By Vicki Little
Homework used to be something that only children dreaded, and they usually did it by themselves. But these days, it feels like homework is just as much work for parents. Grownups often cringe along with their kids when a full homework agenda marches through the front door. Sometimes, homework seems to take away from quality time spent together. Or it can cause squabbles and added stress. But you can avoid the arguments and extra work by sticking to the purpose of homework – and following these simple rules.
1. Make them read the directions — Ask your child to read the instructions to you, rather than the other way around. This helps to ensure they understand the assignment. If they can explain it to you, they know what they are supposed to do. Plus, this only improves their reading skills.
2. Follow their lead — It would be so much easier to look through their folder to see what assignments they have, but asking them do this helps teach responsibility. Further, maybe they will be a bit more organized if they get tired of searching for homework in the bottom of a messy backpack.
3. Make sure they do their own work/in their own words — Make sure your children write their answers in their own words instead of yours. This helps them work on complete sentences as well as grammar. They also learn to organize their own thoughts instead of just using yours. It may take some trial and error, but the words will come more easily the more they practice.
4. Go over assignments — After your child has completed his assignments, go over them together. Incorrect answers are often helpful to teachers because they show what your child knows and what they still need to learn. But if they are making careless mistakes or taking shortcuts, point that out. Instead of forcing them to re-do it, give them the choice. Let them know that you believe they can do better, but leave the ultimate decision up to them. Ask them: “Is this your best work? Are you proud of it?” If they say “yes, ” then they will face the natural consequences from the teacher if their work is sloppy — and perhaps re-think their approach on the next assignment. When they take a test, they only have one chance to do it right the first time.
5. Don’t hover — Stay nearby in case they need help, but don’t sit right next to them. They will be more focused and more likely to figure out a problem on their own before they look to you for help. Do your own work, read a book, or tidy up the house nearby instead.
6. Do it the way they are being taught — Some of the new teaching approaches (especially in math!) can seem confusing if we learned it differently. If you don’t know how to help your children, do a bit of research or email their teachers. But do not change up the way your children are learning. It will only confuse them more.
7. Take a break when frustration sets in — Frustration only hinders the learning process, and it can create a very negative connection with homework for the child. When it does occur, step away and calm down a bit before proceeding. Grab a quick snack or drink. Go on to the next problem (hopefully one that is easier to answer). Usually the problem is easier to figure out when you are both calm.
Do you have a “rule” when helping your children with their homework?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. When she isn’t writing or trying to keep up with her kids she can be found volunteering, reading, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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