Three Tips to Help Your Child With Homework


Getting your child to do their homework can sometimes be a challenge. Here are three tips to help your child with their homework, including setting an after-school routine and designating a homework area.
In the busy world of after-school activities, sports, and play dates, it’s important that homework takes a front seat. We spoke to some experts as well as a few parents in the trenches to get their tips on ensuring that homework is a (real) priority in your household.

Set an after-school routine.

“It’s important to set a regular routine when homework will be done,” says Gwynne Campbell, co-owner and executive director of Sylvan Learning Center of Darien in Fairfield County, CT. “That time of day is different for every family. For fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders who are involved in sports, their activities are later in the day as some of the schools use the high school fields. So those kids are busy between 5:30-7:00pm. A good routine for them would be to come home [after school], take a break, have a snack and some down time, and then do their homework before they go out to sports.”

That routine is ideal for the family of Kim Cesare, a busy mom of four in Darien, CT, whose kids range in age from 3 to 11 and are all involved in sports. “A set schedule really helps them,” Cesare says. “I used to let them relax after school and do their homework after dinner. But a year really made a difference in the amount of homework they get. After dinner, they lost their focus and got tired. Switching to doing their homework after school has made our lives much easier.”

Designate a homework area.

Where kids do their homework may be just as important as a set schedule, and the best location may be different for each child.

“It should be a well-lit area, well-stocked with supplies,” says Ann Marie Stahurski, Long Island regional manager for Huntington Learning Centers. Basic supplies to keep handy are pencils, pens, extra paper, colored pens, highlighters, index cards, and poster board, for that last-minute project.

The area should also be removed from distractions such as electronics and cell phones, Stahurski says, but that doesn’t mean kids have to be isolated to a desk in their rooms. Rachel Donovan of Darien, CT, mom of two kids ages 6½ and 9, has her children do their homework on an island in the kitchen. “They like to be together, and that way they can ask me questions,” Donovan says.

Cesare agrees. Her kids do their homework in the kitchen as well, where the TV is kept off and Mom is easily accessible for help.

It’s important to have a calendar in the kitchen,” Campbell says. “You should write any due dates coming up and highlight them in yellow. Use it to help you plan. If they get an assignment on Monday for 10 days out, write mini due dates for a topic, an outline, a rough draft.”

Set a timer to see where your child struggles.

Pay attention to how much time your child is spending on homework.

“No 9-year-old should be doing homework for three hours,” Campbell says. “This means teaching kids effective time-management and time-setting goals.” Before your child sits down to tackle an assignment, Campbell suggests he estimate the amount of time it will take to complete—for example, 20 minutes. Parents can then use a timer to reinforce that goal.

If your child is struggling or spending far too much time on homework assignments, Stahurski recommends communicating with the teacher to determine the problem.