Hands-off Homework :: 5 Strategies to Try With Your Child

We don’t do homework with our son. We don’t even talk about it. We like that our second grader holds himself accountable, and he seems to appreciate the autonomy and trust (the homework helicopter method never worked and only caused anxiety). I realize this approach isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to take a step back, here are 5 steps to get started:

1. Have a weekly plan.

We encouraged him to devise a system to keep himself on track with due dates and presented him with options, including keeping a planner, calendar, or list. He suggested simply highlighting important dates and info on the homework assignment sheet. The method doesn’t matter as long as he has a plan to refer to daily.

His simple highlighting system keeps him focused during the week.

2. No nagging.

We don’t remind. We don’t request to see it. When we want to know what he’s learning, we ask. We don’t check it. If the work goes back to school incorrect, it’s okay. Homework is not graded for correctness, and mistakes will give his teacher an accurate picture of the concepts with which he is struggling.

3. Have an isolated workspace.

He works alone in a separate room so that we are not tempted to check on him and so that he is motivated to think through things for a moment before jumping right to us if he needs help. This gives him creative freedom with how he approaches tasks while still knowing that we’re available for guidance.

A separate space and headphones prevent distractions and keep us from interfering.

4. Adjust your attitude.

This was a hard to navigate initially. There were several days when our son came home with a dramatic “Do I have to do homework?” We tried to reason. We tried to rule with force. Neither approach worked. Then it hit me. I very calmly responded with “No, you don’t have to do it. I didn’t make the assignment, and I don’t mind if you don’t do it. Explain to your teacher tomorrow that you don’t want to do it. Maybe she will have a solution for you.” This was not sarcastic. It was not a trap. I meant every word. I was completely prepared for him to go to school without homework. I was honestly curious of the outcome. I’m not sure of all the details. All I know is he went about his night and somewhere in there wound up doing it. That was last year. We haven’t had homework drama since.

5. Foster an environment of accountability.

My son is in charge of how and when he does his homework. He answers to himself. In other words, we assume he does what he needs to do. His grades reflect that this method is working. His teachers have never expressed concern. If this changes, we will step in to re-evaluate. It’s not a perfect system, and he’s still learning about time management and organization. He forgot a few assignments. He blew off a math test. Grades slipped. We let him take the lead in explaining how it happened and how to remedy the situation in the future. We let him make mistakes. We didn’t check the parent portal or contact the teacher. His grades picked up the following week.

Though it was initially hard for me to step away, I’m thrilled to be involved and invested in his education without being involved in homework.

What about you? Are you more hands-on or hands-off?

Alyson Haggerty
Alyson lives in Metairie with her husband, Patrick, their two boys, and their Morkie, Beignet. After teaching for almost ten years, she left a career in education, earned her BSN, and now works as a pediatric emergency nurse. In her free time, Alyson enjoys flipping furniture, writing, dancing, and painting. She is always looking for a racquetball partner and loves streetcar rides and playing board games with her family. A good cook, she is constantly on a quest to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” but has thus far been unsuccessful.


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