.  


Leave Them Alone!  

Step away from your child to allow them to work independently.  They can ask you for help!  If you hover over your child, they may become frustrated or overly reliant on your help.  They may also attempt to get your attention by creating conflict with you or dragging homework out.  Walking away from your child can significantly minimize those issues.  


Positive Feedback

Younger students benefit from frequent positive feedback.  Older students may not need positive feedback as often but still benefit from knowing that you see their efforts and are proud of them.  Make sure that you are checking in with them regularly and encouraging their hard work!  When you are helping your child, it’s important to teach them and guide them, not give them the answers.  Praise your children when you see them trying hard, doing their best, and really focusing.


Support the Teacher(s)

Never complain about your child’s teacher in front of them.  You may have disagreements about certain issues, but remember that it is important that your child feels that they have a unified team supporting them.  Speaking poorly about tasks, or the teacher, can lead to disrespect and behavior problems in the classroom.  


Homework should only be about 10 minutes per grade level of the child.  For example, a second-grade student should have no more than 20 minutes of homework.  If your child is spending hours doing homework, it’s important to communicate with the teacher to identify why there is so much homework.  It may be that your child isn’t working in class or is misunderstanding what is expected.  It’s also helpful to take what your child says about the teacher’s directions with a grain of salt (just like we take what your child says about conversations at home with a grain of salt as well!).  Kids are kids!  They misunderstand things or bring their emotions into what they hear.  It’s unlikely that the teacher assigned a three-week project to your child and is only giving them one evening to complete it.  Respond to everything with grace, understand that miscommunication happens, and work together with your child’s teacher to help them succeed!

About Author

Amanda Cole is the principal of Springfield Lutheran School (SLS), a private school serving preschool through eighth grade students in Springfield, Missouri.  She taught in public schools for 13 years before serving at SLS for seven years.