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The homework problem

Published September 21. 2013 09:00AM

Dear Dr. Smith,

Every evening, our home becomes a battleground. My son gets so much homework that it takes him hours to do it. My husband and I have to be policemen to insure he works at getting it done. School just started this year and I don't know how we will keep this up for nine more months. Please help us. Thank you.

Mother of a fourth grader

Dear Mother of a 4th grader,

First of all, please try to take a breath and relax. Your son has many more years of school. The homework will get harder and longer. If you don't calm down, by the time he's a senior, you'll be in the booby-hatch somewhere.

That being said, here are some of my thoughts on homework:

• 1. Good teachers do not feel the need to assign mountains of homework. The purpose of homework is to practice a skill that has already been taught. The student should understand the concept completely and have no trouble doing the work.

• 2. Children need to develop independent study skills. Your son should not need a policeman hovering over him in order to get homework done. He should be able to handle it on his own.

• 3. It sounds as though your son does his homework after dinner. That's the right time for it. Let him play when he comes home from school. After all, he's been working all day behind a desk and needs some free time. But, when dinner is over, study time begins.

• 4. In that vein, you and your husband should support your child's efforts by using that time to read quietly or do household chores that don't disrupt. Turning on the TV just makes doing homework harder. When the house is quiet, your child's brain will work better.

• 5. Make sure that your child has a homework notebook and that he keeps track of the daily assignments. You should read over that notebook every day. That way, you will know how much homework he has in which subjects. If it seems like a very heavy load of work, you can talk to his teacher and ask about it. If he has more than one teacher, perhaps they don't coordinate the amount of work given. In my opinion, homework for a 4th grader should seldom take more than an hour to do.

• 6. No one really enjoys "work." Remind your child that education is his "job" at this time of his life. He needs to do the assigned tasks, move from grade to grade, and graduate. After that, he can find another job. Some kids need reminding about how important school is for their future. Please make education a priority in your family.

• 7. Believe me when I tell you that your problem is not unique. I'd be willing to bet that a majority of homes with 4th grade boys in them have the same issue. Homework and young boys are about as compatible as oil and water. It takes strong parents to set down the rules and follow them. If your family gets in the habit of homework completion early on in your son's education, you will be happier later on.

• 8. Take some time to sit down with your son and look over his homework. If it seems important to you, he will care about it more.

• 9. By all means, make homework completion a must. No snacks, TV, phone calls, or video games until it is finished.

Above all, keep the line of communication with your child's teacher open. Let her know that you are having a homework problem. She will have some suggestions for you. After all, she's used to dealing with 4th graders.

If I can be of any further help, please let me know. And, remember to try to relax a little.

You can reach Dr. Smith, at: or in care of this newspaper.

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