How much should concerned parents help their kids with homework? It seems that many parents are confused, feeling inadequate or discouraged about homework–especially when their kids get frustrated, angry or give up.
Many teachers suggest that kids spend 10 minutes per grade level on homework–at home. That translates to 30 minutes for a 3rd grader, 70 minutes for an 7th grader and 2 hours for a senior in high school. How much should you participate in their homework assignments?
It’s not your job to “teach” your child the subjects they are learning in school. Teaching is best left to the professionals–especially as education and the education process has changed since we were all in school. So, what’s a nervous parent do to help?
Set a specific time for homework
Most kids need a little break from “school work” when they get home. A snack after school and/or some play time is important. But, kids also need structure if they are going to willingly get down to do their homework. As each child is unique, the best learning/working time depends upon your child’s disposition and energy differences. But the most important thing is to determine a consistent time and place so your child is accustomed to settling into the block of time to focus upon school work.
Reinforce the “process” of homework–not the content
Don’t intrude into your child’s subject activity unless the child is totally frustrated. Instead of rolling up your sleeves and sharpening your pencil and working out the actual homework assignment yourself, your task is to encourage your child to revisit what the teacher talked about in class from your child’s viewpoint.
–Ask: What did the teacher say about…..?
–How did you do it at school today…..?
–What do you think the teacher wants you to do?
–They can look in the book for examples of similar problems.
–If appropriate break the homework assignment into chunks. If there are several problems to tackle (or several questions or several items in the assignment), encourage your child to tackle them one at a time.
– When your child has successfully solved the problem or answered the question, give him/her a cheer, pat on the back or a “high five”. This reinforces your confidence that he/she CAN DO IT–your confidence is contagious.
Don’t reward “helpless” behavior
If your child is ready to go ballistic with fear, inadequacy or frustration, you may need to postpone the homework session until your child is relaxed again. Kids can’t learn if their inner self is screaming that they can’t “do it”. The key word is “postpone”. The homework still needs to be done but your child may need to calm down in order to focus.
Avoid inadvertently rewarding your student for emotional outbreaks or helpless behaviors. Make certain you don’t fall into the guilt trap letting him/her off the hook to play video games or watch TV. Instead move on to a subject in which he/she feels confident and successful. Or, encourage your child to use the remainder of his/her homework time (remember the 10 minute rule), to read a book with you or talk about other subjects in school that he/she enjoys.
Be a “Partner” in your child’s education
Remember, it isn’t your job to teach your kids the subjects they are studying in school or to complete their homework/projects for them. If your child is truly over-challenged by his/her homework, get more info from the teacher.
1. Meet with the teacher–find out what the teacher would like you to do. Talk about your observations along with your child’s frustration and your desire to help.
2. Find out if there are additional resources you can use to reinforce what your child is learning. Are their non-school books or experiences that you can use to supplement your child’s in-class learning.
3. Be open to any ideas that the teacher has to help your child at home. Each child is unique and the teacher may have more than one way to reach your unique child.