Use these 10 strategies to stop the homework hassle.
AGREE ON THE TERMS
Kids crave routine and are able to better manage their emotions when they can easily predict the next activity. Same with homework. In addition to your usual back to school routine, ask your child the following questions and come to a mutual agreement.
When do you want to do your homework? Everyone is different. My daughter likes to first have a snack and then start on her homework as soon as she comes from school.
Where do you want to do your homework? Designate a place.
Where do you want to keep your homework supplies? Agree on a specific drawer or shelf where your child can always find a pencil, colored pencils, and scissors.
Where will you put your homework when its done for me to check it? This was a problem for me. My daughter would leave the table with the contents of her backpack exploded across it. I had no idea where her homework was or that she was even finished with it.
HAVE A DISTRACTION FREE HOMEWORK AREA
In our house, it is our kitchen table. I find that it is central enough for me to help my second-grade daughter when she needs it and yet close enough to toys and entertainment for my two-year-old son. The most difficult part is keeping this area distraction free. We can’t turn on the TV, play with anything interesting, or do anything fun. That’s life with a six-year-old. Instead, I pull out paper and crayons for my two-year-old son so can “do homework” too.
The next tip changed our after-school bad moods immediately!
SNACK DRAWER TO USE IMMEDIATELY
On most school days, my daughter returns to me a “hangry” beast. The slightest mention of homework before she has a snack is likely to be met with crying and attitude. Now I keep a snack stash available where she can help herself and become a sane human being again. I keep one snack stash in the fridge and one in the cupboard. I encourage her to take one from each. I usually keep:
In the Cupboard
- granola bars
- trail mix
- Pirates Booty
- Gold Emblem Abound Freeze dried fruit from CVS
- Gold Emblem Abound Snack bars from CVS
- Squeezable applesauce
In the fridge
- string cheese
- peanut butter
USE A TIMER
At the beginning, my daughter looked at her packet of homework and burst into tears. She insisted that it was too long, too hard and she could never finish it. We broke out the timer. I suggested, “Here, we will set the timer for five minutes. You try to finish as much as you can in five minutes and then take a break. Sound good?”
Then, it becomes a competition. How much can she get done before the timer runs out? I just turned homework into a game.
TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
I suggest timing breaks so that they don’t become all-out free play. Simply say, “Ok, let’s set the timer and we can play for 5 minutes.” Some kids may have a very difficult time transitioning back to working and that’s ok. My daughter did as well. When she got emotional, I simply stepped away while she laid her head on the table. In a few minutes, she picked up her head and got to work.
USE SHORT ASSIGNMENTS
If the homework still seems a little too daunting, I’ll create short assignments for my daughter to complete. For instance, if she has a page of math, spelling and language arts, I say, “just do your spelling and then we can take a break.” Or, if there are 10 problems for math, “circle the fifth problem and have your child work up to there, then take a break.
You can transition into this being a more independent activity by asking your child to make their own short goal. Ask them, “How much do you want to do before you take a break?” and have them create their own short assignment. Eventually, your child will be able to take this over.
At the beginning, homework was such a struggle that I offered little rewards for each small assignment my daughter finished. I chose fruit snacks. After each homework page, she got to eat one fruit snack. After a couple of months, she no longer needed the reward to stay motivated. Word of warning though, DON’T USE FRUIT SNACKS. Llama needed 12 cavities filled that year.
Now, let’s organize your child to get the work done quickly!
PREPARE FOR REDOS
Like me, my daughter is a perfectionist and doesn’t like to be told she is wrong. I get this. When I check her homework. I start with all the positives. For instance, “I am so proud that you finished your entire homework packet!” or “That question is really tricky, but I see you figured it out!.” When I find something that needs correcting, I ask her questions to help her find her own mistake. If I see one problem wrong in a row I might say, “Check this row. There is one problem that needs correcting. Can you find it?” When she finds it, the process of checking becomes a huge self-esteem boost. I’m teaching her that people always make mistakes and the important thing is that you find those mistakes and correct them.
CREATE A HOMEWORK ROUTINE & POST IT
Nagging wears me out. It’s not fun for my daughter either. I don’t want to keep telling her to go do her homework or make sure she puts her homework folder away after using it. This year I sat down with her and we created a homework routine together. We’re posting this routine on the refrigerator so now she can reference it when she wonders what to do next.
CREATE A HOMEWORK BOX
One of my biggest homework pet peeves is finding a pencil. We spend 10 minutes looking for a pencil. When we find it, it’s usually broken and then we spend another 10 minutes looking for a sharpener. We have no sharpeners in my house, so then I try to sharpen the pencil with a knife – which I’m not good at. My daughter then does her homework with a stubby pencil and I feel like we just wasted the past 30 minutes.
This year, I created a homework box. Not only will this have every supply my daughter needs to complete her homework daily, but there is also a checklist attached to the box top with contact paper. Each night, after she finishes her homework she’ll use a dry erase marker to check off each supply in the box. That way, nothing gets lost.
Our homework box has:
- 1 pencil
- 1 pack of 24 colored pencil
- a pair of scissors (CVS exclusive Caliber Back to School Supplies brand)
- 1 glue stick
- 1 pencil sharpener/ eraser (CVS exclusive Caliber Back to School Supplies brand)
Notice that I only include 1 pencil. I have more pencils, but I found that as a teacher when kids have more than one pencil, they don’t take responsibility for them. My daughter will count that one pencil every night and make sure it is in the box. When it becomes unusable, I can exchange it for another pencil.
I never have to nag. All I have to do is stare at her and then point to the routine on the fridge. No words needed and she knows exactly what I expect.
With these strategies, homework is no longer the hassle it once was in our house. My daughter comes home, grabs her snack and immediately starts on her homework. Her routine is so set that she gets mad at me if we have to run a quick errand after school. Although it took a few months, these strategies have saved me so much stress and made after school a much happier time.
JoAnn Crohn is a Mom of 2, former elementary school teacher, television industry survivor - she is devoted to helping moms fi the d balance between raising kids and pursuing their own goals. She is based in Phoenix, AZ.