Conquering Homework Battles

Some evenings, homework time feels like a battle zone at our house. We are two years into the elementary school homework routine and still struggle with a simple, stress-free routine. The issue isn’t homework content, but sitting down to finish it without distractions or complaining. After another frustrating night of reminders, lost books, and resistance, I decided there must be another way.

I am a firm believer that homework is my child’s responsibility, but it’s my role to help her learn organization and routine, as well as set a positive tone. Sometimes I’m successful and other days I need my own attitude adjustment. We decided to conquer homework battles by brainstorming and creating our own routine that we could all commit to.

Homework Made Easier

Keep Organized

1. Organize supplies such as a pencil, ruler, sharpener, eraser, colored pencils, glue, and scissors in a pencil box Homework Boxand designate it the “homework box.”

2. Designate a homework storage spot. We have some projects, such as spelling and poetry reading, that my daughter keeps to work on until the end of the week. These are kept in a cubby in our desk, along with homework supplies. This is also a key spot for permission slips and activity reminders.

3. Create a weekly calendar and checklist. Are some assignments daily or certain days of the week? Familiarize yourselves with these routine assignments, so they become habitual and you know  how much time to set aside for homework each night. If remembering all assignments and returning them to school when finished is an issue, you might also consider creating a simple checklist to complete each night.

Set a Routine

1. Designate a homework spot. This can be a child’s desk or dining room table. The homework spot should be a comfortable place where it is easy to focus.

2. Set a consistent time. Some children do well coming home and completing homework along with a snack. Others need a play break before hitting the books again. Extracurricular activities can also effect a schedule and waiting until bedtime to complete homework never ends well for us. Choose a time together that works best and stick to it, with few exceptions.

homework checklist3. Remove all distraction from the homework area. Homework time should be free of distractions such as television, video games, and siblings. Families can decide if things like music or a snack are a help or a hindrance. We sometimes invite younger siblings without homework to sit quietly and draw while their sister completes her homework. She also enjoys reading aloud to her siblings to complete her nightly reading assignment.

Create Clear Expectations

1. Homework is the child’s responsibility. When a child is organized and has a clear routine, homework should be a fairly independent activity that is self initiated. This doesn’t mean parents won’t help answer questions or help with reminders, but creating this expectation helps eliminate the blame game of “But you didn’t tell me.”

2. Homework must be completed to participate in activities. Our easiest homework days are horseback riding days. Our daughter is eager to complete her homework as a prerequisite to participation. If activities are optional, but homework is not, this can be an important motivator.

3. Homework time is positive, encouraging, and affirming. Have everyone, including mom and dad, commit to a positive attitude. Homework time is whine, nag, and complaint free. We all get frustrated and tired  sometimes, but committing to a positive attitude ahead of time can make a world of difference.

Our family is far from experts at homework time, but we are hoping these routines will make a positive difference for all of us. What are some of your favorite homework tips?

Mindy is a mom of three, writer, optimist, striving to be eco-conscious, and hoping to defy stereotypes. She’s a Pacific Northwest Native who discovered a love of the Midwest six years ago after moving to Illinois. Her family of five came to Iowa City in the summer of 2012 for her husband, Tim, to attend the University of Iowa School of Law and they quickly fell in love with the city. Mindy works from home, while caring for her three terrific kids; Ella 7, Ezra 5, and Kai 2. She is always searching for that elusive balance between family and work and can often be found behind a keyboard writing a newspaper article or blog post or managing social media for a small company. Mindy writes about life as a mom – sometimes crazy, often surprising, occasionally exhausting, frequently challenging, always rewarding, and continually a learning experience – at her blog The Inquisitive Mom (


  1. yes if we had homework when we were kids, we grabbed our bags and a snack, sat at the table and got it done. then we could watch tv, or do whatever we wanted.

    as we grew older and had other things to do, the same rule applied, as soon as we got home (unless it was dinner time), we sat and did our homework, if it was dinner time, we ate dinner and then did our homework.I remember doing homework in my room as a teen because it was quieter there..

    it quickly became routine and we never questioned it.


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