How to Help Your Child With Homework

Three Methods:Assisting with a Difficult Problem or AssignmentProviding GuidanceWorking with Teachers

Being involved in your child’s education throughout their school years is incredibly important to their success. If your child is having trouble getting their homework done on their own, or having difficulty with particular subjects, helping them learn good study habits and methods can correct problems and prevent new ones. Even older kids who don’t ask for your help can benefit greatly from ensuring they have good study habits and enjoy learning. By creating a plan, sticking to it, and finding extra help when necessary, the school year will go much smoother for both you and your child.

Method 1
Assisting with a Difficult Problem or Assignment

  1. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 1
    Read the instructions given by the teacher. In order to make sure you are helping effectively, you need to familiarize yourself with the assignment. Read the instructions carefully. If you need further explanation, reading the corresponding lesson in the textbook will be helpful too.
    • Make sure to read the material given to your child, not look up explanations on the internet first. You may end up finding a different method or explanation than the teacher is using, and this can cause unnecessary confusion for your child.
  2. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 2
    Ask your child to explain the assignment to you. After reading the instructions yourself, ask your child to explain them to you in their own words. This will help ensure that your child knows what they are being asked to do and what is expected of them by the teacher.
    • Ask questions to clarify instructions if you think it is necessary. Their answers will help you decide how much help they need.
    • If they do not clearly understand, go over the lesson in the textbook with them. Ask them to read a section and then explain it in their own words.
  3. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 3
    Look at sample problems or writings together. If their book offers some sample questions or essays, read over them with your child and make sure they understand both how the instructor got to the answer given and/or why the answer or sample essay is complete.
  4. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 4
    Focus on the quality of the effort made. When going over a problem or assignment with your child, praise them for things they did well, especially if it indicates an improvement over past assignments.
    • For writing assignments, you might say “Good job with indenting paragraphs,” or “This is a great start. What do you think happens next?”[1]
    • Do not get angry if they continue having trouble with a problem or assignment. Punishing them for not understanding will likely cause them to stop asking for help.
    • Do not give away answers, but explain how to find them. Ask the teacher if you need assistance, or find a reputable tutor.
  5. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 5
    Suggest a short break when they get stuck. If they are having trouble with a task, a break may help them refocus. Take 10 minutes to do something fun or active before trying to re-approach the issue or problem.
  6. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 6
    Don’t keep trying to re-teach difficult concepts the same way. If they are having trouble getting a particular idea down, repeating yourself isn’t going to help. Automatically showing them a different method of doing it might be confusing if the teacher has been teaching them with another method.[2]
    • If the problem relates to your child’s learning style, you can try to reframe the information from a different perspective, but make sure the teacher knows you did so and specifically why your child had trouble with the assignment as given.
    • For older elementary or middle school students, allow them to ask their teacher for help instead of doing it for them. The more agency kids have in their learning, the more they actually learn.[3]
  7. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 7
    Go over the assignment or problem with them at the end. Don’t just check their answers and say to do the problem again. Go over each issue/problem individually with them if the assignment is particularly hard. If your child is just having trouble with one or two questions, focus on those, and refer to others they did well as examples.[4]
    • Only go over in detail those assignments or problems your child has particular trouble with. Don’t read over every assignment they get for the rest of the year, or they will not learn as much and/or will become too dependent on you.

