How to Help Your Child With Homework

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

Elementary School

Homework. I’m in favor of it.


I know it can be a pain. Sometimes it’s inconvenient and time-consuming. Sometimes homework can be a family hassle. However, all that pales when it’s assigned thoughtfully, done right and leads to more learning.


We teachers give homework so kids can practice what they learned yesterday, review what they learned today and get ready for what they’ll learn tomorrow. There’s simply not enough class time.


We give homework to show that learning takes place everywhere, not just in the classroom. We give homework to build organization and time-management skills, to establish strong work and study habits and maybe even create a little struggle. Mastering a skill you’ve had to struggle with creates confidence and pride.


Here’s a short list of homework tips – what to do and what not to do to help your child with homework – that I’ve seen work in homes and classrooms.


1. Do establish a homework routine. Kids need routines. They feel safe with routines, know what’s expected of them and know what comes next. Create a homework routine for your family and expect everyone to stick to it.


2. Do check homework. Even if it’s been years since you’ve studied quadratic equations or the causes of the War of 1812, you can still check homework. I recommend routine but random checks. This keeps kids on their toes. I like to ask, “Really, this is your best effort?” They roll their eyes, sure, but they always come up with ways to make it better. When all else fails, insist on neatness.


3. Do have a homework zone. Have an established place where kids can complete their homework. It doesn’t have to be fancy-schmancy, just a place where they have their supplies and materials. Organization saves time and eliminates stress.


4. Do let kids see you doing your homework. I’ve seen plenty of families where homework time means homework for everyone. Cell phones are off. Moms and dads take care of the work-related tasks they need to get done. Show kids how you keep a planner and break down big tasks into more manageable smaller ones. They notice.


5. Don’t do homework for them. Seriously, you think we can’t tell when you write that report or build that science fair project? Please. You’re not doing anyone any favors.


6. Don’t make derogatory comments. If you have a problem with short- or long-term home assignments, take it up with the teacher. Bad-mouthing teachers and homework in front of the kids shows adult disunity and gives implicit approval to shrug off responsibility.


7. Don’t minimize homework’s importance. Show kids that learning is one of your family’s most enduring values. Homework allows them to sharpen their skills, deepen their knowledge, and extend their curiosity. Support homework. Even if it’s an occasional hassle.