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 locations outside of school. Being able to settle down and get to work on a project is a skill that serves students not only in school but throughout the rest of their lives.
Like it or not, homework is a part of school and learning. Over an academic career, the amount of work your child brings home will gradually increase as a student progresses through grade levels. Homework will also become more challenging and complex as the years go by. 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. Follow these simple tips to help your children avoid homework hassles.
1. Be Pro-Homework
Whatever you do, parents, 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 teachers and administrators the benefit of the doubt will serve your student’s highest good, inside and outside the classroom.
2. Make Space for Each Student
If you have more than one child doing homework, try to create a separate space for each of them 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, children 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 child 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 child has had time to complete work.
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. 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
Use the first few weeks of the school year to establish a routine for getting homework done throughout the year. Your child might be crabby or tired during the first weeks of school as they adjust to new schedules and juggling more responsibilities than they did during the summer. But resist the urge to make exceptions to the expected homework routine in the first few weeks, as these habits set the tone for the rest of the school year. In fact, you will likely find yourself going through a homework adjustment period after each school vacation or break.
5. Take Advantage of Student-Teacher Interaction
Some children may have trouble listening carefully to homework instructions in class. 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 students and parents 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 parents to help each child 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. 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, summer, or even throughout the year. One of the best things we ever did for our 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, so seek the type of help most likely to remedy their situation. Life presents challenges to us all. How we meet them determines how successful we will be in school and in life.
Don’t Forget Class Participation
Another way parents can 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 about the school day, ask about ways your child participated in class. If your child is quiet, 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 kids start middle school.