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Ending Homework Hassles

Have you and your child ever struggled over homework? Do you find yourself forced into a "nagging" role, or worse, making useless ultimatums that go ignored? If so, beware of tactics and approaches that may be adding to the struggle. Constructive methods of dealing with the homework issue hinge on mutual cooperation between parent and child.

What, in the first place, is the purpose of homework? Most teachers plan homework as an extension of what students are learning in the classroom. Homework should exercise a skill, such as creative writing, or it should reinforce a newly introduced concept by way of practice. Homework also prepares your child for the next day's lesson.

Because homework is so valuable to the learning process, it is important that parents strike the balance between lending assistance and encouraging self-reliance. The overall goal is to help your child be accountable for his or her homework routine. Routine is a key word. Children must learn good study habits early. A child who learns to put off television until after his assignments are completed, will carry the same self-discipline through college and beyond. Following are some suggestions to improve on the homework experience for everyone involved. Keep in mind that no single solution fits every child. You and your child will need to try many approaches before settling on what works best in your household.

Identify the common problems your child faces. He or she may:

  • Not understand a given assignment
  • Have particular difficulty with certain material
  • Be overwhelmed by sheer volume of work
  • Have left books or other materials at school
  • Lack the motivation to do it

Reinforce good organization skills and study habits, such as:

  • Developing an adequate system for recording assignments (date, course, teacher, assignment, text book)
  • Have a separate notebook for each course
  • Designate a place in the house for all books and notebooks to be kept.

Develop a routine.

Never again find yourself asking, for the tenth time, "when are you going to start on your homework?" Let your child pick a time and place (excluding in front of the TV) for buckling down on assignments. Only in the event that the child's arrangement doesn't work out should you step in with a new schedule. Allow your child to assume responsibility and avoid power struggles in the process.

Don't hover over your child.

This can make your child tense or anxious. Let your child come to you if he or she wants help.

There's a better way to offer help.

Encourage your child to work through a tough problem, prompting them with leading questions. Indicate how their text book's index can help locate information. Suggest other references that you may have on hand, such as encyclopedia's, dictionaries, websites, etc. Remember, the public library is also a great resource for reference books and materials.

What if you are asked to review homework?

If you see mistakes, asking questions about a point may prompt the child to recognize their own mistakes. Don’t just correct mistakes yourself. Teachers use homework as an indicator of which concepts a child has not mastered adequately. Also, when it comes time for the test, your child will be at a disadvantage if he or she is used to having Mom and/or Dad supply the answers.

Familiarize yourself with the policies of each teacher.

Find out how often and what types of assignments will be given. If and when tests will be administered, you also need to know how you will be notified if your child fails to meet expected performance standards.

Beware of rescuing your child the night before a big report is due.

This is a touchy policy to adhere to, especially if you sometimes feel your child’s performance reflects poorly on you. Rescuing your son or daughter will only teach them not to be responsible. Rescuing them at the last minute also encourages procrastination. Keeping yourself familiar with when assignments are due can give you a heads up before rescuing becomes an issue. If you feel a problem with long-term projects is persistent, suggest your child break the bigger assignments into a series of smaller tasks, and ask for progress updates as the due date approaches.

If you suspect your child’s school performance is declining, arrange for a parent/teacher conference. Teachers often can offer suggestions for handling common study-related problems. Also, contact your EAP counselor for assistance.

Additional Resources

Ending The Homework Hassle, John Rosemond, Andrews and McMeel, 1990.

Read To Me: Raising Kids Who Love To Read, Bernice E. Cullinan, Scholastic, Inc. 1992.

MegaSkills, Dorothy Rich, Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Written by: Michele Ginnerty, M.A., and
Daniel Carroll, Science Teacher, Arlington, VA

Edited by Mary S. McClain 4/04

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