Koala Coach

Carry Learning into Daily Life

9/26/16: How To Make Homework Less Stressful

How To Make Homework Less Stressful:

Several Koala Coach subscribers have asked me to share my approach for making homework time less stressful. Unlike Koala Coach activities, homework does not easily fit into our lives, it usually isn’t fun and it is often stressful. I’ve developed an approach to homework that can help make the task more manageable because it distracts the student from avoidance behaviors. It is my attempt to bring a small taste of the Koala Coach fun into the realities and inconvenience of homework.


Lena’s Homework Method: Distraction from Distraction

There are times when the homework is inappropriate for the learning style of the student. However, most of the time your child is capable of doing their homework — they simply don’t want to. I don’t blame them! Before you get frustrated with your child for not doing their homework, keep in mind that they have already worked hard all day.  Also, think about how many things you procrastinate on in your own life! That being said, I firmly believe that it is the job of the parent to teach children how to work. Helping our children learn how to start a task, stick with it and complete it … especially when they don’t want to is a valuable gift that will serve children well throughout their lives.


When kids don’t want to do their homework, they are easily distracted. It is tempting to give into to your child’s desires to avoid doing their homework. The problem is once you start doing other tasks besides homework, it is hard to turn the school brain back on. This results in less energy, patience, resilience and time to complete homework tasks. My “secret” trick is to incorporate those distractions into the homework-time itself.



The first step is to start homework as soon as you can. The sooner you start the sooner you are finished. Don’t even take time for an after school snack, just place food next to your child that is easy to eat while working. Most of the time, it’s just the thought of doing the work that is really terrible. When the student actually just gets started it is not as bad as they thought it was going to be.


Top 10 “Distraction from Distractions” Activities:

Turning homework time into a sillier, slightly less boring time.


1)Silly Accents:

Parent and child speak in exaggerated and zany accents describing everything that is happening in the homework. British, caveman, American (if you’re not American), switch it up after a few minutes.

          “Right oh old chap now it’s time to pick up your pencil…”


2) Silly Location:

Do homework while sitting on the counter, the top of the play set, or in a closet with a flashlight. Yes, there is something to be said for working in a productive workspace, but this homework has got to just get done, and a waterless bathtub might just be the place to do it!


3) Alternate with Movements:

Do five problems and then five jumping jacks. Or read three pages and then run around the house three times. Silly movements are even better: Three hops on one leg with your tongue sticking out, after three minutes of homework!


4) Silly Phone Alarm:

You’ll be surprised how much work you can get done by breaking it down into small chunks. Kids love choosing an alarm sound on your phone. (Sometimes they need a time limit for choosing their time limit sound.) Pick an appropriate time for your child that will feel shortish and doable, but is at least three solid minutes of working before the alarm goes off. When the alarm goes off, they can choose a new sound and work for another three or more minute stretch.


6) Breaking The Rules:

If you don’t often let your kids eat candy or dessert (especially if homework time is before dinner time) give them a candy after five problems are completed… five bites of ice-cream after five pages are read. Come on! Homework is NOT fun, break the rules just a little!


7) Bribery with Special Parent Time:

You’ll be surprised how easily kids are bribed with quality time with their parents.

If your child reads five pages, then read five pages of Harry Potter or any other great book to them. Or ten minutes of homework can equal ten minutes of shooting hoops with a parent.


8) Mix in a Board Game:

Play a game while you are doing homework!

This trick will work with any game. Your child takes a turn, you take a turn, your child does three homework questions. Your child takes a turn, you take a turn, your child does homework. Keep going until the homework is complete.


9) Lucky Cards:

Your child picks any card from a deck. If they pick a number card they have to do that number of problems/minutes/pages. If they pick a Queen, Jack, or King they get a free pass for a 2 minute break. (Warning, set an alarm and stick to the two minutes.) If they pick a Joker, the parent has to do one problem for the child, read one page or do the child’s homework for one minute. I think a parent doing a little homework is valuable for the child too.  If you are talking out loud about your thinking, kids can be learning by example.


10) Paper Rip:

Rip up five pieces of paper. (Ripping is always fun, it gets out a little stress!) On each piece, write down a different homework command: Three of them should be something manageable for getting the homework accomplished and two of them should be something reasonable and fun to do instead of doing homework.  Crumple up each piece of paper and place in a bag, then have your child close their eyes and pick one of the pieces. After picking, your child has to accomplish the task written on the paper. Replace each piece of paper into the bag so that it can be picked again.  Some examples might be: 1) Do five homework problems 2) Read three pages 3) Work for five minutes 4) Stand on one foot and say the alphabet (The sillier the better) 5) Dance party to your favorite song. Turn off the lights, get flash lights out and dance to one and only one song.


These ideas will not always work for every child. If they work once they may not work again. But the concept is to do something silly that distracts from the fact that homework is being done. Over time kids will learn that they have the power to complete their homework. They can develop their own strategies for accomplishing tasks that are not fun.


Please get in touch with me for more specific silly homework ideas or questions.


Happy learning!

Lena, Founder Koala Coach  




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