I get a lot of requests for advice on how to get children to to their homework. Here’s some basics tips that I think make homework time easier. Start using this pattern as early as possible. The earlier you begin setting and holding a pattern for how homework is done the better.
Create a space to do homework. This place should be a desk or table that is free from other things/distractions. Do some trial and error to see what space works best. My daughter definitely worked best at the kitchen table. The mild tension created by the presence of others in or in and out of the room helped her stay focused. However, I’ve worked with families whose children worked best when they were at a desk, alone, in their room. If you do leave them alone to do their homework do a couple of weeks checking in on them during this time to make sure that their working and not doing something else.
I recommend that you don’t have a computer with internet access in your child’s room. My wife compares this to leaving your child outside in New York City at night.
Use homework to help your child develop their sense of time. Children do better in school if they have a good idea of what time means and how long common tasks in school take. Before homework time begins review the assignments and ask your child to estimate how long each assignment will take.
Set up a regular time and place for homework to be done. Everyday follow the routine below when doing homework.
1. Have your child take out all their homework. Have them do this at a table where you can see it.
2. Ask them to show you what they have to do and explain what’s required for each assignment. The parent should then examine the work and make sure the child understands correctly what the teacher is asking for. If your child doesn’t understand or misunderstands talk to them until they’re clear about it.
3. Have them write down the assignments and estimate how long it will take to do each (Math – 15 min., Spelling – 20 min., Science – 30 min, etc..)
4. Have your child order their assignments and place a number next to each to indicate the order. If the homework time is longer than 30 minutes you can also let them choose when to insert a short break (2nd Math – 15 min., 1st Spelling – 20 min., 3rd Break – 10 minutes, 4th Science – 30 min, etc..).
5. Now they do their homework. Have your child check in with you after finishing each assignment and take a moment to review the work with them and see how close their time estimate was. Have them write the actual number of minutes it took next to the assignment on their list (2nd Math – 15 min.(5), 1st Spelling – 20 (35) min., 3rd Break – 10 minutes, 4th Science – 30 min. (12), etc..). This step will help your child learn to tell time, and perhaps more importantly, it will help them develop a sense of how long various tasks actually take. This is an invaluable skill at school when a teacher tells them they have x number of minutes to complete an assignment.
6. When the work is completed watch them put it away into their notebooks/folders and put everything into their backpack so it’s ready for school. While this step may seem obvious, a high percentage of homework that children finish never makes it to school. In the morning rush to get everything done and ready for school homework is often left at home.