Chapter 29: Homework Help

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Getting it done

In chapter 24, “Homework Anxiety,” we talked about why homework is important. But simply knowing homework matters doesn’t mean you automatically know how best to help your child with it. You may have questions about homework. Should my child do her homework all by herself? When should I step in and help? How much homework is too much?

Homework 101

Here are some tips that answer the most common questions parents have about homework. They can help you figure out how best to help your child with this important activity.

  • Make some space – Children need the right tools to do their homework well. And if those tools are all in one place, then your child will spend less time looking for supplies each night and more time learning. Set up a study space for her somewhere in your home and stock it with everything she’ll most likely need at homework time. Depending on her age, this could include paper, pencils, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, a calculator or even a computer.
  • Make some time – It’s unrealistic to think that a child – especially in the early grades – will “find time” for her homework in the evening. Most schools send homework home almost every night, so it’s a good idea to have a set time for homework in the evening. Almost any time will work, but once it’s established, try to stick with it. Even if your child doesn’t have homework on a particular night, she can use the time to read! Let your child have some input when deciding what time will be the best time for homework. Helping to make the decision will help her come to see that homework – especially as she gets older – will ultimately be her own responsibility.
  • Help, but don’t hover – Try to be available to help out and answer questions when your child is doing her homework, but remember that learning to work independently is one of the goals of homework. If you quickly provide answers – especially to questions that your child should be able to answer on her own – you won’t be helping her learn independence. One good trick is to try answering a question with a question. If your child asks, “Where did the Pilgrims land?” for example, try asking her, “Where would be a good place to look that up?”
  • How much is too much? – Both the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association endorse what they refer to as the “10-minute rule” when it comes to homework. This means that kids should have about 10 minutes of homework each night for every year they’ve been in school. For example, if your child is in the second grade, she should have about 20 minutes of homework each night. A fifth-grader should have no more than 50 minutes total.
  • When to talk to your child’s teacher – If your child is really struggling with her homework on a regular basis and needs lots of help from you, it may be time to talk with her teacher. Likewise, if her homework takes much more time on a regular basis than the 10-minute rule suggests it should, then you should let the teacher know. He or she may be simply assigning too much homework, or your child may not understand some of what the teacher is trying to teach. Either way, the teacher should be informed.


National PTA, “Hints to Help Reduce Homework Stress”