Homework SOS: A Guide For Parents

homework 1I always loved school. I enjoyed school so much growing up that I made going to school my career. I teach kindergarten, and working with young children every day is one of the best jobs in the world. It’s a nice balance of pure fun and utter exhaustion. Some days it is heavy on exhaustion and on those days, I go straight home, put my feet up, and have an adult beverage!

While I have always loved school, one thing I never cared for much was homework. Those dreaded papers and projects that ruined your day and took away precious time that you could have been playing outside after school, have always been a thorn in my side! Even today, when I have to bring work home with me, I get that same feeling of resentment that I did as a child. My “homework” now ends up taking time away from my family, which always makes me grumpy.

Parents often tell me in my classroom that their children actually LOVE getting homework. Of course they do, because in kindergarten homework involves doing or working on something together with your parents. We rarely send home homework that is meant for our students to do alone, which means they get some one-on-one time with mom or dad. What child doesn’t love that?!

That is not always the case though. As your children grow up and hit a certain age or grade, their homework gets crazy difficult and the amount doubles. This often frustrates parents because there is not enough hours in the day for their children to go to whatever activity they do after school (sports, dance, piano, etc.), eat dinner with their family, and still be able to have time to just be a kid. Add homework on top of all of that and it’s a recipe for one grumpy, cranky child.

Here are a few tips from me (the teacher) to you (the parents). I hope these ease the pain you may be experiencing each night as you attempt to assist your child with their homework.homework 2

  1. Most homework for elementary aged children should never take much more than one hour. The general rule is 10-20 minutes for primary grades, on up to 30-60 minutes for upper elementary. Lower elementary homework should be fun, engaging, and interactive. This type of homework is created and meant for you to do WITH your child.  It is not for your child to do completely alone.
  2. If your child’s homework is taking longer than that, talk to your child’s teacher. Homework is supposed to be extra practice on skills that have already been taught in the classroom. If the work is taking a lot of time because A) Your child doesn’t understand the concept or B) You’re having to re-teach it to them, let the teacher know! Believe it or not, we actually LIKE it when parents let us know these types of things, because it helps us re-adjust our instruction.
  3. Of course sometimes certain homework may take more than an hour. Social Studies and Science projects often fall into this category. When your child is assigned something that you know is going to take a long time, break it up. Have them work for 20 minutes at a time and then take a break. Maybe they go play basketball outside or play in their room with their toys for 10-15 minutes before returning to their project. This is perfectly okay and is a MUST for children that need to get their wiggles out and can’t concentrate for long periods of time.
  4. One of the most disappointing things for children is when they get home from school and realize that they don’t have the right materials at home to complete their homework. The easiest way around this is to have a drawer or area in your home that is dedicated to homework. Stock the drawer or area with sharpened pencils, glue sticks, highlighters, paper, crayons, markers, and anything else your child may need. Take advantage of Back-to-School sales at the end of the summer and stock up on supplies for your home. School supplies come in handy for lots of other things besides homework too!
  5. I know one thing that always motivated me to get my homework done right away was to give me an awesome after school snack. If I knew I would get a fun snack for getting my homework done right away, I would work diligently every time! Figure out what motivates your child, whether it is earning screen time (iPad, computer, TV, etc.) or having extra playtime before bed, and then use it to your advantage. Let your child earn something for getting their homework completed, such as a yummy snack like I mentioned before, and your evenings will be a lot less stressful.
  6. Having a homework schedule can be helpful too. If your child knows that every day at 5:00 PM while you cook dinner, they have to do their homework, they will better understand that there is a time for work and a time for play. Children function better with a routine. In fact they often crave it! Make homework part of your daily routine and then everyone knows what is expected of them during that part of their day. No more negotiating when it comes time to stop playing and do their homework.
  7. This last tip is probably the BEST tip for all of you parents. If you use this tip and you get any backlash from your child’s teacher, send them my way. Tell them that an experienced teacher gave you this advice and she practices it with her students and even her own child! Take this one and run: If you are getting into daily arguments, fights, or all out refusals to do homework, DON’T MAKE YOUR CHILD DO IT! homework 3Yup, you read that correctly. Homework is not meant to cause frustration between a parent and their child. It should not create disagreements that turn into punishments or consequences. This can create a very negative view of school for children, and they will eventually lose any love of learning that they have left. Instead, just have your child put the homework down. Communicate with the teacher that your child needs more time to finish it or that they were not able to do their best work that night. Teachers know and understand that children need downtime. Downtime should not include completing homework. Downtime should be time spent just being a kid. If you let your child’s teacher know that your child wasn’t having the best night and they needed time to just relax, they will not fault you. Heck, I would praise you because I think that often children’s days are so full of running here and there and everywhere, that one night of just doing absolutely nothing is healthy! Bottom line, openly communicate with your child’s teacher and they will be more likely to adjust their homework expectations.

I hope these tips help save you from drowning in homework every night. Following guidelines like these will help teach your child time management and responsibility. It will also help them learn about how to prioritize and meet deadlines. These tips might even change your opinion of homework, and who knows, maybe you might start to enjoy it!



Melissa was born and raised right here in Iowa. Although she grew up in southwest Iowa (about as close to Missouri and Nebraska as you can get!), she has called eastern Iowa home for 15 years. She and her husband Eric live in North Liberty, along with their 4 year-old daughter Kennedy. Melissa attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BA in Early Childhood Special Education and her MAE in K-6 Learning Disabilities. She currently teaches kindergarten for the Clear Creek Amana School District, where she has taught for 14 years. In her spare time, Melissa loves to be outside playing or working on projects in their yard, spending time with family and friends, and baking up goodies for her family. She also enjoys taking walks with their two dogs, plump beagle Lenny and shy dachshund-beagle mix Cooper. Life as a full-time working mommy keeps her very busy, but Melissa wouldn't have it any other way!


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