NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Homing in on Homework: Tips for Making Study Time Productive

LAS CRUCES -- Whether they're six or 16, homework often seems more like punishment than learning for children, especially after a long day at school.

Parents can use some strategies, though, to keep study time from becoming a struggle for power, said Diana DelCampo, a family life specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

"It's best to compromise when it comes to study time, because we don't want it to become a tug-of-war," DelCampo said.

Compromising may mean postponing or rescheduling study time on the night a child's favorite television show is airing. Or, parents could videotape the show, so the child could watch later.

When children ask for help with homework, parents should listen and help them learn. "But, if a child takes in corrected work to the teacher, the teacher assumes the child knows the answers," DelCampo said. "If the parent has done all the correcting and the child really didn't learn anything, you're doing the child a disservice."

Instead, parents should help children find out the answers for themselves by having them look up words in the dictionary or try to explain their math problem out loud.

Parents' main role in managing homework is in establishing the best place for children to study in the house, as well as the time and length of homework sessions.

"Parents also should help children get the supplies that they might need for their homework," she said. "And, they should reinforce the study routine everyday."

Parents can encourage with comments like, "Wow, you really stuck with it," "The project you're working on looks interesting," or "Now that you're done, you get to have play time."

DelCampo offered tips for managing children and homework at different ages.

* Give children a choice of two different study places.
* Limit studying to 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Have two study periods a day, if necessary.
* Reinforce good study habits by rewarding children with an activity like playing a game or watching television when they are done.

Middle school

* Discuss with children the best place to study. It could be different for each child in the family.
* Limit studying to 30 minutes at a time, with 10 minute breaks. Decide with children the best time of day for homework.
* Reward with comments like "You read the whole story, now you can play."

High school

* Let teenagers choose their own study place.
* Let teenagers choose when and how long to study.
* Reinforce school night curfews and make comments that show an interest in teens' schoolwork. Reinforce and reward by letting teens have a special activity or use the phone when homework is complete.

For more information, parents can contact their county Extension office and ask for Guide F-104, "Tips for Parents: Helping Children with Homework."