Parenting: Tips from the Homework Whisperer

October 10, 2011

Heather Beals, the student support advocate at Calvary Christian School in Somerton:

The National PTA and the National Education Association recommends 10-15 minutes of homework per night, per grade (i.e. third graders should do 30 to 45 minutes per night).

Basis of Homework

Homework is essential for practice, preparation and extension. Practice=master, preparation=being ready, extension=being ready for the next level or concept.


Parental attitude should be: homework is necessary!

Organization: Have a central place for children to do homework, equipped with materials (pencils, paper, crayons, markers, etc.). Have a central place where all homework and important papers are kept. Have a calendar that shows scheduled homework time (allow for extra-curricular activities, time for rest and decompression after school). Have your child work in a public location (kitchen, family room – with no TV, dining room, anywhere conducive to parental involvement).

Contract: Create a contract, signed between you and your child, agreeing to certain guidelines for homework. Refer back to it on those hard days.

Learn Through Play

Search online sites to assist with fun ways to teach the same concepts being brought home in ways that don't feel like work. For example, computer games, a toss game involving questions and answers depending on where a bean bag hits, basketball or baseball where you review questions with every basket, hit or catch. Pair math with fun activities like listening to music while saying multiplication tables.

The 3 A's

Be available, be alert, and ask the right questions. Parents should know exactly what homework their children are working on. Be available for answering questions and just general assistance.

Please remember parents do not need to be content experts. They are facilitators of the process. Be alert if the child requires assistance and be willing to ask questions of the teacher, if necessary.

Create Incentives

"But it's bribery" you say! Well, when we go to work, it is not just to be there. We receive a paycheck. This does not indicate we should "pay" our children, but we do need to find incentives to help them remain motivated. Try:

1. Chore passes (for good homework etiquette, passes can be earned to release them from certain chores)
2. Breaks (they can be scheduled if you see your child struggling, or can be earned for showing good attitude and effort)
3. Treats (hand one out, or offer special mom/dad time immediately following homework time)


Learn to use probing questions to enhance the thinking process for your child. Do not frustrate them, help them grow in their confidence by showing them you know they can do it!

If you are tempted to try to teach your child the same material, but in another way, be sure to ask the child's teacher first. If the assessment used to ensure the child has mastered the content differs from what you teach them, they could score poorly on their test.

Welcome the use of timers, giving homework time a beginning and an end. If it goes beyond the scheduled time, work with your child's teacher for adequate strategies to help get to the recommended goal of time per grade level.

We like feedback. Remember to praise your child during homework time, instead of just finding errors.

If your child likes homework or excels in specific areas, find resources for additional worksheets and activities in these areas as an incentive.

Begin with the least reinforcing subject area and move to more preferred items as the homework time goes on.

-Heather Beals, Calvary Christian School, Philadelphia

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