Tips for Managing Homework Time in a Big Family

Tips and tricks for maximizing homework time

Mother helping son doing homework at dining table

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Juggling kids who all need your time and attention can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to homework. The good news? There are ways to keep things organized and running smoothly—at least some of the time!

And whether your routine needs a major overhaul, or you just need some fresh ideas, these practical tips for managing homework time in a big family can help you stay on track.

Have a Homework Corner

Creating a dedicated homework station away from distractions, yet close enough to keep an eye on the progress, is key to making this process work. That said, families with multiple kids may find it next to impossible to find a place away from all distractions. So, dedicating a space, but minimizing activity during homework time, might be the best bet.

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Keep this space out of a bedroom. Close to the kitchen or a home office is ideal. And if you have enough room to create two homework corners, you could divide kids into groups based on age or subject they’re studying, which may help keep things quiet and more organized. 

Spruce Up the Homework Space

Now that you have a dedicated space established, it’s time to spruce it up. This is an excellent opportunity for the kids to pitch in and have a say by letting them decorate the area and set up the station. While they’re tending to those tasks, make sure the overhead lighting is good or add a lamp.

Relocate toys, electronics, and any other distractions to another area. And create a space just for supplies. Even if the homework space is the kitchen table, you can still have a homework kit with supplies in a crate or bin that you take out during study time.

Be Efficient with the Routine

Mother of five, Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, says to make your homework routine more efficient, have the kids who can work on something independently get set up at the homework station first, then move to the other children. Even if this is for a short time, it allows you to work with any children who might need your help with assignments or projects.

Rotate Homework Breaks

If homework takes longer than one hour, you need to include breaks. To accommodate space, time, and resources, consider rotating these breaks. For example, the youngest kids can take the first 10 to 15-minute break and head outdoors to play. When they come back, send the older kids on their break. Karges says short breaks between assignments help kids of all ages decompress, and it may also help improve their concentration.

Break Up the Work

Celeste Cruz, a mom of five (including twins!), likes to split the homework into two sections, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. She’s found that doing the written portion of homework first, followed by a snack, and then reading works best for her family.

Books at Bedtime

Another way to break up tasks is to make reading part of the bedtime routine. Whether it’s reading for pleasure or finishing up a chapter in a social studies text, moving this part of the homework to later can help with managing homework time. "My kids always read longer than the required time because it’s an excuse to stay up later,” says Cruz.

While this strategy works well for older kids, Cruz does point out that very early readers need more help and tend to fall asleep faster, so keep their reading with the written part for now, but let them browse their books at bedtime too.

Set Up Study Buddies

For many parents, teaching independence is an important goal, especially when you have multiple kids living at home. And part of this independence comes in the form of older siblings helping younger siblings with homework. Depending on the number of kids and ages of each, you can set up a study buddy system for doing homework. The older kids can read books and homework instructions to the younger ones or work on math problems or science projects together. “It’s a great way to boost older kids' confidence, promote sibling bonding, and help mom out, which is definitely a win-win-win,” says Cruz. Plus, it builds everyone's reading skills and gives parents a bit of a break.

Get Your "Homework" Done at the Same Time

If your calendar is in need of some attention or you have a stack of papers that need to be signed, why not use study time to get your work done too. And if you’re taking a college class, extended learning course, or finishing a book for book group, this is also an excellent time to model good study habits. Kids learn best by watching the adults in their life.

Keep Supplies Stocked and Organized

Save yourself from the pencil-hunting frustration and make a homework pouch filled with pencils, erasers, crayons, a pencil sharpener, and pens, says Cruz. Just remember to keep this separate from any communal art supplies or school supplies, so the kids don't lose or destroy it.

Have a “Go-to” Box

This can be as simple as a large shoebox or a plastic file box that you place in a central location. Karges likes to use this box as a central place for her kids to put papers they need her to review. “Your kids will likely need you to review certain assignments or look over and sign paperwork and permission slips, and having a paper trail can be hard to keep track of with multiple kids,” she says.

Just Skip It for Now

You only have two hands, one brain, and one mouth, so making yourself available to everyone at all times is not an option. One way to calm the chaos is to ask older kids to work independently and skip any problems they need help completing. This frees you up to work with the younger kids who likely need more hands-on assistance. Once you’re finished with them, head over to the older kids and answer their questions, or at least try to!

Take Advantage of the Commute

Using commute time to work on a few math problems or finish an assigned chapter in a class text can minimize study time at home. Establish which children are suited for homework in the car and remember to take into consideration any kids who get motion sick, because they may not be able to do any of this. To make this work, keep a backpack full of supplies like pens, pencils, a calculator, paper, and a ruler in your vehicle. If you allow eating in your car, keep a few snacks in here as well. Homework is a lot easier when bellies are full.

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