Children and Homework: How we ended the nightmare and brought back the smiles to our afternoons together

My love-hate relationship with the subject of homework began a few months ago when our kids transitioned from homeschooling to a traditional neighborhood school. Despite the fact that I didn’t love the idea of spending hours every night doing homework with them, I made peace with the fact that its a part of the game of being in school. So, I tried to be positive about it and was perhaps even over-motivated to get it done. Almost as if this is *my* homework to complete and I have to get it done in the best way possible. Except, this wasn’t my homework to do. It was my child’s assignment. But, it took some time before I fully understood that I have little – if anything – to do with my child’s homework.


So, the kids entered school and were enjoying themselves and the homework started coming home nightly. Like a game of squash, I would meet the homework assignments with my child and bounce it right back to the teachers. Math assignments – whooop, and it flies back fully completed. Spelling – pop! and it goes back to school. Reading – no problemo! ready and waiting in the backpack. I am super mom and my kids are super kids and we are this really great family – Can’t you tell by how perfect our homework assignments look??

But then, the excitement of the beginning stage wore off and the kids started returning home and making excuses for why they can’t do homework. Too tired. Too hungry. Want to play. Can’t find my assignments. Left my book in school. Or – worst of all – hiding from mom in the house instead of doing homework.

And homework began to stretch from the moment the kids enter the house and until nighttime. And I am getting stressed – what will the teacher think of us if he doesn’t do his reading homework? what kind of parent am I if my daughter refuses to do her spelling assignment? Will we get penalized? And the apology emails to the teachers started flowing. Apologizing for what? Apologizing that my son or daughter didn’t finish their work and please forgive them. Hmmm, I feel kind of silly now for doing that.

The days are passing. I am stressed. They are not doing homework. I have to threaten. I have to bribe. I have to beg. So much of my energy is going to getting them to sit down and do their work. What happened to my perfect homework loving kids? what happened to me? I have become a yelling, stress-ball version of myself. Where is my peaceful self who I has everything under control and is totally into positive parenting? There was nothing positive about my parenting at that point.

Kids aren’t happy.

Mom isn’t happy.

We need help.

So, enter guide books on children and homework. I purchased every book on the market that deals with homework and started reading them. Step by step, I made changes in the structure of our afternoon and in my attitude towards homework.

I started by listing my goals:

1. Regain valuable family time in the afternoons.

2. Create an opportunity for the kids to play with their siblings whom they haven’t seen all day.

3. Create some time for the kids to do arts and crafts, invent, play instruments, hang out by themselves or with friends.

4. Minimize homework time and get the kids to finish it in the shortest possible time.

5. Take mom out of the equation and give mom some time to do afternoon errands (Cooking, cleaning, playing with kids).

The bottom line is that I reached these goals. Every single one of them. And I am going to tell you how.

How to get your child to do his/her homework quickly and with no argument:

Step 1: Limit homework time. Many of the experts that wrote books on homework, recommended that homework be 10 minutes per grade level. This means that first graders should have 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, third graders 30 minutes. I said to the kids: 1 hour! That is how much time we dedicate to homework every afternoon. From 4-5pm we do homework. I set the timer. At 5 pm, we close the books and go play. Time limited homework. Thank you, Dr. Goldberg of The Homework Trap.

Step 2: Parent exits the homework triangle.  Homework is between your child and his teacher. Period. It is not your job as a mom to get the homework done. In fact, it is probably best that we stay *out* of homework business so that the child can understand what responsibility and consequences mean. I wrote an email to my child’s teacher telling her that I am transferring responsibility of the homework to my child and from now on he will communicate directly with her about it. Voila! Child has to face teacher when homework isn’t done. I, the parent, am no longer stressed because this isn’t about *me* and this isn’t about my parenting. This is about my child’s choice to do what his teacher expects of him.

Step 3: Offer 100% support and be available in the area. You announce when homework time begins, you let them know that during this 1 hour you are there to help whoever needs it, and you announce when homework time ends. From this moment on, homework time has ended and play time begins. What happens if homework isn’t completed? That happens sometimes. I no longer stress about it. If the child really tried and didn’t finish in one hour, I let it go. The teacher knows about our one hour policy and is aware that this can happen. If the child procrastinated and made a *choice* not to do his homework, then he doesn’t get to join the evening story time with Dad but gets to read on his own in bed. That is just our way of saying that if the child fulfills his responsibility, he can enjoy his privileges. When they complete everything, we get to have fun in the afternoon, play board games, work with play dough or special paint, do an extra long story time, bake cookies, whatever we want. That is great positive reinforcement for our kids. By the way, even if they don’t complete everything, we get to have fun in the afternoon. A time slot for family fun is a must for families on a daily basis and the afternoon is your time to do it with your kids. It isn’t less important than homework. How else are you supposed to maintain your bond with your child? Think about it.

Important to note: There is no yelling, no stress, no badmouthing, no belittling or laying guilt trips on the kids during homework time. All of that stops immediately. Only positive words, smiles, encouragement. Listen, this isn’t easy for them, you know? Imagine sitting there for 7 hours in school and then heading home to – surprise surprise – more of the same! It sucks. Be there for your kid. He/she needs you.

Now, I have become rather passionate about the subject of children and homework and am learning everything possible about this subject. Since I know that many of you want to know more – I want you to tell me what is your #1 challenge when it comes to your children and their homework right here.

I appreciate your input and look forward to reading it. Your experiences inspire me to seek more solutions for the benefit of all moms out there.  Bring it on!

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1 Response

  1. Just-a-Mom says:

    I think this sounds lovely! I wish it applied to kids like mine who struggle with ADHD. Sounds like it could be a wonderful afternoon regime.

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