How To Take The Hassle Out Of Homework
By Shannon Dean
Most parents have grappled with a scenario like this one: Your child is eager to put the school day behind him and promises that he’ll do his homework “later,” since it will only take a few minutes. Unfortunately, as bedtime approaches, the homework has suddenly sprouted tricky components that now require adult help. Everyone is ready for bed, but the homework has seemingly become a group effort. Understandably, it can be excruciating for parents to sit on their hands and watch their child struggle alone. Most experts say that you don’t have to watch from the sidelines, but should draw the line between supporting and doing. Below are some tips to avoid this type of frustration in the future.
WHY SO MUCH HOMEWORK?
According to a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy, elementary school students spend an average of around thirty minutes on homework each night. Middle and high school students log anywhere from 1 to 3.5 hours nightly. Although the U.S. Department Of Education stresses that children who spend more time on homework perform better than children who do not, teachers often assign homework out of necessity rather than purely for its learning benefits. Class size and academic standards may limit the time available to cover the required curriculum. Therefore, schools must rely on homework to reinforce what may have only been an introduction in class. If there is any silver lining, it’s that homework gives parents an opportunity to see what their children are learning. It also allows one-on-one help in a non-hurried environment, a scenario that is not always available at school.
HOW TO HELP
Although resistance to homework is understandable, educators say that it is an important way to reinforce your child’s education. Since a parent’s approach to homework can greatly influence a child’s attitude toward it, try to see it as an opportunity rather than a burden. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, who wrote The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life, says that smart parents use homework to develop intellectual curiosity and establish learning routines that will serve kids beyond their school years: “The ability to learn is what will help them succeed in life,” she explains.
Help your child by arranging the family schedule to allow plenty of time for both homework and the enjoyable activities that will balance out this obligation. When to tackle homework depends on the child. Some children need time to decompress, while others need to get their work out of the way before fatigue makes them ineffective. Make sure that the studying environment is free of distractions and has all the necessary supplies. Many students respond well to a timer set for a manageable amount of time. For longer assignments, thirty minutes is a good start before taking a short break. Once you find a schedule that works, stick with it so that it becomes a habit. Offer incentives, rewards, or praise for a job well done.
Both the national PTA and the U.S. Department of Education agree that it’s important to give children plenty of encouragement and even a moderate amount of help with assignments. Sometimes, your presence alone will be enough to motivate your child. Other times, your child may need your direct help. This might mean answering her questions, practicing spelling words, or listening to her read aloud. Unless the teacher indicates differently, it’s usually acceptable to show her an example and then answer any questions about how you completed the task. However, experts urge parents to remember that homework is the responsibility of the child. Stick to the role of adviser and be careful not to contradict the methods taught in school.
1. TALK ABOUT TRICKY ASSIGNMENTS.
You can save time and frustration by going over tricky assignments with your child to make sure he clearly understands what’s asked of him. If there’s any doubt, have him complete the first part of the assignment with you. A child who enthusiastically completes something he must later erase will not be so enthusiastic the next time. If the assignment contains several parts, consider breaking it down into manageable pieces. If the instructions are vague, contact the teacher, a classmate, or, if your school has them, the homework helpline or tutor.
2. HELP YOUR CHILD IN THE WAY SHE LEARNS BEST.
Parents who know how their child learns have a distinct advantage. Teachers often don’t have the luxury of presenting a concept in more than one way, but parents can. For example, when reviewing fractions with a hands-on (or kinesthetic) learner, you might cut an actual pie into halves, fourths, and eighths. If your child learns visually, consider drawing a graph or picture. If your student prefers an auditory presentation, you could recite a story involving fractions. Imaginative children who are abstract thinkers may respond to personalized concepts. A child who loves Star Wars might be much more interested if asked what percentage of the Jedi Council is comprised of Jedi Masters. Don’t forget homework help websites. Many are free and specifically designed to be interesting, interactive, and relevant to children.
3. WRAP IT UP IN A POSITIVE WAY.
Once your child completes his homework, help him discover his own errors by asking him to explain his answers. If confusion persists, leave a note for the teacher so she knows where your child needs help. Even when your child’s homework is perfect, make an effort to reinforce the material. Ask open-ended questions, let your child explain his favorite part of the assignment, or ask him how he might use what he just learned.
SEE HOMEWORK AS A PATH TOWARD HEALTHY ACADEMIC HABITS
Experts encourage parents to see homework as an opportunity to offer their child the extra attention and encouragement that will help her get the most out of school. Parents can also reinforce important life skills like organization, time management, and setting priorities. More importantly, she’ll know that what she does all day is very important to you, that you’re proud of her, and that you highly value her lifelong education.
Shannon Dean is a freelance writer and the mother of two sons. She often customizes homework to reflect issues of importance to the Avengers.
HOMEWORK HELP WEBSITES & APPS:
Here are some resources that may make homework a little more manageable:
Khan Academy is a nonprofit that helps both kids and parents brush up on a huge variety of subjects. Content is presented through engaging educational videos, online courses, lessons, and practice. Users get personalized help with a self-paced interface that saves your progress. The site and apps are completely free. You only need to provide an email to create an account.
Google Play: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.khanacademy.android&hl=en_US
Parent Toolkit is a free resource to help parents understand “benchmark” expectations. For each grade, the app offers a glimpse into what your child will be learning and recommendations on how to support him. Experts provide helpful advice on homework, parent-teacher conferences, and facilitating learning at home. You can also use the app to set (and hopefully meet) academic goals.
Google Play: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nbcnews.parenttoolkit
ASK DR. MATH
“Ask Dr. Math” is a nonprofit website that offers math tutorials for all ages. Popular topics include dividing by zero, learning to factor, and rounding. Students can browse topics by age group (elementary, middle, or high school) or search by keyword. The site also allows students to submit specific questions.
Scholastic.com offers a fun, free quiz to help you determine your child’s learning style. When you tally your child’s results, you’ll receive tips on how to best present information to each type of learner.