School wasn't the only thing to resume last month. So did the homework battles between parents and children - lost homework, sloppy homework, homework left undone.

These disagreements make both parents and children miserable.Yet homework is the one opportunity parents have to directly impact their child's school performance, says Linda Jankovsky, a fourth-grade teacher in Denver, Colo. She suggests the following keys to improving parent-child homework communication:

- Make homework a family priority. A child can sense when a parent thinks something is important. If a child doesn't have a quiet place to work, if the parent is too busy to help or pay attention or if a child is distracted by a TV or stereo, the message is that homework is unimportant. When homework time is household quiet time - no one is watching TV - the child can more easily focus and concentrate.

- Communicate with teachers. While parents shouldn't be concerned about an occasional homework mixup, frequent lost homework and homework arguments indicate a parent/teacher meeting is appropriate. Find out how the teacher gives homework, ask for a weekly list of assignments or request extra attention until the problem is solved.

- Get involved in the quality of homework produced. Reviewing and signing homework nightly alerts parents to problems and offers an opportunity to congratulate the child on a job well done. While it isn't appropriate for the parent to do the homework, do set standards for neatness and accuracy.

- Teach children to organize their time and supplies. Consistency is the key. Habits take time to develop. Ask about big assignments weekly. What supplies are necessary? Many parents who haven't set a homework routine have found themselves on a protractor quest at 9 p.m.

Insure that children use the same notebooks and backpacks daily. Remind them to always put their homework in the same place for the return trip to school.

Most importantly, see homework time as an opportunity to interact in a positive way. Talk about your child's day. Ask about successes. Find out if anything went wrong.

In the lower grades, homework may only take 10 minutes. But as parents see their child developing the ability to concentrate, they may wish to reinforce the homework given with additional assignments, reading or creative tasks.