Homework. Just hearing the word sends some kids screeching off into the night. But let’s face it, most school subjects cannot be learned by osmosis alone. Studies show that kids who spend time consistently on regularly assigned, meaningful homework do better in school. Parents can help, by taking an active interest.

Today, in our continued celebration of American Education Week, we focus on what’s hiding in your child’s backpack, and answer some questions on how you can help them with it:

How Much Is Too Much?

Most educators agree that:

  • For children in grades K-2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes each school day.
  • Older children, in grades 3-6, can handle 30-60 minutes a day.
  • In junior and senior high school, the amount of homework will vary by subject. Most older students will also have homework projects, such as research papers and oral reports, that may have deadlines weeks away. They may need help organizing assignments and planning work times to make sure homework is ready to turn in on time.

How Can Parents Help?

  • Send your children to school each day well rested, fed, and with a positive outlook.
  • Take an active interest in your children's schooling. Ask specific questions about what happens at school each day and how your children feel about it.
  • Try not to let any of your own negative experiences keep you from supporting and encouraging your children's learning. Let them know how much you care about education by continuing your own learning both informally and formally, to impress its importance upon them.
  • If possible, set up a quiet, comfortable study area with good lighting and the school supplies that your children need. This can be almost any place in your home; you don't need a special room.
  • Set a family "quiet time" where you and your children can work together on homework, reading, letter writing and playing games.
  • Allow your children to study in the way each of them learns best. For example, some children work best when they're lying on the floor with background music playing.
  • Make homework a daily activity and help your children develop good homework habits.

Can Children Do Homework While Listening to Music or Watching Television?

Some students can work with a radio or stereo on, while others must work in silence. Television can be a big problem. Many teachers ask that the television be turned off while children are doing homework.

Research shows that American children on average spend far more time watching television than they do completing homework. Although it's worth noting that television can be a learning tool, it's best to leave the television off during homework time.

How Much Help Is Too Much Help?

This depends on each child's grade level and study habits. Younger students often need extra homework help. First, make sure the child understands the directions. Do a few problems together, then watch your child do a few. When your child is finished, check the work. Praise right answers, and show how to correct mistakes.

Avoid doing your children’s homework for them. Teachers need to see where your children are having trouble.

One of the most helpful things you can do is to show your children that you think homework is important. Many children today do their homework while their parents are at work. When you are at home, ask to see your children's homework and discuss it with them. Ask questions and be supportive.

Bribe or No Bribe?

Children like to know when they’ve done a good job. Your approval means a lot. Praise your children's work often. Show pride when your children do their best, no matter what grades they get.

Be careful about giving money or gifts as rewards. Most teachers want parents to reward students' work in other ways. The next time your child does a good job on a school project, plan a special family activity as a reward.

All answers provided by the National Education Association and the National PTA.