By Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.
Article appearing in the Community News 1/15/08

When children return to school in the new year, many parents dread the homework battles. But parents can do a lot to head off those conflicts by setting and committing to some ground rules, creating a suitable work environment, and communicating with teachers.

Some parents want their children to hit the books as soon as they walk in the door. After spending all day sitting, though, many children need to give their minds a break and burn off some physical energy first. Whether your child requires 15, 60 or 90 minutes of down time, make it clear that when study break is over, it’s time to settle down to homework. Experiment for a week or two with different options, then set a consistent schedule to be followed throughout the year.

Children should understand that not doing homework simply isn’t an option, and parents need to be strong in enforcing the homework rules they establish.
If your child is a dawdler or daydreamer, help to keep him on track by setting time limits. For a young child, for example, you might allow 15 minutes to complete a language arts work sheet or a half hour for a set of math problems. Use an actual household timer that will buzz when time is up. Young children do not have a welldeveloped concept of time, but even eighth graders can have trouble judging how long a half hour is. Getting a child used to pacing himself and staying on task will improve his performance in the classroom and on standardized tests.

The proper environment can go a long way toward keeping your child focused and productive. Being off in a bedroom alone—where there are games, toys and comic books—can be just as distracting as working in the hub of household activity. Find a quiet but centrally located place where you can easily pop in your head to check on your child’s progress.

Periodic breaks will help your child to remain focused and productive when he is working. Lower elementary school students, for example, might work for 20 minutes and then take a 10- minute break. For high school students, 50 minutes of working followed by a 10-minute break is appropriate.

Furnish the area with all the school supplies your child might need: pencils, sharpener, pens, colored pencils or markers, rulers, glue sticks, scissors, stapler, protractor and compass, dictionary and thesaurus. To avoid the 8 p.m. emergency runs to the store, go out now and buy poster board, construction paper, string and other supplies. Start now to save shoeboxes, milk cartons, Styrofoam food trays, and other items that can be used to create projects. A little preparation now can save hours of frustration down the road.

What if your child is working diligently in an appropriate environment, but seems to require too much direction from you or is struggling to complete homework in a reasonable amount of time? I am a strong advocate of parents communicating
with teachers. A teacher needs—and wants—to know if a child is having difficulty
with material so that he or she can help that child.

Different students will take different amounts of time to complete a homework task, but the range of times should be appropriate to the grade level. If your child’s homework load seems to be too much, or too little, the teacher needs to know that, too. When school and home are linked closely, students are more likely to succeed.

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Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.

Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. is President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., an area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring and test prep for children and adults, and translating/interpreting since 1985. In addition, Back to Basics is a Department of Education approved 1-on-1 Private School for K-12, as well as a Business and Trade School for ages 16+.
Email Beverly at, call her at (302)594-0754 or visit on the web at or

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. is located on 6 Stone Hill Road, Wilmington.

Beverly Stewart inducted to Hall of Fame of Delaware Women