Step One: Renew the expectation of excellence
Now, as always, it's important to verbally communicate your expectation that your son or daughter will complete all the homework that's assigned, and create a structure that paves the way. Set up a time, every day, when homework is supposed to begin. If you're at work, call home, every day, at that exact time. Ask for specifics about what was assigned, and then state, "Okay, before I come home, here's what I want you to get done."
Step Two: Help your child stay on track
Create a Time Chart for the hours in which homework should be done. Break it down into half-hour increments. Have a copy at your desk at work and make sure your child is reviewing the same chart while you walk through it over the phone. Make it clear that "between 3:30 and 4:00 you'll be working on this; between four and five you'll be working on this," and so on.
Step Three: Make study time the right time
In addition to ensuring that homework time is free of the distractions, try to arrange the schedule so that your child is concentrating on assignments when he or she has the energy and mental clarity needed for optimum performance. Some students may do best by delving into homework as soon as they get home from school, while others may need some time to wind down before they can focus.
Students should try to do their most difficult assignments when they're most alert. Getting the harder work out of the way before going on to easier assignments alleviates anxiety and helps students avoid being caught in a late night trap in which the work becomes more difficult because of fatigue and frustration.
Step Four: Become a better homework partner
During the early grades, your child may have grown accustomed to doing homework with your active coaching and encouragement, but middle and high school homework often lends itself to independent study whether or not one or both parents are at home. Yet you can still be an active partner. If your child has a particularly difficult assignment that requires your help, he or she can save that assignment for a time when you're available. If you simply can't be home, talk with your child's teachers about special after-school mentoring programs and study sessions that will ensure your son or daughter gets the extra help and support to succeed.
Step Five: Remember it's not just about homework
If you're like most people, your work day requires you to get a lot done before you head home. Your child likewise has a limited number of after-school and evening hours for homework, extracurricular activities and "down-time" before the lights go out. By helping your child budget his or her time now, you're setting a pattern for habits that will enhance success in the classroom and workplace alike.