Monday, January 9, 2012

How Working Parents Can Avoid the Homework Crunch

by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed.

After a long day at work, one of the last things a working parent wants to come home to is a pile of homework. Kids certainly aren't the only ones who dread it. In fact, a recent LifeCare® poll found that 99 percent of working parents feel some level of stress when trying to help their children with homework--and 49 percent of them rate the stress they feel as "high." Many parents report that their children don't even begin to tackle assignments while they are in after-care or home alone. When this occurs, they then have a full load of homework to complete in addition to dinner, chores, and sports. More than ever, a working parent must have a few tricks up his or her sleeve to get it all done.

Consider these ideas:

Use After-Care to Your Advantage

Talk with the after-care director or teacher responsible for your child. Ask him or her to have your child complete the easiest homework assignment before leaving for the day. Many children either cannot focus or do not want to do homework in after-care, but they are capable of completing a simple task. By the time your child arrives home, at least one piece of work should be out of the way.

Plan Time While Home Alone

If you are unable to be at home when your child comes in off the bus, arrange to either call home at a specified time or have your child call you upon arrival. During this conversation, ask your child to share his prioritized homework list, again, ranking work from easy to hard. This way, the simple work is completed early on and you can assist with the more difficult assignments as needed. In addition, encourage your child to check off work he has finished so that you will be able to see quickly and easily what has been accomplished and what is left to do.

If your son's or daughter's list seems unusually short on a regular basis, ask him or her to print out a list of homework assignments from the school's online portal so that you can verify the homework load when you return home.

Find a Study Buddy

Many elementary classrooms already distribute a list of contact information for classmates. Have your child identify three students he feels comfortable contacting in case he has any questions regarding homework. Keep their contact information in your child's homework area. If your student is older, encourage him to choose several trusted peers or one peer from each class, to call with any questions.

Use Weekends Constructively

The weekend provides a wonderful opportunity for working parents to be active supporters of their children's homework. And many times, weekends are needed to catch up and get ahead.

Schedule a Sunday Planning Session

On a weekly basis (Sunday evenings usually work well), set aside a half hour to plan for the upcoming week. During this time, talk to your child about any extra-curricular activities that might be scheduled and, most importantly, any long-term assignments. Often, it's what's not due the next day that can throw even the most seasoned parent for a loop. Create a plan for upcoming projects, book reports, and studying for tests. Help your child to break them down and write the smaller tasks in their assignment notebook. By previewing the week ahead, everyone is less stressed and more organized and not confronted with last minute surprises that don't bring out the best in anyone.

By anticipating trouble spots and careful planning, even the busiest parent can ensure smooth sailing ahead.

About the Author

Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at or


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