Most parents have at least one homework nightmare story to tell. It probably goes something like this: An agitated child approaches tentatively, lip quivering, eyes watering. You ask what’s wrong, knowing it’s a homework issue. Your child manages to blurt out that math homework is just too hard, they don’t understand the material even though they’ve been working on it for weeks in class. After a hug and a reassuring word, you sit down together only to realize that you don’t understand it either. In fact, you don’t even recognize it, being math-challenged yourself. It turns into a long evening of handholding and tear-drying until you realize the assignment was due three days ago, and you knew nothing about it. Your sympathy begins to wane … you wonder where you went wrong.

Well, there’s a fix, a way to arrange homework time so the unpleasant surprises become the exception rather than the rule. It just takes some forethought, planning, encouragement and an insistence that your children hold up their end of the bargain. Here are a few ground rules that can really help.


Circle the Wagons

Getting homework under control depends to a great extent on setting and sticking to a schedule. It’s an ongoing battle, one that starts anew every week. Roll with the punches by spending a half-hour or so at the beginning of each week going over homework assignments so the kids understand exactly what’s expected, when each assignment is due and settling on a “must-complete” date for each one before the week starts. Consider making a list for the week for each kid and posting them on the refrigerator door or another highly conspicuous part of the house. This way there are no surprises, and no room for flimsy excuses, the kind that turn into a pointless argument with a kid who has a talent for shirking responsibility.


 Review the Rough Spots

The beauty of this approach is that you can spot trouble before it materializes. Talk to your children about each assignment. Ask if they understand them and know how to approach each one. If you get a blank stare or your daughter murmurs an unconvincing “I guess so,” that should set off alarm bells in your head. Don’t wait – determine exactly what the problem is in case you need to reach out to the teacher for help or clarification. If it’s a subject you struggled with, be honest with their teachers. Otherwise, they may assume you’re capable of working your child through it. The idea is to head off problems in advance so that homework becomes second nature, and your kids benefit from it.


Reward System

Institute a reward system for when your children get homework done early (i.e. earlier than the night before it’s due). A reward could be an extra hour or two of gaming time on the weekend. Or, maybe it’s a trip to the movie theater or a weekend sleepover with friends. Anything you can do to encourage working ahead will reap benefits.


Homework Time

This one should be non-negotiable, barring illness or natural disaster. Create a designated homework space in a room with no distractions. That means TVs and gaming systems off and smartphones put away. Make sure your child has a workstation with a desk large enough to accommodate their books and other needed objects. If you’re short on space, look into getting a corner desk, which will fit better into smaller spaces, yet will still provide your child with a specific study area.

Once your homework schedule for the week is set in stone, the kids should be busy doing it during whatever hours you’ve designated, maybe 5 to 8 p.m., or whatever works for your schedule and theirs (assuming there may be sports or extracurricular school activities to consider). Work in break time so they can grab a snack and a drink and unwind a bit before beginning the next assignment. If possible, set a nightly schedule that includes at least an hour they can have to themselves before winding down for bed.

Homework doesn’t have to be misery, and it doesn’t have to be restricted to a desk. Work in an outdoor learning activity on the weekends, something like bird watching or identifying different kinds of rocks. These can be stimulating and rewarding learning experiences, and it’s a good excuse for spending some family time together.  

Establishing good homework habits will help your child learn the material. It’ll make it easier for you to help them with their work. And they’ll be more likely to develop good study habits that will help them into their college years.

Thanks to Emily from for being our guest blogger this week!

While you are here… you might also enjoy reading: Strategies for Helping Your Child’s Language Skills

Thank you so much for reading my post today!

Emily Graham is a teacher and the creator of She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.

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