How to Help Your Child with Their Homework

We want our children to do well in school and it’s no secret that the more involved parents are in each child’s academic activities, the better the child will perform in school.
Homework can be a challenging area for parental involvement. Do I understand the new ways subjects are taught (e.g., new math)? How do I know if I’m crossing the line and doing the homework rather than helping them learn themselves?

First, it is important to have an understanding of each teacher’s objectives and expectations regarding homework. Accordingly, it is critical to begin a dialogue with each teacher at the beginning of each school year. This dialogue will help create an atmosphere of understanding and support that will enable each parent to better communicate with their child and help them to work with their child throughout the year.

Secondly, children need to know that their parents think homework is important. If they know their parents care, children will perform homework assignments better and turn them in on time. And you can demonstrate the importance of homework most effectively by the things you do rather than what you say.

Here are some important keys to helping your child with their homework.

Set a regular time – consistency is key to establishing focus and teaching good work habits that will serve them throughout their school years and adult life. This doesn’t have to be a specific time of day as this can be challenging with all of the activities that our children have today, But you can tie it to events, e.g., after soccer practice on Mondays and Thursdays, after dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.

Pick a study area – one that has lots of light, supplies close by, and is fairly quiet. A desk in the bedroom is nice, but for many youngsters the kitchen table or a corner of the living room works just fine. It doesn’t have to be fancy but if you can personalize the area (e.g., with pictures or decorated pencil holders), you can make it “their area” making it a comfortable, positive place.

Eliminate Distractions – creating a relatively quiet environment will help concentration, improve performance and get the homework done more quickly. If it is difficult to find an accommodating environment, you may want to look to your local library.

Provide Supplies and Necessary Resources – obviously, pencils, pens, erasers, writing paper, an assignment book, and a dictionary are basic requirements. Other things that might be helpful include glue, a stapler, paper clips, maps, a calculator, a pencil sharpener, tape, scissors, a ruler, index cards, etc. And in absence of a computer, a thesaurus, and an almanac.

Show an Interest – initiating conversations about what they did in class each day goes a long way towards impressing the importance of school to your child. A good way to get the whole family involved in the conversation is to make it a regular part of the dinner table discussions. Another way to show your interest is to attend school activities, such as parent-teacher meetings, shows, and sports events.

Monitor Assignments – following up on completed assignments with your child underscores its importance. It is important to be focused on the process or the teacher’s comments, rather than the grade. Spend most of your time discussing how they can improve, reinforcing the positive elements of their completed homework.

Provide Guidance – but don’t do their homework for them. Remember, it’s not your homework – it’s your child’s homework. Doing their homework for them won’t help them understand and use information. And it won’t help them develop confidence and self-esteem. Direct your efforts on helping them to organize their thought process – and of course, answering any questions they may have while doing the homework assignment. If you’re reviewing a written assignment, don’t rewrite it for them but challenge the thoughts they are presenting or the manner in which they are presenting those thoughts.

Give practice tests – this can really help you understand what your child is struggling with and where your efforts need to spent. Performing well on your practice tests can also help the child develop confidence in their own abilities. You can also talk with your child about how to take a test, emphasizing the importance of reading the instructions carefully, keeping track of the time and avoiding too much time on any one question.

Talk with the teacher – they can try alternative teaching strategies if your child is struggling with a particular subject or topic. And of course, if you are unfamiliar with subject (e.g., new math), the teacher can help direct you accordingly. But it is critical to contact the teacher as soon as you suspect your child has a homework problem so you can work together to solve a problem in its early stages.

Remember, helping your child with homework gives you an important opportunity to them learn important life-lessons about discipline and responsibility. Parents can talk with their children and communicate positive behaviors, values, and character traits that will serve them well the rest of their lives.

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