Back to School: Homework Help

Although the calendar is still filled with camp, summer jobs and BBQs, the new school year is just around the corner.  With the onset of school comes the responsibility of homework for tweens, teens (and parents!).  Many parents report that homework continues to be a challenge and battleground well into their child’s teen years.  This week’s article is a repost from August 2014, where we gathered some tips to help you prepare your teen to develop a more productive and positive homework plan.

In his article on avoiding the homework battle, Kenneth Barish offers excellent ideas for structuring homework time.  While these tips are helpful for setting up a successful homework environment for kids of any age, we have expanded this list to include suggestions that are specific to teens.


1.  Establish a time – a “homework hour.”  A specific, limited time is important for kids to anticipate the need to set aside adequate time to work on their homework and also to know that their homework will come to an end.  Having a regular routine helps your child build organizational skills.

For teens: One hour per night may not be enough during heavy homework times.  Help your teen plan ahead by offering to look over their class requirements and schedule with them.  Help them identify larger chunks of time when they can complete bigger school projects and to divide larger projects into smaller, more manageable pieces with specific deadlines.


2.  Include the whole family.  Set up a space where everyone, including parents, can work in the same room.  Family members without homework can work on quiet tasks like reading or writing.

 For teens: Because independence and privacy is so important for teens consider allowing them to study in a private space rather than with the whole family.  However, it is very important to continue to check in to be certain that your teen is staying on track. Identifying if and how your teen may be struggling earlier rather than later in the process is more likely to reduce the overall trauma homework struggles.


3.  Set the scene.  Minimize anything that might distract from homework.  In particular, reduce electronic distractions.

 For teens: Computers and Internet access are often necessary aspects of middle-school and high-school homework.  When your teen requires a computer for homework consider having them use it in a central area if they need help managing appropriate use (aka not playing games when they should be doing homework). There is evidence that listening to music can actually enhance studying for some youth. For others it is a distraction. You may have to help your child experiment to find which style works best for her or him.


4.  Provide support.  Offer positive, frequent encouragement for improvements and hard work.  Praise skills and hard work rather than only rewarding good grades.  Persistence is a strong life-skill that your child can learn from doing the hard work of plugging through homework.

 For teens:  You may not be able to help your teen figure out that geometry problem or puzzle through a foreign language but your support is key to your teen’s ability to handle the stress of tough homework loads.  Some teens need help recognizing when it is a good time to take a short break from a problem and take a walk or play a quick game.  Others need encouragement to be more persistent and stick with the work. You can also encourage your teen to be more proactive and connect with teachers and other students who can provide extra homework support.


5.  Repeat.  Depending on the type of day your child had or the homework, there will be challenges, frustrations and setbacks.  Acknowledge them and start fresh again the next day.

For teens:  As with most things in life, practice and persistence lead to success.  Teens are still developing the mental capacity to efficiently plan long-term projects, like homework.  By encouraging productive homework habits, you are not only supporting your teen to do well in school but also taking steps to teach your teen how to organize complex projects on their own for the future.


What tips do you have for helping your teen succeed with homework?



Article by Anne

Anne-Headshot-useAnne is an interim Extension Specialist with Cooperative Extension Family Living Programs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is also a doctoral student in Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and has a masters degree in Public Health. She is the oldest of three children.