8 Tips for Homework Success

8 Tips for Homework Success

As a parent you will endure countless years of supporting your child with homework. As such, the importance of setting good homework habits early cannot be stressed enough! Following are a few tips for making that success happen.


1. DO NOT do your child’s homework!

No matter how tempting, do not give in to the urge to do your child’s homework.

Homework is meant to serve one of two purposes: 

  • provide an opportunity for your child to practise his/her learning and solidify concepts
  • provide an opportunity for your child to finish class work from the current school day

Neither of those require you to do the homework for your child. By doing your child’s homework you are essential robbing him of those learning opportunities. In addition, your child will quickly learn that, if he makes enough fuss, YOU will do the homework! And trust me, if that happens, you will be doing it for years to come.

So instead, let your child have at it – mistakes and all.


2. Give your child free time after school

Let’s face it, when you get home from work the last thing you want to do is more work. Your child feels the same. Children need a little time to unwind, play, have a snack and re-focus before they are ready to tackle homework. Encourage your child to engage in some form of physical activity as soon as they get home from school. 

Once they've recharged, children will be more likely to re-engage in schoolwork.


3. Set up a designated space for homework

No need for anything fancy, just a designated area that is always used for homework. Preferably a quiet spot, free of distractions. It’s also important to have readily available all the tools your child might need for homework. It’s amazing how much time a child can waste looking for a pencil!

Having everything at her fingertips will allow for continuous flow and focus on the task at-hand.


4. Be present & available

Often parents will tell their children that they want them to get their homework done before they get home from work, or at the after-school program, or while they are in the kitchen making dinner. Times where you are not readily available, should your child need assistance.

Providing your child assistance, when needed, looks very different than doing the homework for him. It is imperative that this assistance is timely to keep your child on track and from losing focus. Here are some examples of assistance that your child may need:

  • organizing and reviewing what needs to be done for homework before beginning
  • defining what a content word means
  • helping understand what the question is asking
  • giving your child a sentence starter
  • helping spell a word

These are things that teachers typically do throughout the day to support student learning. Your child has come to rely on them. If these supports are suddenly unavailable at home your child will inevitably get ‘stuck’ and become frustrated.  With this small level of support immediately available your child will most likely be able to seamlessly, continue with the task at hand.


5. Consider adding structure to the homework routine if necessary

Some children may need a little more structure to their homework routine. There are three strategies that I would suggest implementing if you feel like your child needs a little more structure to stay focused.

Chunk the Tasks

This strategy involves looking at all the homework your child needs to complete and then breaking it into smaller parts to be completed at separate times. 

For example: Let’s say your child has 3 math questions, needs to practice spelling words and must read for 15 minutes. You and your child could agree to break that into three manageable chunks: after dinner – 3 math questions, after bath – practice spelling words, before bed – read for 15 minutes.

Breaking it into smaller chunks makes it feel more manageable and less overwhelming to your child.

Setting a Timer

This strategy could be used in a few different ways.

  • Set the timer for a short amount of time (maybe 10 minutes) and ask your child to complete as much of the homework as possible during that time. When the timer goes off, she gets a break for the same amount of time and then repeats the cycle until her homework is complete.
  • Have your child “race” the timer. Ask him how long he thinks he needs to complete his homework. Then set the timer for that amount of time and see if he can beat it. This is meant to be fun and help keep your child focused. I wouldn’t suggest this strategy for a child that will become easily upset if the timer finishes before he does.
  • Find out what the recommended amount of homework is for your child’s grade in your district – it will usually stipulate a timeframe. Set the timer for that amount of time and have your child complete as much of the homework as possible during that timeframe. If he does not complete all of it, add a note for the teacher and send it back incomplete.

To have good long-term habits the nightly homework routine needs to meet with success most of the time. Developing these habits in a positive manner is more important than completing every single homework assignment.

Using “First / Then” Statements

This strategy is suggested for a child that does not like to do homework. It essentially involves negotiating with him so that he can have a preferred activity after completing his homework. It works best if the child only gets the preferred activity after completing homework, not any other time. And, in addition, if there is a time limit on how long he gets the preferred activity for.

For example: Perhaps your child loves to play a video game that you don’t necessarily endorse. Then a happy compromise might be that he only gets to play it after homework is finished. No other time. So, you would tell your child, “First complete your homework, then you can have 30 minutes playing that particular video game”. Full stop. If he completes the homework, he gets the video game time. If he does not, he doesn’t get it – but he can try again tomorrow. He is in full control of whether he gets to play it every day or not. 

The key to this strategy is finding the right preferred activity. It needs to be one that your child is willing to work for. It is also important to note that the preferred activity may change over time.


6. Know when enough is enough

There may be good days and bad days when it comes to homework. Just when your child seems to be hitting a groove, a total meltdown may ensue. This can happen for many reasons. But one thing is for sure, no further learning will be happening that evening. 

As a parent, it is important to know when to prioritize your child’s mental and emotional health over the completion of the day’s homework - continuing to insist that your child completes the homework in a distraught state also risks undoing all the progress that has been made.


7. Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher

If your child is struggling nightly with homework, it is important to make your child’s teacher aware.  Often teachers are completely unaware of the situation.  Once they know, they can become your best ally in solving the nightly battle.  You can work together as a team to establish manageable homework goals for your child and develop an understanding that homework may come back to school incomplete, but that it wasn’t for lack of effort.  As a parent you can also ensure that your child is not losing coveted recess time to complete this unfinished schoolwork. 


8. Make learning fun!   

At the end of the day, learning should be a fun and engaging activity!  The more that you foster authentic curiosity with your child, the more engaging learning will be.  

Children also need to understand how learning at school is relevant to their everyday lives; while also understanding that learning happens in many ways – and sometimes that’s through paper and pencil activities, while other times it’s through hands-on, kinesthetic activities, and everything in between.




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