Homework Help for Parents and Kids

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Homework has been a contentious topic among educators and parents for at least a century. Several research studies have attempted to gauge how effective homework is for increasing and enhancing learning. 

Synthesis and meta-analysis of homework studies show that the amount of homework that students complete is positively connected to improved academic outcomes. The controversy over whether or not students should be assigned homework continues on.

Educators and parents who do not support assigning homework claim that homework robs students of valuable time to connect with their families and peers, creates an unhealthy work ethic, and is unfair to children who may not have support at home to complete their work.

Today's educators are well versed with the pros and cons of assigning homework. Teachers and schools strive to find homework policies that will be fair to their students and have the best student academic outcomes. 

What this means for parents of children and teens in school today is that a wide variety of homework policies will be encountered in the schools. Parents need to find out from each teacher or school what to expect for their children's homework, so parents can provide the best possible support.

Developing a Homework Plan

Even though homework policies vary widely, parents can follow the steps below each school year to establish good homework habits.

Know the Homework Policy

Find out from the teacher how much homework your child will receive, when it will be due, how it is to be turned in, how long it should take to complete, and what you should do if your child has trouble completing the work.

Parents can roughly expect their children to be completing about 10 minutes of homework each night per grade level.

For example, a second-grader may have 20 minutes of homework, while a fifth-grader may have 50 minutes of homework each evening.

Have a Homework Space at Home

Create a designated space—a homework corner—to do homework in each evening. The homework corner should be well-lit and comfortable for working. Parents should be able to provide age appropriate supervision of their child.

Provide Access to Materials

Children and teens will need pens, pencils, sharpeners, paper, and other basic materials to complete their homework. You should also check to see if your child will be expected to access websites on a computer or mobile advice, need access to a library, or require special materials for an upcoming project.

Develop Good Daily Routines 

Think about your family's daily routines and have a set time that your child can complete their homework. Establishing a routine time will help your child know what to expect and when.

Getting into the habit of completing homework at regularly scheduled times will also help your child form a habit of completing homework, avoiding potential battles of putting off work until the last minute.

Daily Tasks for Parents

Once you have your annual back-to-school homework plan established, you will need to do some regular maintenance to help keep them on track.

Check In Daily

Even If you have set aside time to do homework, ask your elementary school age child if they have homework each evening. Most high school age kids just need an adult to ask every few days about what homework they have had and what homework will be due in the next week. Middle schoolers tend to still need regular supervision. 

Generally, by the end of the eighth-grade parents can begin to taper off from daily questioning to checking in every few days. This varies according to each child or teen. 

You will know when your child is ready for you to step away from homework help because they will complete their homework consistently without you asking about it.

Provide Supervision

The younger the grade level, the closer you need to sit next to your child while they complete their work. Early elementary graders may need you to read the homework instructions to them and provide one-on-one guidance. Older elementary schoolers may need you to just sit nearby for any questions they have, and to make sure they stay on task. 

Middle schoolers still need to have a parent within view while they complete their work. Many middle schoolers will become distracted easily, yet will stay focused if they know a parent is watching. High school students may be ready to complete their work in their rooms.

Refrain From Doing it Yourself

You may be tempted to do your child's work for them, or even to tell them the answer. No one likes to watch their child feel frustrated by their work. 

When parents do their children's school work for them, however, they rob their child of actually learning how to do it themselves. This can create reliance on the parent, who won't be at school on exam day.

It can also send a message to a child that you don't believe they are capable of learning the material. Struggling with a new concept is part of the learning process. Help guide your child by teaching them to use available resources or to think up other possible ways to complete the assignment.

Check Completed Work

Be sure to review your child's homework after they have worked on it for their homework time. When you look over the material you will be familiarizing yourself with exactly what your child is learning at school. You can check for obvious errors and make sure they didn't skip any part of the work. 

This step also provides immediate accountability for completing homework.

If your child knows you will review their work, they will be less likely to dawdle in hopes that they will get to do it later (which usually translates into never).

Make Sure It's Turned In

Make sure homework is placed in the correct folder or organizer and put in their backpack to be returned to school. This last step of homework completion is a critical one that some children really struggle with.

Teach them to get it ready to be returned as soon as it is completed to avoid stressful morning searches or even frantic phone calls from your child wanting you to bring their assignment to school.

Monitor Grades

Watch for progress reports and report cards to monitor your child's overall school performance. Many schools also have online grade books that are viewable to parents. Find out from your child's school if they have an "open grade system portal" and how you can access it. 

Weekly grade checks are often very good to make sure work is being turned in and is earning acceptable grades. Some online systems can send out weekly grade reports automatically to a parent's email account or cell phone.

What to Do When Homework Isn't Completed

Even when you follow all of the above, sometimes homework doesn't get completed. Nearly all children experience some homework struggles during their school years.

By getting involved early, you can help to get good habits back on track or address other issues that arise. The following questions will help guide you to the best strategy to take:

Look for Patterns

Has a pattern developed? Did your child miss only one assignment? Do they struggle with large projects that span several weeks? Are they only missing work in one subject? Look for a pattern, if there is one, to help identify where your child needs help.

Identify Challenges

Getting homework done involves several different steps. Children and teens need to understand that homework has been assigned, how they need to do it, what they need to do it, actually complete the work, and then return it to the correct place.  Get a good overview of which steps your child is having trouble completing. 

Provide Guidance

If your child doesn't understand the assignment, review the instructions and the assignment yourself. Try guiding or reminding your child what the assignment is asking them to do. Sometimes teachers will give instructions during class and a child will need to remember what the instructions were. 

If your child still doesn't understand the assignment and you do understand it, then tell them how to do it. If this becomes a pattern, be sure to let the teacher know that your child is having difficulty understanding how they are supposed to do their homework.

Offer Assistance

If your child is being asked to do a skill on their homework and they clearly do not seem to have that skill, you may have a great opportunity to teach them how to learn on their own. Help your child find out how to do the work by checking the following places:

  • Textbook
  • Online homework resource site that explains the skill, such as Khan Academy
  • Classmate
  • School tutor may available before and after school

Avoid teaching your child how to do the skill until they have tried at least three other resources. You are trying to guide your child to become an independent learner, not to be dependent on you.

If your child regularly struggles with the skills necessary to complete their homework, be sure to let your child's teacher know.

Help With Organization

Some children need even more direct instruction on how to organize their materials and to keep to a daily routine. If you have established a daily routine and you have been sticking to it for at least three weeks and your child is still struggling in this area, it is time to tweak your system.

Look for ways that you can simplify. Can your child's workspace and notebooks be simplified down? You can also try color coding materials by subject. While organization and routine may not be direct academics, they are important for learning.

If trying to tweak your routines and organization doesn't work, contact your child's teacher to see if there are ways you can work with the school to help your child learn these important life skills.

Provide Motivation

If you have tried everything to help your child get their homework completed, it may just be that they don't care about their homework. If you are certain that your child is capable of doing their work and just won't do it, you can create a reward system to help them learn to work hard when rewards are not immediate.

A Word From Verywell

Almost all children dislike homework. This can lead homework to be a source of frustration and stress for a family. When parents help provide the right support and habits, it can become an activity that parents demonstrate their love for their children.

Here at Verywell you can learn effective parenting strategies—like how to develop good homework habits and maintaining an encouraging attitude that will help your child to succeed in school.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Marzano RJ, Pickering DJ. The Case For and Against Homework. Educ Leadersh. 2007;64(6):74-79.

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.