Helping with homework


Helping with homework

First, I think kids get too much homework.  They need to run, jump, play and be kids.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can my child do the assigned homework on their own?
  • Is it a reasonable amount of homework for my child’s age and grade?


  • If the child is in 3rd or 4th grade, or older, sit down and discuss a time and place that you both agree is right for your child. Their buy-in is important.
  • Ask them what they have for homework. Then estimate with them how long it should take to complete.  (Often kids get distracted, do other things and look like they are taking hours to complete a 30 minute assignment.)  Check in with them at the time homework is to be completed by their estimate.  Also ask them if there is anything in their homework they cannot do.  Find out why.
  • If you have determined the homework is taking too much time, discuss putting an accommodation in your child’s IEP to limit homework time or amount. Then make sure the accommodation is followed.
  • Let your child do their own homework. If it is too difficult, discuss the issue with your child’s teacher.  Homework is supposed to be a review of what they know, not new concepts.
  • Praise your child’s completion of homework.
  • Don’t get into a battle with the child over their homework. Your positive relationship with your child is more important than completing the homework.

My Own Story:  My son had a writing disability.  He was very smart but his writing was very difficult to read.  He did not like doing homework.  When he entered the 7th grade, I decided to make sure he did his homework every night.  I checked weekly with the his teachers during that nine week quarter and made sure I knew what he needed to do each day.  He studied at our kitchen table where I could be sure he was doing his homework.  He got all A’s and B’s that quarter.  To celebrate his success, I took him to hear the sports writer to the New York Times during school hours.  All of us were very happy.  But, when I stopped this process, he didn’t do his homework again.  I had gotten A’s and B’s not him.

When your child is in elementary and middle school, the grades don’t count towards a GPA.  Let the child fail and suffer the consequences.  Hopefully by high school, they will learn to be more responsible and do their homework.  My son went on to a good college and got a law degree.  I didn’t help him with high school homework.  If there was something he struggled with, I got a tutor.  His senior year, he had a physics tutor that got him to compete with his teacher.  He gave my son physics problems to solve and share with his class.  My less than stellar student got the highest A in his class.  It was worth paying for an hour a week of tutoring.

Years later, my son told me, “I didn’t hate homework.  I hated the repetition — showing the school what I knew over and over.  When I got to college, it didn’t matter if it took me five minutes or five hours.  I was learning something new.”  What an insightful statement from a 24 year old.

Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, President of the Creative Education Institute, author of Richards Learning Systems and a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached

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Dave Hoffman