You don’t have to watch from the sidelines. Here’s how to draw the line between supporting and doing.
Published: July 30, 2019
By: Shannon Dean
Most parents have grappled with a scenario like this: Your child is eager to put the school day behind him and promises 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 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 ways to avoid this type of frustration.
Why So Much Homework?
According to a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy, elementary school students spend an average of around 30 minutes on homework each night. Middle and high school students log in anywhere from one to three-and-a-half hours nightly.
Although the U.S. Department Of Education stresses that children who spend more time on homework perform better than children who don’t, teachers often assign homework out of necessity. 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 not always available at school.
How to Help
Although resistance to homework is understandable, educators say 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. Smart parents use homework to develop intellectual curiosity and establish learning routines that will serve kids beyond their school years, says Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, author of The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life.
“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 balance it out. When to tackle homework depends on the child. Some children need time to decompress after school, while others need to get it 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 an agreeable amount of time. For longer assignments, 30 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 routine. 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 restrained 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 the advisor and be very careful not to contradict the methods taught in school.
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.
Help Your Child in the Way He 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 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.
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.
Experts encourage parents to see homework as an opportunity to offer their child the extra attention and encouragement that will help him get the most out of school. Parents can also reinforce such important life skills as organization, time management and the setting of priorities. More importantly, the child will know that what he does all day is very important to you, that you’re proud of him and that you highly value his lifelong education.