Back to school

Secrets to getting kids to do their homework

Sep. 5, 2013 at 11:44 AM ET

Video: The joys of fall may quickly fade once your kids start bringing home that dreaded homework. Fortunately, there are ways to get your kids to focus. Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine, shares ways to get kids of all ages to buckle down.

Ah, back to school. It may be the end of summer, but there’s actually lots to be excited about for kids heading back to class, including new friends, backpacks filled with supplies and fun activities.

Homework, on the other hand, not so much.

So how do you get children to successfully tackle all those math problems, essay questions and assignments?

Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine and the mom of an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old, offered advice for families bracing for homework headaches.

GIVE KIDS A BREATHER AFTER SCHOOL

“You need to give them a little down time -- detox time -- especially if your child doesn’t have gym or recess at school on a daily basis,” Points told TODAY’s Willie Geist and Natalie Morales.

“Try to either commute home by scooter or by walking, running or give them a little time to play outdoors and then settle down and try to agree upon a time when homework will start.”

IDENTIFY A COMFORTABLE SPOT

Many parents assume the child needs to be at a desk while doing their homework, but that’s actually not the case, Points said.

“You want the child to work where he or she is most comfortable. So depending on the activity that they’re doing, if they’re reading, for example, a quiet corner might just be fine," she noted.

"Some kids like to lie on their belly while they’re working. As long as they’re not distracted by screens in the room, for example, you should be fine."

KEEP AN EYE ON COMPUTER ACTIVITY

Some homework is now assigned on iPads or computers, so while kids are online there may be lots of temptation to play games or click on an unrelated website. In those instances, parents can turn off the router to keep the children on the computer but off the Internet, Points said.

Older kids may need the Internet to do the homework, but you should establish with their teachers on whether they should be Googling the answers or using spellcheck, she added. Different teachers have different policies.

When a computer is involved, the homework needs to happen in a public spot, Points added.

HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD BE DEVOTED TO HOMEWORK?

It depends on what grade your child is in. Points suggested going by National Education Association guidelines: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter. So 20 minutes for children in the second grade, while those in the twelfth grade may devote two hours on homework. High school students may sometimes do even more, depending on what classes they take.

If a child takes much longer than that, parents should mention it to the teacher because it might be too much homework.

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