THE BLOG
11/08/2013 12:42 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Homework: A Time for Independence

Parents have many educational issues to deal with once their children are in a school. One of the biggest concerns and frustrations for parents and children alike is homework. Children have to get it done and parents have to manage it.

One of the best lessons we can teach our children is that of independence and self-reliance. It is imperative that we give our children the space and tools to attempt homework on their own before we jump in to "rescue" them. This is also helpful for their teachers who want to see what each child is able to understand on their own. While teachers and parents are here to support children, a goal for all schools and families is to help children, not only be educated, but, to also be the type of responsible self-assured adults that can take charge and organize their lives in a productive and meaningful way. Each time we help our children help themselves, it is a step towards this -- homework time is no exception!

Many strategies will facilitate this independent homework time. Do not underestimate the importance of a set routine-a time and a place to tackle homework each night -- the same time and the same place.

This includes:

- A quiet, organized place with everything the child needs: pens, pencils, rulers, highlighters, paper, computer, etc.

- A set time -- when there is a non-negotiable time put into place, it keeps the arguments less and will keep everyone calm.

Having a set time and place, beginning from a young age, will help students know what to expect in their day, organize their time and make it easier to get back to the routine on days that it must be interrupted, for things like family events, holidays or special occasions.

In addition, another tool that is extremely helpful with organization, as well as giving the child a chance to feel in control, and the parents a chance to relinquish their control, is to have a checklist for each night of homework. This could be as simple as:

-Read for 20 minutes
-Math sheet
-Study spelling words for 10 minutes

This can evolve to a much more involved checklist as they get older.

For example, middle school children can benefit from :

-Organizing backpack
-Cleaning out folders
-Emailing teachers with any questions

In addition to a checklist with each subject and what needs to be completed. These checklists should be clear, short and tailored to each child's specific needs.

One of my children was very unorganized and needed to help to stay focused and on track. His checklist included things like:

-Double check work for careless mistakes
-Reread homework assignments to make sure all were completed
-Put homework in backpack to get ready for the next day

Last, some kids are happy with their sense of accomplishment while other kids might need a small incentive to help them get motivated -- this can range from a sticker each night or an extra book before bed or, whatever it is that motivates your child

It is amazing how much kids can accomplish when they are trusted with responsibility and how much they can rise to the occasion when even given a small incentive... even that of a smiling parent saying, "good job." Whatever is the reward, the result will be the same: a calm happy child and a calm happy household!