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Jennifer Joyner: Is it break time or homework time when kids get home from school?

Posted October 15, 2013

Jennifer Joyner

I think I’m breaking even in the Homework Wars so far this school year.

On the plus side, it’s mid-October and I haven’t had to Google anything yet.

In the negative zone, I still battle both of my kids when it’s time to sit down and get it done.

Granted, it’s not as bad as it has been. Emma, now in fourth grade, is more than capable of doing most of her homework on her own with little help from me, a definite plus. However, getting her started has proven to be just as tough as ever.

And Eli? My second grader treats me to a daily diatribe of how unfair homework is, how it isn’t right that after being in school all day, he has to come home and do more work, blah, blah, blah.

After trying patiently to explain the benefits of working on school work at home, I’ve now resorted to just telling him to save his breath. Kids have been fighting that fight forever, and son, you’ll never win.

So, lines are drawn and threats are made and each day when I finally get homework completed, I feel as though I’ve run a marathon.
There’s got to be a better way.

And yes, I’ve tried both positive reinforcements and negative consequences, all with mixed results. My husband swears one thing will change the tide, will make things run smoother in the afternoons, but I’m not so sure. That’s where you readers come in.

Where do you stand on when kids should do their homework? Do you think they should do it the moment they hit the door, or do you allow a little bit of a break before starting the afternoon grind? I’ve always allowed my kids to eat a snack, take a breath, and chill out before homework begins, and my husband says that’s where I go wrong.

They get used to doing their own thing, and it makes it too hard for them to switch back into “work” mode. If I had them do it right away, and get it over with, I’d have a much easier time.

At this point, I’m ready to try anything. After all, my way doesn’t seem to be working. But I wanted to know if others had success by making it the first thing on the afternoon to-do list.

Please … help a mom out and comment below!

Jennifer Joyner is a mom of two, freelance writer and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Find her here on Wednesdays.


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  • mom97 Oct 17, 2013

    I've heard so many parents talk about what a struggle and battle HW is and it's never been that way for us. My son has always done well in a structured environment. He always did his HW as soon as he got home from school. He would have his bio break, wash his hands and have his snack, then he would sit at his "work station" and I would go upstairs to give him peace and quiet. This method has worked since he was in kindgergarten.
    The understanding was I was upstairs if he had questions. After he was done, I would check it but not proofread it, only to ensure he had completed it all. My husband and I both NEVER have done his work for him but have assisted in projects like manning the glue gun and other pieces of eqipment he was too young to handle safely at the time.
    He is a junior now and still does his HW immediately after coming home. He says it's better this way since he's still in the school mode...that once he watches TV or does something else, it's so much harder to get back into

  • dragonfly1233 Oct 17, 2013

    I am an older gal, raising my 3rd generation of kids. How that happens is a different subject. However, after much trial and error I believe your husband is correct. We come in the door from school, have a healthy snack at the dining room table and then do homework right there. I have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader and a baby now. The baby sits in her highchair and enjoys the company. I never get arguments, the girls just know that's what happens. After homework is completed we all get a break before my kitchen duty begins.

  • snowl Oct 16, 2013

    The good news is you won't remember any of this after they reach college and you don't have to be with them anymore during "study time". My youngest is a senior in college this year! Yay!

  • rcdude Oct 16, 2013

    Homework time. I was raised this way. The only thing I did first after getting home from school was feed, water, and pickup behind the dog (chore). Then it was homework time until I finished. The work is still fresh on kids minds and will make doing homework easier. My parents took it one step farther and if I didn't have my homework finished I could not go to Boy Scouts or church or other extra curricular activities. This method worked well for both me and my sister. I firmly believe in it and will be doing the same for my kids.

  • alwaysab Oct 16, 2013

    Homework when they first get home. When my son was younger, I had an issue with him not wanting to do his homework. He would cry and fuss. I gave him 2 options either get his homework done and over with or stand in the corner until he was ready to do his homework. He usually stood in the corner for about 5 minutes and then would come back and tell me he was ready to do his homework. Now I don't have any problems with him and he knows that once his homework is done that the rest of the evening is "fun" time.

  • raewynkiwi Oct 16, 2013

    Jennifer, we head straight to homework. Takes Sarah (4th grade) too long to do so if we started any later, it would cross through dinner and we'd be fighting the bed time. Lily (2nd) immediately gets her bowl of cereal and opens her Geronimo Stilton Books for her 20 minutes of reading. I think a routine is vital. It helps Sarah has recess right before getting on the bus and the bus ride home is treat to spend time with neighborhood friends. My workday begins as soon as they are home from school till 9pm at night when lights are out.

  • Wheelman Oct 16, 2013

    Kids are far more durable than many think. They are working a guilt trip on you. They have had a break from studies on their ride home. If they are going to bed at night at a proper time (9-9:30)they are getting plenty of rest, so the "I'm tired" is just a natural reaction to the prospect of a task you don't want to do. Our rules was you get home and have 15 minutes for a snack and then you do your homework (which we will check). You get to do nothing else until you have finished, so whether you have "fun time" depends on how much you procrastinate. Need help? We'll help or you may call a friend for help only, no chit chat. Ours we told that our job was to work to make a living and take care of them. Their job was to get an education so they could take care of themselves. We had to work late sometimes, so do they. That's life. Not always fun. We know what you are capable of and that's what we expect. We raised 4 engineers and scientists who have thanked us for it.

  • dawnydee1971 Oct 16, 2013

    I have two boys, K/1st grade. I don't let them get out of "work" mode when they get home. My 1st grader is not having any issues getting the work done, but my K, that is another story. He gets very upset about homework. Either way, we don't stop for anything. Home from school, to the table with something to drink, and get out the homework. It definitely works better than allowing them to play first. That makes getting homework the most horrible thing we have to do all day. So, I have to agree with your husband, get home and get it done.
    Have a great day and good luck!!

  • CricketGayle Oct 16, 2013

    My situation is almost identical to bgrmom's. My son does most of his homework at afterschool, then finishes it and/or corrects any problems with it at home as soon as we get in and get settled. We have tried before allowing him to wait for a while to do his homework and it was always difficult to get him back into work after he had started watching tv or playing with his toys.

    It's definitely worth trying the homework first route to see if it's a better option for Emma and Eli. Having the incentive of being able to relax and play after it's completed may be just the kicker that you need to get them to sit down and focus on it.

  • shall6 Oct 16, 2013

    Thank you! We have some great suggestions on our Facebook page too:

    Sarah (Go Ask Mom editor)