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Making Homework Work: One More To Do for the Working Parent

Making Homework Work: One More To Do for the Working Parent

I hate homework. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but I really dislike it and it seems I’m not alone. Debates, blogs and articles are all over the internet about it. I did my own homework – I spent my fair share of years diligently reading books, practicing spelling, working on math problems, writing essays and working on presentations. I can picture myself holed up in my bedroom for hours working away in high school and college. In fact, when I finished college I was definitely most excited about never having to do homework again. So, how did this happen? I work full-time, I’m not in school anymore but somehow homework is back in my life.

We’re on week three of nightly homework for first grade. In many ways, I consider myself lucky. Schoolwork is currently not the problem in our household – my daughter enjoys it. The problem is that squeezing one more thing in during our short, precious evening family time is not only nearly impossible, it’s sad. Because I work all day, I really cherish our time at night. I love snuggling on the couch or playing family games. I like reading to my kids, allowing them to take leisurely baths. I enjoy giving us all the chance to decompress at the end of a long day. No more.

girl doing spelling homework

My daughter, Maddie, has to read for 15 minutes each night. Last week I was the sole parent while my husband was traveling. Monday night, my daughter happily read out loud to herself while I read to her brother, Will. Tuesday night, however, there were tears and screams that surprisingly didn’t cause the neighbors to come knocking. My daughter wanted to read to me, but my son didn’t want his sister to read to him. After much compromising, my son plopped himself on the floor of his sister’s room and she read. And that lasted three minutes. Boredom ensued and out came his LeapFrog Tag reading system. So, while she tried to read out loud, the words from the tag pen were echoing in the room. Each time she complained, he turned it up louder. The clock just kept moving and my blood pressure was rising due to sensory overload and the lack of no one listening to anyone.

On Tuesday, Maddie decided that for one of her spelling exercises she would select the task of typing her spelling words on the computer and then emailing it to the teacher. This sounded pretty easy to me, but what I neglected to realize was that while she plays computer games, she’s never had to actually type on the computer. So, here’s what my night looked like: Put a pot of boiling water on, run to the computer to show her the return key, chop a carrot, run to the computer to help her find the letter “h”,  chop the celery, run to the computer to show her how to delete, feed the dog, run to the computer to check to see if she types in all the “th” words, turn the TV down (it was too loud for Maddie to concentrate), run to the computer to check for all the “ch” words, negotiate over the TV volume (it was now too quiet for Will), run back to the stove and put the pasta in, run to the computer to show her how to change the font color (she wanted the words to be pink) and so on and so on. It sounded like an easy task, but in fact it just created more stress.

We didn’t get home last night until after 6:00 p.m. She chose Scrabble: “Use Scrabble tiles to spell your words and then write the words on a piece of paper.” Will insisted on “doing his homework” too which only frustrated Maddie because he doesn’t really have homework. He of course thought it was funny when he took all the “e’s” and hid them and once again I found myself sprinting around the kitchen between the stove and the kitchen table assisting with the spelling homework (well, really refereeing) and making dinner. All after a long day of work, followed by religious education (which gave us more homework) and the hour long commute to Will’s child care center. We didn’t sit down to eat until just pass 7:00 p.m. and still had a math game to play, baths to be taken and 15 minutes of reading.

So, I may not be doing the homework but I’m certainly experiencing it. And this is only first grade. I’ve been warned the “20 minutes” they have now will soon turn into 90 minutes. If you find yourself in similar shoes, I found a few blogs/articles that may help including this one and this one and a bunch of articles here too. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be an expert too. Until then, I’d love to hear how working parents make homework work.



  1. Kris-Ann, Progressive Mom October 24, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I’m having a hard time fitting homework in here too. We bought some workbooks for Ben to use while Max is doing his assigned homework if he wants. We’ve also told his teachers that he really likes to do homework so they send home an extra Weekly Reader or Handwriting Without Tears page for Ben to do once in a while. I wonder if it came home in Will’s backpack if Maddie would recognize it as “real” homework. Also, on the days that your husband is traveling, can you put Will to bed first, then have Maddie do her reading to you?

  2. Workingmomtoo March 25, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I find homework a pain too – my 9 year old has to do it after school and although he does do a bit, there are days where I need to spend 90 minutes coaching him through it at 7pm. The time spent doing it is definitely a drag, but what I used to hate most (and still do) is when he does it with zero will and effort, it just makes the whole thing more painful!!! Over time, this has gotten better because he is learning that he needs to just get it done, but once in a while he does need a big push. Anyway, all this to say, I hear ya! But if you train kids to just get it done and figure things out by themselves, they will get better at it over time!!

  3. Jocelyn McKnight November 12, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I was laughing at myself reading this entire article. This explains my evenings throughout the entire week. I have a 13yr old & 12yr old that are now taking Algebra courses and not doing so well, so we spend at least 2 hours a day trying to get thru that every evening, and some days I don’t get off til 7pm and then throw into the mix my 3yr old who is given homework every other day and is expected to turn it in the following day!!! LOL, so yes I can completely relate to this article. Thank you, so much, now I know that I’m not alone!!!!

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