Resolving Problems

Homework hassles can often be avoided when family members value, monitor, and guide their children's work on assignments. But, sometimes problems can still come up. If they do, families, school staff, and students may need to work together to resolve them.

Share Concerns with the School Staff

  • You may want to contact the teacher if:
  • Your child refuses to do her assignments, even though you've tried hard to get her to do them;
  • You don't understand the directions;
  • You can't seem to help your child get organized to finish the assignments;
  • You can't provide needed supplies or materials;
  • The assignments are too hard or too easy;
  • Your child has missed school and needs to make up assignments.

Work with the School

Communication between teachers and families is very important in solving homework problems. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Talk with teachers early in the school year. Get acquainted before problems arise, and let teachers know that you want to be kept informed. Most elementary schools and many secondary schools invite families to come to conferences or open houses. If your child's school doesn't provide such opportunities, call to set up a meeting.
  • Contact the teacher as soon as you suspect your child has a homework or schoolwork problem. Sometimes families figure out that a problem exists before the teacher does. By alerting the teacher, you can work together to solve a problem in its early stages.
  • Approach the teacher with a cooperative spirit. Believe that the teacher wants to help you and your child, even if you disagree about something. It's hard to solve problems if teachers and families view each other as enemies.
  • Request a meeting with the teacher to discuss homework problems. Briefly explain why you want to meet. Families for whom English is a second language may need to make special arrangements, such as including another person who is bilingual. Don't go straight to the principal without giving the teacher a chance to work out the problem with you and your child.
  • Let the teacher know if your child is bored with assignments or finds them too hard or too easy. (Teachers also like to know when children are particularly excited about an assignment.) Of course, not all homework assignments can be expected to interest all children and be perfectly suited to all of them. Teachers just don't have time to tailor homework to the individual needs of each student night after night. However, most teachers want to assign homework that children enjoy and can complete successfully, and they welcome feedback from families.
  • While meeting with the teacher, explain what you think is going on. Also tell the teacher if you don't know what the problem is. Sometimes a child's version of what's going on isn't the same as the teacher's version. For example, your child may tell you that the teacher never explains assignments so he can understand them. But the teacher may tell you that your child isn't paying attention when assignments are given.
  • Work out a way to solve or lessen the problem. The strategy will depend on what the problem is, how severe it is, and the needs of your child.
  • Your child may need extra support, beyond what home and school can give. Ask the teacher, school guidance counselor, or principal if there are mentor programs in your community. Mentor programs pair a child with an adult volunteer who assists with the youngster's special needs, such as tutoring or career advice. There are many good mentor programs operating in schools, universities, community organizations, churches, and businesses.
  • Make sure communication is clear. Listen to the teacher and be sure you understand what's being said. Make sure, too, that the teacher understands what you have to say. If, after the meeting, you realize you don't understand something, call the teacher to double check.
  • Follow up to make sure that the approach you agreed to is working. If the teacher told you, for example, that your child needs to spend more time practicing long division, check back in a month to talk about your child's progress.

U.S. Department of Education
Office of Educational Research and Improvement Adapted