Q: My 9-year-old daughter is very intelligent but dislikes reading and having to do homework. What can I do to encourage her and spark her interest? She always gets everything done in the evening but not without a fight first or before 10:00.
A: Students in elementary school should do between 10 and 15 minutes of homework for each year in school. Your 4th-grade daughter may have between 40 and 60 minutes of homework a night. Often this includes some reading. Here are some tips to help her use the time well and to ease some of the stress you both are experiencing:
Set up a schedule. Your daughter isn't going to like me, but 10:00 seems late for a 4th grader's bedtime. Of course, I don't know her so you and she need to agree on a lights-out time and work backward to set up a schedule. Here's a sample to help you with your planning. This schedule is designed with your daughter's "dislike" for homework in mind and gives her a break. But some children do best when they do homework right after school.
- 4:00 Rest, relax. Kids need space and downtime in their schedules.
- 4:30 – 5:30 Sports, art, and other planned activities, sometimes with friends.
- 5:30 – 6:30 Homework. Have her do it in the kitchen or somewhere close by while dinner is being prepared, so she can ask questions and doesn't feel isolated.
- 6:30 – 7:30 Dinner and family time.
- 7:30 – 8:00 More homework time, if needed
- 8:00 – 8:30 Free time. If your daughter wants to watch TV, view it with her.
- 8:30 – 9:00 Reading and getting ready for bed.
Talk to the teacher. Check on how much time the teacher expects your daughter to spend on homework. Ask for ideas on motivating students.
Develop the homework habit. Once you find out what works for you and your daughter (a carefully planned schedule, a "no television or telephone conversations until homework is finished" rule, or something else) stick to it.
This is a good time to teach your daughter how to keep schoolwork, play, fitness and other activities in balance. School is obviously job one for a 4th grader, but it is as important for her to keep up with friends, pursue other interests, and to have time to just be. You are helping her with an important life lesson — and hopefully establishing a little more harmony at home.