By the time your child gets to high school, they should be completely self-sufficient when it comes to homework.
This skill comes more naturally to some children than to others (first-born children seem to "get-it" a little sooner than second or third, for instance).
As parents, it's our responsibility to ensure they have this skill mastered by the time they reach 9th grade.
Consider these factors when helping your child build this important habit:
Same time: Establish a specific time to complete homework and stick to it. Ideally, this would be right after school and prior to sports, social activities, and entertainment. My favorite quote is "Do the hard stuff first".
Same place: Identify a place for homework and make it the same spot every time. (e.g. kitchen table, bedroom, home office, Starbucks, etc.)
Clutter free: Clear the workspace of non-homework related items - even if it means moving items into a different room temporarily during homework time. The fewer things on the desk - the better.
Distraction free: Ideally, the workspace should be free from access to TV, phones, video games, tablets, or other enticing distractions.
Organized: Now that your child is sitting down to work, make sure they know where all their stuff is (or how to access it online). Precious time is wasted "looking around" for a book, folder, syllabus, or reading assignment. Encourage them to keep their stuff in one location.
Prioritization: Even if your child is 5 for 5 so far, they often aren't great at prioritizing what needs to get done first, second, and third.
Pacing: Teach your child how to chip away at small pieces of a larger project. That science project that's due in 10 days, should not be started 10 days from now.
Notes: Believe it or not, some children don't know how to take notes or organize their thoughts in advance of a paper, project, or writing assignment. Help them develop a habit of taking great notes.
Provide guidance: Of course, if your child is stuck on an assignment, do your best to give them guidance - but not necessarily the answer. I know, it's much easier to just give the answer, but it will serve them better if you point them in the right direction and let them figure it out.
Praise effort: The best thing you can do for your child is to praise effort - not grades. There are too many variables that go into grades (e.g. maturity level, age, innate intelligence, teacher, grading system, level of class, etc.). The only factor influencing effort is your child's work ethic - which I would take 9 times out of 10 over grades as a proxy for future success.
Stay Informed: These days, it's pretty easy to stay on top of homework and tests through the web. Do so cautiously. Try not to fly off the handle at the first sign of a missed assignment or poor grade. Try to give some latitude. Middle school is the time to mess up, to test boundaries, and find their groove.
Obviously, with the pace and volatility of our lives, these suggestions are easier said than done.
In the inimitable words of Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano, "Keep Choppin".
We address and teach these issues (and more) in PrepWell Academy (9th grade), but hopefully, it will be more review than new material.
Good luck my friends,
Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.
Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.