First with Kids: Wrapping Your Head Around Homework


With school back in session, I am frequently asked what parents should be doing to ensure that homework gets done. Let me take on that assignment and provide a few tips.

More than just homework

Homework, though perhaps not your child’s favorite after school activity, isn’t just about a specific assignment. Homework also teaches your children how to manage and budget time, follow directions independently, develop a sense of responsibility, and take pride in the work they do. When a homework routine is adhered to by your child or teen, it can result in a work ethic that carries way beyond the classroom.

Learning valuable lessons from homework

To help your child learn these lifelong values from doing homework, it’s important to create a daily routine early for doing homework in a child’s school career.

How can you do this? First, don’t over schedule your children. Leave them free time in addition to homework time so that their every minute is not structured.

It’s important to remember children are most alert in the late afternoon and early evening. Children are not very alert during the time just before going to bed.

Keep other things going on at home quiet during homework time so your child is free from distractions. Parents, you might use homework time as your time, too, to read, pay bills, and do other quiet activities.

Involving the Internet

If the internet is going to be used, a good idea is to keep the home computer in a common space, perhaps at the kitchen or dining room table. This way you can make sure they are actually doing the homework and not texting, emailing, or surfing the internet.

Nights without homework

On nights when there is no homework, keep the routine intact by encouraging reading time, instead. A great idea is to build relevance into an assignment. Show them how the new skills they’re learning can be applied to everyday activities. A good example of this is applying math skills to calculate the savings from coupons for groceries.

Positive feedback

Comment frequently and positively on your child’s efforts doing homework. You should certainly comment on things such as neatness and accuracy, too, if and when you are asked to review it.

Finally, while you can and should model a positive attitude toward school and learning, don’t do the homework for your child.  As your child gets older, if you’re like me, this may not be an issue. Our kids, and now my granddaughter, are often learning things that are beyond what I can understand or help them with.

Hopefully tips like these will work in your home when it comes to making homework an enjoyable and family-centered learning activity.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. 

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