Many parents dread their kids’ school homework as much, if not more than their kids do. It’s not easy to squeeze homework into schedules packed tight with after-school activities, family and work responsibilities, dinner and still get the kids to bed on time. Plus, it’s never easy to convince tired, hungry kids to tackle homework after a day at school. Here are effective tips for kicking off the school year with a stress-free and productive homework routine.

photo via Woodley Wonderworks, flickr
via Woodley Wonderworks, flickr

Make it top priority.
Make it a routine to tackle homework before the afternoon slips into late evening and leaves you with tired, cranky kids. For most families, it works best to do homework after school, once kids have had a snack and a few minutes of chill time. If you wait to do it later, it’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of after-school activities, outside play and friend time then ends up interfering with bedtime. Having it done and out of the way frees up the evening for family time, avoids meltdowns, and helps keep everyone on schedule.

Provide a healthy snack or meal.
Kids can’t do their best when they are hungry or filled with sugary, processed snacks. Make sure your child has a satisfying, healthy afternoon snack before digging into homework. Some parents even swear by feeding their kids dinner when they get home from school, and a lighter snack later in the evening. Seems unorthodox to eat dinner at 3 pm, but it makes a lot of sense! Check out our Cures for the Snack Attack Pinterest Board for healthy snack ideas and Easy, Kid-Friendly Dinners for Busy Parents to rev up your dinner repertoire.

Create an appealing homework space.
Designate a comfortable space for your child to do his homework each and every day. Rather than doing homework on the couch while watching TV or in the back seat on the way home from soccer practice, get in the habit of doing it an environment that is conducive to doing good work. Whether it’s the kitchen table or your child’s own desk, make sure it’s a spot that’s free of interruptions or temptations, and is well lit. Have tools and materials handy, such as sharpened pencils, markers, and a dictionary.

Schedule ample time for homework.
Young children may only need a few minutes to copy spelling words or trace letters, but if possible, turn off the rush. It helps to give older kids time to work through tougher homework without the added stress of squeezing it into the schedule.

Keep homework anxiety under control.
Kids have less anxiety when they know what to expect and when to expect it. You can reduce any anxiety they may have about homework by sticking with your routine, making sure your child understands your expectations and reminding him that mistakes are a part of learning.

Stay connected with teachers.
Open communication with your child’s teacher is important. Let her know if your child has anxiety about the homework, or if you feel there is too many assignments for a young child. Also ask her for suggestions on how to help your child understand and complete assignments, and for feedback on your child’s performance.

Recruit your sitter to help with homework.
If you depend on a sitter for after-school care, ask her to spearhead homework and be available for assistance. Helping a child with homework means clarifying directions, providing additional explanation, and reviewing the finished product.

Consider hiring a tutor.
If your child continually struggles with the work, consider hiring a tutor. It might be the solution that takes the stress off both of you, and allows you to spend more enjoyable time together.

With a little practice and consistency, these strategies should help you tee up a successful, stress-free routine to start the year off right.

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