Back to School: Whose Homework Is It?

by Carol Band

Kids may hate homework, but so do their parents. That's because it often becomes mom's or dad's responsibility to nag the student to make sure assignments are done properly and on time - and, sometimes, to run out to buy construction paper and cotton balls for the diorama that's due the next morning.

Too often, parents end up doing the homework for their child.

"In fourth grade, my daughter is so overwhelmed by the amount of homework that she has that I sometimes give her the answers just so that she won't be up until midnight trying to figure it out," laments one parent.

"Teachers don't want you to do your child's homework," says Sally Hoyle, Ph.D., author of Same Homework, New Plan. "They want to be able to access your child's understanding of the material."

Ask your child's teacher what the expectation is for homework and for parental help. Does the teacher expect parents to edit writing? Check for math mistakes?

Hoyle suggests that from fifth grade on, children should take responsibility for their own homework. "Parents are to homework what a coach is to soccer," she says. "You are there to help them do the best that they can and to encourage them."

Tips for Less-Harrowing Homework:

  • Set up a homework station, where materials are easily accessible and long-term projects can remain undisturbed.

  • Designate a quiet time for the family when kids can do homework.

  • Don't encourage your child to do homework with a friend. "It's not efficient and doesn't produce a good measure of what your child knows," says Hoyle.

  • Eliminate distractions. No TV, IM'ing or iPods during homework time. "A child who is interrupted by an IM takes about seven minutes to get back on track," Goldberg says. "That's an enormous drain on productivity."

  • Help your child make a plan to get homework done. Break big projects down into manageable tasks and post those mini-deadlines on the calendar.

  • Have kids write their homework assignments down when they're in school, Goldberg advises. This helps reinforce the assignment. If the homework is merely posted online, the child often won't look for it.

  • Ask your child to explain his work or teach the subject to you. This reinforces the material and lets you know what your child is studying.

  • Never ask your children if they have homework. "There is always something that they can study or read," Goldberg says.

Return to the Back to School Resource Center

More about homework:

  • Does Homework Help Students Make the Grade?

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