Homework 101

homework tips for parentsAt about this time each year, homework becomes a major topic of conversation among parents and their children.  The academic year is well under way and first marking periods are approaching.   Homework can be a source of tremendous anxiety, frustration and stress in many American households.  Parents get home from work, try to pull together supper and look forward to spending some relaxing time with their families but the dread of getting homework done often hangs over the evening.  What is a parent to do?

There have been many studies conducted to try to establish the value of homework.  Although some seem to indicate that there is a value, especially for older children, there is not universal agreement on the conclusions. What has been established is that students who come to class prepared are much more likely to succeed than those who do not.  Regardless of what studies show about the benefits of homework, it is a fact of life.

What can parents to do make the dreaded nightly homework hassles more manageable for themselves and their kids?

Here are 5 homework tips for parents that may help families to weather the homework storms:

1.  Establish a routine

In order to get just about anything done in life, you need to have a set time and place for getting it done.  Laundry on Saturday mornings.  Trash out on Tuesday nights.  Encourage your kids to do their homework at the same time each day.  The ideal time is to get it done after school.  The material is fresh in their minds; they still may have energy left and their evenings are free for family time or other activities.  If doing homework afterschool at school or at the library or at home is not feasible, then try to help your student decide on the right time and place for getting their homework done.  Maybe it gets done from 7 to 9 in the kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays and at school from 4 to 6 on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  Try to rearrange schedules so that this schedule can be adhered to and so that the routine becomes firmly established.

2.  Help your kids get organized

Some kids are naturally organized and can get down to business immediately.  Others may need some coaching.  Start at a young age encouraging  your son or daughter to keep a folder or notebook or planner with all of their assignments and due dates as well as any supporting materials.  When they sit down to start homework, they should review the assignment, make sure they have everything they need and then get started.   It is important to also have a strategy for when they get stuck.  If it is something that they may be able to get help with later, they should know to put that assignment aside and move on to the next one.

3.  Providing help

There will always be times when a student gets stuck on an assignment. Perhaps it isn’t clear. Perhaps they did not understand the lesson. Perhaps it is highly challenging.  Parents have options for dealing with these situations.  If it is something you can help with and would like to help with, of course you want to encourage your kids to come to you for help.   In this instance, your job is to be a coach or guide or even cheerleader but not to do the work.  If you cannot help perhaps there is a friend who might be able to explain the concept.  And of course, students can always log on to Tutor.com to get help 24/7 from expert tutors.

4. Manage their frustration and your own

A key point here is to try to manage frustration.  Frustration and stress can actually block an individual’s ability to comprehend.  It can also lead to a lack of confidence which in turn can spiral downward into a belief that the student is incapable of succeeding in that subject.  Furthermore, if you, the parent, get frustrated, you will only increase your child’s frustration.  It there are no other resources available and if your child has tried to complete the assignment but cannot, it is important to let him/her know that it is okay. One of the reasons for assigning homework is to help teachers understand if students are grasping the material.  Decide with your student on what the best course of action is:  the student can let the teacher know that s/he tried but could not complete the work and/or you can add a note to the homework indicating the amount of time that the student spent on it and the fact that s/he was unable to complete it and why. Be sure to follow up with your child the next day to find out how the issue was resolved with the teacher.

5.  Talk to the teacher

If homework is truly becoming an issue in your home, then it is important to talk to the teacher(s).  Present your concerns objectively and do your best to pinpoint the issue(s). Teachers often do not coordinate with each other on assignments and they may have no idea that two other teachers have also given lengthy assignments for the same time period.  The teacher may not realize your son or daughter’s level of frustration.   Based on the information you and your student provide, the teacher may also be able to suggest alternative strategies or additional assistance that may be available.

Parents need to support their sons and daughters in learning.  You want to be sure that they take their assignments seriously and you also want to make sure to be supportive of them when they are struggling with their work.  In the final analysis, your relationship with your child is much more important than the 39th question on page 122.

What are your homework tips?

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One Response to Homework 101

  1. Bobbie Anne Munsey December 18, 2010 at 12:07 PM #

    I fully agree with this post. It is very important to talk to your child’s teacher. Sometimes children get confused on an assignment and “make more work” for you. Simple assignments can turn into hours worth of agony with the wrong assignment instructions.

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