“Should I help my kids with their homework?” – this question props up in the minds of many parents who have school/college going children. I would say a resounding “Yes” as an answer to this question. Why you may ask? Here is my reason:
You should enable the children to be independent in the long run with their homework particularly when the subjects are diverse. For you to be able to do this, you should monitor their homework and the assignments that they work on regularly. Agreed that not all children will need assistance but if there is not an effective system then it is better to be assisted by parents.
Here are some of the practices that I do to understand how to help your children with homework. This six-step approach is best suited for complex and long homework assignments:
- Have a sit down to understand what resources are required and how to plan for the same to complete the assignment on time
- Make a set of rules based on point 1 above
- Ensure that a review is done every day
- Create a study plan with specific goals – set realistic goals
- Allocate or plan your schedule so that you have time to sit with them when they start doing the homework
- Establish a communication channel with their teachers
Let us look at each of the individual points to see how we can go about implementing them.
Planning for Resources
A parent needs to understand that, though you help them, it is their ownership to complete the homework assignments. We should help them strategize and arrive at a good plan. Some pointers to help your children arrive at a good plan:
- When should I do the homework – should it be after coming home or whenever I get a break?
- Should I go for a big bang approach and complete all assignments in one go or should it be broken down to smaller tasks?
- What is my strength – should I start with an easier one first or have a go at the hardest assignment first?
Tips: I usually don’t take a dictator approach but rather ask questions and elicit the answers from them to pick and choose from their options.
Define and agree on the rules
The idea of defining rules is to enable quicker completion of the assignments. As a result, parents need to ensure rules are defined clearly and specific time limits are set for each rule.
Ensuring Review – Every Day!
Any effective plan is as good as its review process. Reviewing the work progress every day ensures a routine is set as well as make them see the progress and assess how far or near they are with the plan. Let the children take the lead and explain so that you get an idea of what is due when and what the progress is to make any course corrections.
Tips: Watch out for any vague answers. This is a clear indicator that your help is required.
Setting Realistic Goals Using a Study Plan
It will be easier for parents to help set realistic goals for all assignments/homework only when they are familiar with the homework schedule. This familiarity will help freeze a schedule.
Tips: Allow the freedom for your children to add whatever they want as the routine to be more flexible and be in control.
Your Presence Every Day During Homework
More often than not, children usually have a tough time doing assignments or homework. You must be available, either actively or passively, to give them confidence and support.
Tips: If you have a work schedule that allows very little or no time, at least ensure you and the children are present in the same work or study room. Sometimes, being passive also helps!
The Need to Establish a Communication Channel with teachers
While you have better oversight of the progress, it is important to get feedback from teachers/school as well. Hence, I emphasize this point to be in touch and understand the progress from the teacher’s point of view, as they see and assess the progress when comparing the work of all the students. They know exactly when and where a student needs assistance.
Tips: Make the teachers understand that you and they share the same goal – to make the children’s progress better!
Finally, some commons mistakes to avoid as parents
Now that we have seen the Do’s let me also cover some of the things to avoid. These common mistakes include:
- Having an anywhere/anytime homework policy
- Stop nit-picking on the quality
- Stop doing the homework on their behalf!
- Understand that assignment and homework are reinforcing learning
- Avoid getting argumentative when it comes to homework
No Schedule and Anywhere/Anytime Homework
Some parents allow children to work on their homework without having a plan and while watching TV in parallel. This should be avoided. Always encourage them to have a plan and stick to it.
Tips: Parents should create a comfortable environment and ensure fewer distractions while they do their homework. If it mandates that you have to sacrifice a soccer game or an episode of that thriller series, so be it!
Complaints about the quality and quantity of homework
When you review their homework, be ready to accept the reality of what it is – they have done what they are capable of. If this is a major issue take this up with the school rather than complaining about the quality or quantity of homework assigned.
Tips: While you do take this matter with the school or the teachers, please keep in mind that it is their job and respect the school or teachers’ professional decisions.
Stop Doing Their Homework
Many parents move away from helping with children’s homework to completing for them! While correcting some minor mistakes is OK, completing the entire homework is a bad idea.
Tips: As a parent, you should understand that your goal is to help children to reinforce what they have learned through assignments and homework. The goal should not be to make it perfect.
Homework is Reinforced Learning
The premise behind schools or colleges giving out assignments and homework is to reinforce and reflect upon what the children have been taught at school. This needs to be understood and not looked at any differently.
Tips: Help children learn better to find answers and understand what is being taught by helping them via textbooks or other sources, such as online.
Avoid Homework Arguments
Most of the parents, while trying to help, end up being argumentative about their children’s homework. This should be avoided as it will only lead to more stress and anxiety for children.
Tips: Try to steer these conversations to a productive outcome that will help children feel less stressed and have a calming effect on homework.