How to Help Your Elementary Student with Homework

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior School Correspondent

September 30, 2019

HOMEWORK!!!  Just the word makes some of us, kids and parents alike, cringe. At its best, homework helps teachers identify what skills and knowledge students are absorbing in class and homework can help students develop independent study skills. At its worst, it can fuel meltdowns from tired kids and breakdowns from parents who simply cannot understand the “new way” of teaching math.  If you are already starting to sweat just thinking about your kids and homework, hold on. Here are a few simple tactics to make the process of homework less painful for everyone.

1. The 10 Minute Rule 

One of the most helpful tips I received from an elementary school teacher was the 10 Minute Rule.  The 10 Minute Rule is a generally agreed-upon guide among educators regarding how much homework is healthy and productive based on grade level.  According to the Rule, students should spend 10 minutes per night, per grade level, working on homework. That means if a student is in grade 1, they should spend 10 minutes on homework per night; if they are in grade 6, they should spend 60 minutes per night.  This rule gives parents a guideline of how much time should be devoted to homework and when to advocate for more or less homework.  

2. Make Time 

As a  parent, one of the most helpful things we can do for our elementary school-age kids is to set regular homework time.  For the most part, it should be consistent, at the same time each school day. Many experts recommend giving kids a 30-minute break after they walk in the door for a snack and time to unwind and then it is time for homework.   

3. Create Space

Once you have the homework time set, devote a special homework space.  Some kids like to do homework independently in their rooms, others like to be front and center at the kitchen table. Regardless of where it is, this space should be relatively quiet, free of distractions, comfortable and allow for easy access to homework supplies (pencils, markers, paper).

Focus on helping your kid develop problem-solving skills and when needed, how to ask for help from his or her teacher.

4. Stay In Your Lane

When it comes to homework, your role as a parent is a supporting one.  You are there to motivate, guide, support, and love: provide praise, help with directions, answer basic questions, review work for completion and encourage breaks.  RESIST the urge to provide the right answers and complete your student’s assignments. Focus on helping your kid develop problem-solving skills and when needed, how to ask for help from his or her teacher.  Most teachers make themselves available for extra help and highly encourage students to seek out support. And, here is a little secret …most teachers can tell when the parent is doing the homework for their kids!!

5. Recognize the Warning Signs

Problems with homework can serve as a red flag or warning sign.  If there are continuing challenges with homework like routinely exceeding the 10 Minute Rule, having meltdowns, constantly forgetting homework, these could be a warning sign that something else is going on under the surface.  Reach out to your kid’s teacher and share the homework struggles. The two of you can work together to uncover the source of the difficulty. Homework stress could be as simple as your kid learning and practicing organizational skills. Or, it could indicate the need for a learning evaluation to rule out or diagnose a learning difference.