Homework serves many helpful purposes. Students learn how to follow through on lessons taught in the classroom. Homework tests a student’s comprehension of material that has already been covered in class so that learning gaps can be caught early. Finally, homework teaches kids how to focus in other locations outside of school. The ability for a student to settle down and get to work on a project is a skill that serves them not only in school, but throughout the rest of their lives.
Like it or not, parents, homework is an important part of school and learning. Over an academic career, the amount of schoolwork your child brings home will gradually increase as your student progresses through the grades. As the years go by, homework will also become more challenging and complex. Many parents are surprised when they can no longer confidently answer their child’s homework questions, especially in math, but don’t let this throw you.
Of course, you are not the person who needs to complete your child’s homework. You are the person who can help create a space at home where your student can apply focused concentration in the completion of assigned tasks. If you want the transition from school to homework to go as smoothly as possible, be forewarned, you are going to need to monitor your behavior as much as your child’s.
If you follow these simple tips, you can help your children avoid homework hassles:
1. Be pro-homework. Whatever you do, do not get down on the idea of homework. If you do, you might implicitly grant your student permission to dismiss it, too. If your child cannot handle the load that is considered typical for each grade, discuss your child’s challenges with the teacher. However, a generally negative or critical attitude toward learning, teachers, or school will only undermine your child’s ability to prioritize homework. Addressing any concerns swiftly and giving your child’s teachers and administrators the benefit of the doubt will serve your student’s highest good, inside and outside of the classroom.
2. Make space for each student. If you have more than one student doing homework, try to create a separate space for each to work. The goal of homework is to take students out of a group environment and teach them to work independently. If others are always nearby creating distractions or trying to help, students won’t get a chance to see what they can accomplish on their own steam. Of course, some homework is meant to be collaborative. Look to your student for invitations to participate. Otherwise, try to give each student space where they can spread out and concentrate uninterrupted for the appropriate amount of time recommended for their grade. Declare quiet time in the house until every student has had time to complete their homework.
3. Participate, but don’t take over. Sometimes, you will be invited to participate in homework, but more often, your child needs to see what can be accomplished alone. Even when you are invited to pitch in, let students lead the collaboration process. Make sure you are the helper, not the boss. Once you take over your child’s homework, it’s difficult to get them to reclaim responsibility. After all, you can get it done so much faster and more accurately than they can, so be mindful about not taking over in the first place. If your child is lost or confused about homework instructions, seek out teacher input to help get your student back on track.
4. Encourage routine. Establish a set routine for getting homework done. Resist the urge to make exceptions to the expected homework routine, as these habits set the tone for the rest of the school year. Stand firm that homework is the first priority when students return home each weekday. Homework for Mondays can be completed on Fridays or Sundays, according to what works best for your student and family.
5. Take advantage of student-teacher interaction. Some children are shier than others. Other children may have trouble listening carefully to homework instructions. Others may forget to write down assignments or leave needed materials behind at school. Try to see all of these homework pitfalls as opportunities for your child’s growth. Don’t interfere unless you have to. Conspire with your child’s teacher to work together to help your student overcome unproductive habits. Don’t get down on your child. Instead, brainstorm with the teacher about ways to inspire improved academic performance. Teachers always have plenty of experience in this department.
6. Check grades regularly. At some point, your child’s grades will be posted online with the expectation that you and your students will keep up with academic progress. When this happens, it means that you won’t likely hear from teachers beyond parent-teacher conferences and report cards. The onus falls on you to help your students monitor their progress in classes and address any discrepancies in grading. Don’t merely check your child’s quiz and test scores. Students are expected to turn in homework in a timely manner and to participate in class in addition to working hard on quizzes, tests, and projects. Don’t let a few misplaced homework assignments bring your child’s grades down.
7. Use tutors, as needed. Despite your best intentions and your child’s best efforts, you may find yourself in need of a tutor during the school year, during the summer, or even throughout the year. One of the best things I ever did for my daughter was to say yes to suggestions from teachers to enlist extra help beyond the school day. Academic challenges often show up during the elementary school years and when they are met with helpfulness instead of judgment, academic frustration can be addressed and improved swiftly, especially when parents and teachers work together. Remember, you are not your child and seek the type of help most likely to remedy the situation. If you find yourself taking your child’s disappoints too personally, working with a tutor is your opportunity to demonstrate detachment and humility for your child. Life presents challenges for all of us; how we meet these challenges determines how successful we will be in school and in life.
And don’t forget about class participation.
Another way parents can really help students succeed in school is by encouraging them to participate in class. Teachers can’t stress enough how important it is for children to be involved in class discussions and debates. The key is to start early. Start the pep talks as early as Kindergarten and keep bringing up ways to participate all through elementary school. When asking your children about their day at school, ask them about ways they participated in class. If a child is shy, encourage baby steps that will help them become more involved. If you remember to do this frequently throughout elementary school, the habit will be ingrained by the time your kids start junior high school. This way, your children will learn from experience that students who participate do better academically and enjoy school more.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina actually enjoyed doing homework when she was growing up.
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