Getting Kids to Do Homework Independently

Dear Teacher

How do I get my fourth grader to do homework on her own?

This task is much like getting a child to want to set the table or clean his room without your help. Like these chores, homework cannot be classified as something that’s genuinely fun to do most of the time. However, a child can gain a lot of satisfaction from handling a task by alone and building pride in her efforts when she accomplishes a goal.

The sooner homework becomes your child’s responsibility rather than yours, the better it will be. By the time your child is in fourth grade, you should not need to hover over him or her during this task. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to use a homework contract (see ours at It can spell out the time and place where homework will be done. You also might want to include a reward clause in the contract as your child works toward homework independence.

At the fourth-grade level, you can look over your child’s homework assignments at the start of homework time and help her decide which work will be done first. During this time, directions for doing the homework should be discussed. It is also helpful to show children how to use their textbooks to answer questions about homework assignments. For example, in math, children can rework problems that are similar to those in the assignment. Following these steps gradually teaches children how to handle homework by themselves.

Homework is easier for children to do if they have an assignment notebook to write down all assignments and a calendar to write down long-term assignments so that study time can be planned. Have a calendar for each child and make sure they consult this on a routine basis to form good study habits.




It’s Time to Check on Your Child’s Academic Progress

Now that we’ve reached the middle of the school year, it’s a good time to take a close look at how your child is doing in school. His or her report cards should answer the following questions:
  1. Is my child working up to his or her academic potential?
  2. Is my child working on grade level (elementary school)?
  3. Does my child have any behavioral problems in school?

If his report cards don’t give you a good picture of your child’s progress if you know there are problems, schedule a conference with your child’s teacher now, if the school doesn’t have mid-year conferences. It’s better to deal with a problem as soon as you know of its existence then to wait until your student is really struggling. Waiting will not make a problem go away. Plus, the school year is only halfway over — giving you and your child’s teacher(s) plenty of time to turn things around. When there are problems, always ask your children’s teachers how you can help eliminate or improve them.

If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, be sure to check his or her progress and make sure your child is receiving all the accommodations that the Special Education Team has suggested. Often, children with either an IEP or 504 plan are still failing a class, and it turns out they are not getting the required accommodations, such as having the questions read to them or getting a formula sheet for math tests.

Never be afraid to ask the questions you need to help your child be a successful student.


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