Girl with laptop doing homework

Tips on Being A Great Homework Parent

words by Caroline Wilke


In the book, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan, a silverback gorilla, watches his human friend Julia consistently agonize over homework and remarks, “Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and thick books and long sighs.” Sometimes, but not always, a sharp pencil and a thick book might be necessary for your child to complete their homework, but long sighs should not be a part of the homework equation. There are multiple strategies parents can utilize to be an effective “homework parent,” and Caroline Wilke, a third-grade teacher at The Covenant School, shares her Tips on Being a Great Homework Parent.  

Establish A Homework Routine at Home

Boy doing homework at kitchen table The first step for parents to help with homework is to establish a clearly defined routine at home. This should be a routine that you and your child have created together. Having a conversation with your child about his or her after-school procedure will make them feel like they were involved in the process, which in turn allows them to take ownership of the homework routine.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’, “children do best when routines are regular, predictable and consistent” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2004). Some children need a snack, play time outside or an organized sports practice before they begin school assignments at home. As TIME magazine put it, “Children rebel against homework because they have other things they need to do. Holler and run. Relax and reboot. Do family chores … play, following their own ideas. Children have been told what to do all day long at school, which is mostly sitting still and focusing. When school is out, kids need time for other things.” ( Ultimately, children, especially elementary-aged children, should be given an opportunity to have unstructured playtime after school. It is imperative they have a mental break and a chance to “just be kids” before tackling any homework assignment.  

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How to Create a Homework Space at Home

After you have created a realistic routine where expectations are clearly defined, the next step in helping your kids with their homework is to create a distraction-free homework space. Assist your child in creating a quiet place where they are comfortable (but not too comfortable!) with age-appropriate materials and organizational tools, such as pencils, notecards and highlighters. Becky Lynch, a kindergarten assistant in Charlottesville and mother of two teenage daughters, says, “the more you can minimize an opportunity for distraction, the better. This is the key for a successful homework night.” Televisions, iPads, cell phones and other tempting electronics should not be accessible during homework times. Kelli

Henning, a second grade teacher with teenage triplets at home, has a “zero tolerance” policy for technology during homework time and she expects her kids “to turn off their technology until all of their homework is completed.” Her kids have abided by this rule since they began receiving homework in middle school. However you choose to do it, make sure your child can complete homework with as few distractions as possible. This will help them do well on their homework now and set up healthy habits for future success. Having a distraction-free homework space will help your child foster healthy habits that will set them up for future success.

Along with a distraction-free space, it is important for you as parents to resist the urge to do homework assignments for your child.


How Much Should Parents Help With Homework?

Along with a distraction-free space, it is important for you as parents to resist the urge to do homework assignments for your child. Take into consideration that the process of doing homework is more important than the product, and that failure should not be feared. In the TIME article “Why You Shouldn’t Do Your Child’s Homework,” the author notes, “Failure teaches you some seriously important skills: what you are doing wrong, what you need to do differently next time, and emotional coping strategies to overcome the real heartache that can occur when we crash and burn.”

Although, it is possible that elementary-aged children might experience difficulty when reading directions or understanding an assignment. If this is the case, give your child a chance to try the problem and then step in to offer assistance if you think it is necessary and will prevent frustration. Encourage middle school and high school-aged kids to work through problems by themselves by organizing an approach and using multiple problem-solving strategies. Thinking out loud and learning how to tackle a challenging problem will help them develop grit and stamina necessary for when they encounter real-world problems in the future. Give guidance instead of answers.

Praise Hard Work and Effort Over Outcome

Provide positive feedback in the form of praising hard work and effort. In the book, The Growth Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, she notes, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” This focus helps kids build resilience. Dad helping teenage daughter with homework

How Much Homework is Too Much Homework?

Finally, along with a routine and a distraction-free space, monitoring the time your child is spending on completing his or her homework is absolutely crucial to being a good homework parent. While the amount of homework varies from district to district, school to school and even teacher to teacher, it is important to be in communication with your child’s teacher from the get-go in regards to homework expectations.

According to Cathy Vatterott, an expert in the topic of homework, “Both National PTA and the National Education Association endorse the 10-minute rule, which states that the maximum amount of homework (all subjects combined) should not exceed 10 minutes per grade level per night. That is, a first-grader should have no more than 10 minutes of homework, a sixth-grader no more than 60 minutes and a twelfth-grader no more than two hours.” (Check out her Hints to Help Reduce Homework Stress at If it is taking your child more than the recommended time to complete an assignment and he or she is showing signs of frustration and stress, have them stop the assignment and contact the teacher, as homework should not induce anxiety.

Dr. Bluestein, author of Build Flexibility Into Your Homework Policy, wants teachers and parents to keep in mind the importance of engaging (and maintaining) a love of learning and a curiosity about life and the world beyond the subject itself ( While these tips might not address or solve all of your homework issues, the primary goal for you as parents is to aid in the process of helping your children develop a love and a lifelong passion for learning. You can help your child develop the mindset that homework can be a positive experience that is rewarding, fun and challenging.

The U.S. Department of Education notes, “The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires.” Be a role model for your child by modeling healthy work habits. Cultivate an environment at home where books are viewed as gifts that you can open over and over again. Read to your child, with your child or alongside your child, especially in the elementary grades. Find math in the world by creating real world problems to solve, or use cooking and household chores as paths to reinforce critical thinking skills. Doing homework can mean more than getting out the “sharpened pencils” and “thick textbooks.” Instead, it can be an avenue for gaining meaningful and valuable learning experiences applicable to a child’s everyday life.  

For additional learning opportunities, visit our great story on raising money smart kids, enjoy some fun time with easy math & science games at home, check out a great diversity reading list for kids and when you are looking for a way to learn on the weekend, consider a Virginia daytrip all about history or check out summer camps to expand learning in the months between school. 

CAROLINE WILKE is a third-grade teacher at The Covenant School. She has always had a passion for teaching and educating., a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.