You can blame Common Core, you can blame ADHD, you can even blame good old-fashioned laziness, but you can’t deny that modern-day homework has become synonymous with slow torture for millions of families in America. Visit any home containing a school-aged child on a weekday afternoon and you’re likely to find a stubborn youngster arguing vehemently with a pair of exasperated parents, the day’s homework assignments at the forefront of the madness and wreaking havoc on the entire family. Sometimes the homework battle rages on past dinner and, on particularly rough nights, it even runs into bedtime.
The National Education Association endorses a 10-minute homework rule, wherein students should not receive more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night. This means that a first grader shouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes doing homework, while a sixth grader shouldn’t spend more than 60 minutes working on their assignments.
Take a moment to stifle your laughter because, yes, they are serious. Those guidelines may sound like a dream world, honestly, but it is possible to cut down on the time your child spends completing homework every night. Here are some helpful tips for getting homework done as efficiently as possible.
Designate a workspace. Whether it’s a bedroom desk or the kitchen table, the area should be clean and quiet. Clear away anything not related to homework and have all the necessary materials nearby.
Limit distractions. Shut the TV and put away all phones, games, and electronics during homework time. Try to limit noise and, if possible, separate siblings.
Pick the right time—and stick to it. Decide when your child is likely to be the most focused and try to do homework done at this time every day. While some kids may want to get their work done immediately after school, other kids may need a break first.
Use the teacher’s way. You might have learned it a different way when you were in school, but if you deviate from the method your child learned in class you will probably confuse her further.
Plan ahead. Your child won’t gain anything from burning the midnight oil when a report is due the next day. Purchase a large calendar to organize assignments, taking care to hang it in a spot that is visible to all family members.
Take breaks. Grade school children will generally stay focused for only a brief period of time, as little as just 15 minutes. Let your child work in increments, allowing for a short break to relax in between assignments. Just be sure to restrict the use of electronics during breaks.
Praise a job well done. When you notice your child working hard, let her know you are proud of her. A little verbal praise can go a long way in boosting confidence and self-esteem. If you choose to reward her extra effort with a treat, keep it simple so as not to confuse the motivation.
Be helpful—but not too helpful. Stay close by and offer help if needed, but don’t do the work for him. Answer questions with other questions, and encourage your child to come to his own conclusions.
Talk to the teacher. If you feel that your child is overloaded with work or that the assignments are simply too lengthy or difficult, don’t be afraid to approach the teacher. Perhaps you can come up with a solution together, or discover whether there is a deeper issue at hand
Stay healthy. Good eating habits, an early bedtime, and regular exercise are all key components in keeping your child as productive and focused throughout the day as possible.
By Jeannine Cintron, a Staten Island mom of two who hope to master the art of homework by the time the kids are done with college.