Plan a Daily Schedule for Homework

Dr. Sam Goldstein

It is important to set a family rule for homework time, such as “homework must be done between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Homework time should not be assigned late in the evening nor when your child is tired. Enforcing time schedules for homework is an effective way of increasing the number of assignments completed. However, when you do not monitor the time schedule, you may discover that your child will not maintain the schedule independently. Therefore, it is important for you to consistently enforce this schedule as a family rule. Remember, a behavior needs to be repeated many, many times before it becomes a habit or a routine. The younger your child, the more repetitions will be needed.

Preferably, homework should be completed immediately after a snack (or playtime) but before preferred activities (e.g., television). We suggest you consider a number of short homework periods in the early afternoon interspersed with preferred activity times, especially for children with learning or attentional problems. A daily plan can be communicated to your child by a written or tape recorded list of activities specifying times to be spent on homework, chores, and preferred activities.

We also suggest you develop a list of preferred activities with your child. These can be available when homework is completed. Preferred activities can be as simple as additional time prior to bed time and can be used to increase the number of minutes children spend on homework. Certain snacks might also be made available only during homework time. Family outings or special family conversation time might also be offered as rewards for efforts directed towards homework completion. But make certain that you spend a fixed amount of time with your child each week that is not dependant upon the quality of their behavior or work.

Try not to deny access to an activity that may be an important “one time event” (e.g., the circus coming to town, the birthday party of a friend or relative). Make sure your child has access to sports and recreational activities that are also not dependant on the quality of behavior or homework.

This column is excerpted and condensed from, Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide for Solving Common Homework Problems by Sydney S. Zentall, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. (1999, Specialty Press, Inc.).