Ways To End The Nightly Homework Battle

Posted by
Katia Hetter
The Fiskars Art Caddy, available at amazon.com

Where is your son's book report? Did your daughter remember her cleats for soccer practice? And whose permission slip were you supposed to sign?

Parents fight the battle to get homework done every night, and the next morning children often forget to pack it (and everything else they need) in their bags. The mad dash can mean someone gets to school late, and that can affect your kid's attendance record. But it doesn't have to be that way! Organizers from around the country have easy-to-implement solutions to make your children's homework easier for them to do and easier on your nightly and morning routines.

Create a homework station. Pick a spot where homework gets done, whether it's a desk, the dining room table or even the living room floor, says Brooklyn, New York organizer, Amanda Wiss. Stock the right supplies for your children to complete their homework, and store them in a drawer or a homework caddy, and make sure to replenish supplies. (Wiss likes the Fiskars Art Caddy available at Amazon for $13.95, and a tray you can get from The Container Store for $10.99. A simple Office Depot caddy also does the trick). Then monitor your child's progress to ensure the location and supplies work for him. He may need adult supervision to avoid getting caught up playing with Legos at his desk. Or your child may need to be in the dining room near you cooking dinner, just because he missed you all day.

Check it off! Wiss likes checklists for children listing what they need to do and what they have to take to school each day, knowing that it can vary with the day. It can be as simple as a laminated list on the refrigerator that includes lunch, homework for that day, sports equipment, musical instruments, Girl Scouts or religious school. Little kids (and maybe some big ones too) like to check off things they've accomplished, and having it on the refrigerator for everyone to see adds to the fun. Older kids can use planners they get from school or cell phone calendars with alarms for due dates.  Costa Mesa, California organizer Gail Gray likes the $5 planners at Agenda Works for children in 5th grade or higher grades.

Where is that spelling list? Have a home for the weekly "study to do's."  Omaha, Nebraska organizer Amy Tokos suggests a magnetic clip on the refrigerator or bulletin board for each child to hold the spelling list, the list of states and capitols or ongoing book report projects. Kids are using these things daily and sometimes taking them back and forth from home to school. "This is also helpful for party invites and other info that the kids need to hold on to for a temporary period of time," she says. Older kids may need more extensive "to do" lists to handle research papers and studying for big exams that must be accomplished over time.

Start young. Good habits will help children handle more complex homework assignments as they grow older. Gray, who blogs about kids' homework, has a "Five Things" system that works for some younger kids: "If children always have five things they are supposed to bring home, they count the items and verify there are five packed up.  Like if they have a reading book (1), lunch box (2), notebook (3), homework folder (4), sweatshirt (5). " She finds even young kids can get into the habit of remembering without needing lists.

Watch for meltdowns! Younger children often have just a little homework, but it needs to get done early before they get too tired to think and get stressed. And some kids have no sense of time and believe you're going to make them do homework forever. Key Biscayne, Florida organizer Rivka Caroline finds a timer helps to convince worried children that homework time will end and fun will follow provided they use the time to do their work.

Give kids choices. When given the chance, Caroline finds that some elementary school-aged children can make their own after-school schedules. She suggests presenting them with categories of work that have to get done such as homework, book report, review for test work, supper and free time and ask them how to arrange them. "Kids can get really creative," she says. "Once one junior client of mine realized that he could get more play time decided on his own to begin flashcard review work in the car. He gained 10 extra minutes a night on his DS and was thrilled."

Get ready for tomorrow. Before evening free time begins, everyone should get his or her bags ready for the next day. That's another time when you can discover permission slips to sign or books needed for the next day. Then pick a location by the front door or mudroom where backpacks, briefcases and purses yes, you can model good behavior by getting your bags ready are stored.

Stand back. Organizing can just be a matter of good habits, so give your children the chance to learn them. As your children get older, that means you can remind them less. They need to learn from their mistakes, Gray says, or they will have a hard time being self sufficient in college. Gray tells her kids to always put things back where they came from to help them from forgetting where they put stuff. They learn something when they forget. "My son recently switched where he put his protractor and thought he left it at school," says Gray. "It turns out he put it in a different pocket than usual, and found it the next morning when putting his lunch in his backpack.  He learned that if he keeps it in one spot, he would be able to find it every time!"