You cannot allow your children to remain indifferent about their homework. If they develop such an unmotivated approach to learning, they are likely to have problems handling the “real world” as well.[1]

Homework is where student, parent and teacher intersect: each has an important role, and each must fulfill responsibilities, or it’s likely that the work won’t be completed.


  • Teacher: As the teacher, my primary responsibility is to prepare students to complete the homework independently. This involves teaching concepts, communicating directions, modeling what is expected of students, and providing one copy of the assignment.
  • Student: The student’s role is to learn in class, be prepared to complete the work, remember to take all necessary materials home, complete the work on their own, and to remedy any missing or late work.
  • Parent: The parent’s role is to provide a quiet place for their student to work, to monitor student progress with the work, to praise good behavior, and to create a system to motivate students to work if they are not doing or “forgetting” their homework.

How much?

A good rule of thumb is to plan on ten minutes of homework for each advancing grade level: fourth grade, 40 minutes of homework, not including extra time reading. Students will most likely see the most homework in math, up to four nights a week. Science and social studies homework will come home less frequently. There will be weekly assignments for cursive and spelling. While reading assignments will not be given, fourth grade students will benefit from 30 to 60 minutes of reading each night. This time can be divided into “chunks”, and can take the form of independent reading, being read to, and reading aloud to others.

Daily Homework Time

“Do you have any homework tonight?” Parents like to ask that question, but now you don’t need to. The answer to that question is, “Yes, always!” People who want to improve practice a little each day to get better. And the best way to help your student build good habits with work, responsibility, and academics is to set up a Daily Homework Time.

This is a regular block of time for your student to work for 15 minutes on math, 15 minutes on writing, and 10-20 minutes on other work as necessary (social studies, science, math facts, cursive). For each week night, Monday through Thursday, have your student work on math, writing, and other things for 40-50 minutes a night. Make it be a habit. For more about how to set up a Daily Homework Time, see below:

Keep reading for more about Daily Homework Time and how to make it work for your family.

Late or missing work

Late or missing work is a fairly common problem that happens to some students at least occasionally. And if the problem is occasional, students may have the chance to correct the problem by turning in the work with little or no penalty.

If the late or missing work becomes a regular occurrence, the assignments may be penalized or not accepted at all. Additionally, late or missing work must be made up in a timely manner; excessively or repeatedly late work will not be accepted. Late or missing work will be graded after other on-time assignments are graded. Please note that being allowed to make up missing assignments is an undeserved extension of mercy.  There is no expectation that any late work will be graded.

Late or missing work is the responsibility of the student. Student’s are allowed to come to class during recess to work on missing assignments or to correct low grades. They may also obtain missing assignments during this time. A “chore” will be charged for each missing assignment, due to the time cost involved in locating and printing an assignment that was previously provided to the student.

You can stay on top of missing assignments by logging in to check online grades regularly, where you will be provided with a list of assignments and associated grades, and any missing work. Please feel free to contact me by phone, text or email if you ever have questions or concerns about homework or missing work.

Please see the Grading Policy for information on how missing assignments are graded.

Can you just send the missing work home with my student?

In a word, no. It is the responsibility of the student to complete their work, or to solve problems they create by allowing themselves to have missing assignments. I will assist as needed. Having to collect multiple missing assignments prevents me from helping other students with the limited time that I have. I provide students with one copy of each assignment, for free. Additional copies will come at a cost: the cost of a chore and some lost recess. Also, until I can be reassured that the same problem of missing assignments won’t happen again, I may be hesitant to provide multiple copies of missing assignments.

What if my student has a low grade?

If you notice your student has a low assignment, quiz, test or subject grade, your student is welcome to correct their mistakes for an improved grade. Here’s what to do:

  1. Have your student keep their original paper with the low score.
  2. Ask them to use another paper to correct the answers they missed. This is when they can improve their learning and their grade.
  3. Have them staple their corrections to the original page and turn back in.
  4. Your student will be awarded a half-point for each point corrected.

Extra Credit?

If your student would like to improve their grades, extra credit assignments are the last option:

  1. The first step would be to make sure all work is turned in. Extra credit won’t help much of entire assignments are missing.
  2. Once all work is turned in, the next step is to improve any assignments or test with low scores. See the section above for how to improve grades.
  3. If a student has turned in all work and improved low scores, and would still like an extra opportunity to improve their grades, they can meet with me. I’ll ask them what they would like to do to prove their knowledge and learning in whatever subject they would like to improve.

How to handle problems

Some students complete their homework to the best of their ability, without much intervention by parents. If only all students were like this! Instead, your student may show some of these common homework problems[1]:

  • Not doing his best work
  • Refusing to do homework
  • Failing to bring assignments home
  • Taking all night to finish homework
  • Not doing homework on his own
  • Waiting until the last minute to finish assignments
  • Not doing homework if you’re not home

If this sounds like your student, then consider putting into practice the Homework Without Tears program. (I have two copies of this book available in the Parent Library. If you would like to borrow a copy, just contact me, and I will send it home with your student.)

The Homework Without Tears program is a straight-forward, simple approach to homework that will help you do these things[1]:

  • Set up a proper study area.
  • Get homework finished on time.
  • Get your children to do homework on their own.
  • Motivate your children with praise.
  • Motivate your children to do their best work.
  • Communicate assertively with your children.
  • Back up your words with action.
  • Work with your children’s teacher.
  • Provide study skills that will improve your children’s performance at school.

This program will help you do these things to get your student on track for success:

  1. Set up a proper study area in your home.
  2. Establish Daily Homework Time.
  3. Take steps to encourage your children to do their home independently.
  4. Consistently praise your children’s efforts.
  5. Use additional incentives if necessary.
  6. Communicate so that your children really listen.
  7. Take a firm stand.
  8. Contact your children’s teacher if necessary.

The keystone of the Homework Without Tears program is to set up a Daily Homework Time. The idea is to have students expect to work for 40 minutes every night, even if there is no “official” homework. When no homework is assigned from school, students work on other academic activities to practice, extend or enrich their studies in school, such as practicing cursive, working on math facts, or exploring the Internet to find out more information about the current science topic. When students understand that they will work for 40 minutes on homework every night, they will be less likely to argue, procrastinate, or “forget” their work.

And what happens if students refuse to do their work during Daily Homework Time, choosing just to sit there or work slowly? Well, the student has a choice. He can complete the work, or sit at his desk without TV, music, video games, computer, phone or any other privilege. Once he knows that you mean business, the work will get done.

If it sounds like I have described your home or your student on this page, then please contact me for a copy of Homework Without Tears, check it out from the library, or purchase a copy of it. Taking a few simple steps really can lead to homework without tears, for you student and for you!


[1]Canter, Lee and Lee Hausner, Ph.D (1987). Homework Without Tears. New York, NY: Harper.

  • Please note that the Parent Library contains other titles dealing with homework, motivation and behavior problems. You may be interesting in reviewing one of these as well.

This page last updated October 9, 2019 @ 7:07 am.