Method 2
Providing Guidance

  1. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 8
    Discuss why homework is important. Make sure they know the purpose of homework and what they should be gaining by doing it. If they don’t understand the reasons behind doing it, it might just seem like busywork or a chore they have to drudge through.[5] Ask them first why they think its important to direct your conversation accordingly.
    • Homework provides a chance to review and practice concepts or skills they learned in class.
    • Practicing offers a chance to see where more explanation might be needed before the next class.
    • It teaches necessary study skills and self-discipline for succeeding as schoolwork becomes more involved and specialized as teens, like time management and independence.
    • It gives them the chance to explore a subject or idea more fully than was possible in the classroom.
    • It teaches them how to process and use information in general, which will help in every aspect of life as they get older.
    • Children who do more homework, in general, score better on standardized tests through secondary school.[6]
  2. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 9
    Be a good example. Teach your child good study habits by doing them yourself. While they do homework, consider doing something academic too. Read a book or newspaper, start learning a new language or skill, balance your checkbook or go over and return your emails.[7]
    • Get a language program like Rosetta Stone, or download a free phone app, and work on lessons while your child does homework. Since you have to speak during lessons, sit in a nearby room or open room while they work at their desk in the bedroom or office. Show them your progress to encourage them to study hard throughout the year.
    • Going over your expenses or checkbook demonstrates why learning math is important. Instead of using a calculator, let younger kids see you do the work by hand like they do.
    • If your child needs to visit the library, pick out some books on a topic about which you want to learn. Don’t always choose the same subject, but learn something new to show your child that it’s important to expand your knowledge.[8]
  3. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 10
    Find a tutor for subjects you aren’t well versed in. An online tutoring site might be enough help, but your child may need one-on-one assistance. A knowledgeable tutor may be able to identify where they are having difficulty and approach the subject in a new way. They also will be less emotionally involved than you are.
  4. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 11
    Set goals together early in the year. It’s better to set goals before workload starts increasing and problems arise. Children best meet their goals when they help make them, so ask what they hope to achieve this year. Set 2-3 goals for the year or semester, and write them down in a prominent place to refer to monthly.[9]
    • Ask what, if any, problems or stumbling blocks they had the previous year or semester. Did they start homework too late in the evening to finish before bedtime? Did they have trouble concentrating in the location where they tried to work?
    • Where do they see areas for improvement? Are there certain subjects that they need to spend more time on each day? Is there another time or area where they might be able to study better?
    • If they didn’t enjoy a certain task, like reading, discuss ways to make it more fun. Maybe you could set up a special reading nook under a small tent in a corner, or designate a comfortable chair for reading and let your child decorate the space around it.
  5. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 12
    Create a regular study schedule. Pick a time during the week when they will do their homework every night. Give them Friday evenings off, if they want to celebrate the end of the week, but include time during the weekend for regular study, too. Get a calendar for them to write down study time and any due dates, if applicable, for larger projects.[10]
    • If the teacher provided a syllabus, add test dates to the calendar, and schedule practice tests or extra study time ahead of them.
    • Give your child a 30 minute break right after school for a snack and down-time, but no screens![11] Make a rule together that they can spend this time doing certain things—playing a quick game of basketball, walking the dog, having a brief dance party—or something else active that won’t grab their attention too much to get to work afterwards.
    • Make sure to account for after-school activities or sports on the weekends. Some days they might need to do homework at a different time to adjust for other activities.[12]
    • Try different times for studying at the beginning of the year, before homework gets heavy, to evaluate together when your child works best. Maybe they concentrate better after dinner than before. Perhaps they find it more helpful to do homework after their 30 minute break, while lessons from the school day are still fresh on their mind.
  6. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 13
    Go over good study habits. What kinds of assignments take longer or need to be prepared for? When should they start projects and papers, and what advantages are there to finishing these early. Are there study tools your child might want to try out: flashcards, practice tests, study games, etc.?[13]
    • Help your child learn to organize their time efficiently early in their school career so they will be able to do it on their own by high school.
    • It’s best to learn study tips early in elementary school, instead of waiting until homework becomes unmanageable simply because they haven’t developed a way to break up larger tasks.
  7. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 14
    Set up an effective workspace. Younger kids might work best at the dinner table while you are working nearby. Older kids may need to be in a separate room at a desk. Wherever it is, make sure they have all the materials needed to work (pencils, erasers, a sharpener, pens, paper, books, a dictionary, etc) and eliminate distractions. Ensure there is good lighting and a comfortable (but not too comfortable) seat.
    • Turn the TV off or don’t include one in the room where they will be working.
    • Let them listen to background music if it helps them concentrate, but make sure it isn’t distracting. Instrumental music is best.
    • Have a computer if they need one, but set up filters to make sure they don’t get caught up in internet. Ask the teacher if they post assignments or examples on their own website or a school-run blackboard. Sometimes, students can send questions via the web to teachers as they are working.[14]
    • Keep loud siblings away. For older kids, if there is not a place in the house where they can be alone, the library may be a better study spot.[15]

Method 3
Working with Teachers

  1. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 15
    Be a homework monitor, not a teacher’s substitute. It’s good to check for complete work at the beginning of the year or if your child is having problems turning in assignments, but it’s not good to “check” their work in detail. Kids do better on standardized tests when parents don’t go over their homework every time. Also, their teacher won’t be able to evaluate how well they are learning.
    • Check the first couple answers on an assignment to make sure your child understood it, but don’t look over the whole assignment for accuracy.[16]
    • Ask if they were able to complete everything or if they have any questions about the assignment you might clarify. If they completed a math assignment and just had trouble with one problem, you might be able to identify any missteps. If they couldn’t do any of them, you and the teacher may need to find another method of teaching them the necessary skills.
    • If you had to give your child a lot of help on an assignment, make sure the teacher knows. Write “completed with parental help” on the assignment or send an email that evening.[17]
  2. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 16
    Find out their teacher’s expectations early. How long should assignments take? How do they want you to be involved? Develop a positive relationship with their teacher(s) at the beginning of the year, before any problems come up, so you can work together throughout the year to best help your child.[18]
    • Generally, in K-2, homework should ideally take 10-20 minutes a day (independent of reading practice); for 2-6, 30-60 minutes a night is average; from 7th grade on, the amount should depend on specific assignments and may vary from day to day.[19]
    • Find out if the teacher has open hours for extra help every week.
    • Make sure you know what materials you need to provide your child. Typically, elementary school kids get a list of supplies on the first day, or even earlier. If not, ask the teacher what your child should bring to class everyday.
    • Find out their homework and attendance policies. What happens if a student fails to turn in an assignment? How do you arrange to make up a test if your child has to be absent?
  3. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 17
    Allow the teacher a chance to give extra help. If they have after school hours set-up, make your child attends them and brings specific questions or assignments. If the teacher has a website or forum, help your child compose an email or message with their questions. Don’t speak for them, but assist in figuring out what to ask if needed.
    • It is important for students to take responsibility for their own learning. If you aren’t sure they will ask for help, send the teacher a message letting them know your child will be approaching them for extra help at the next class, but give your child the responsibility of doing so on their own.
    • Ask the teacher for advice on other resources your child can use at home—study websites, reference books, a good tutoring app, etc.[20]
  4. Image titled Help Your Child With Homework Step 18
    Stay in touch with the teacher throughout the year. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Check in on your child’s progress every month or quarter. If you question the value of an assignment or think the teacher might be assigning too much homework, speak up. Teachers may not realize how long an assignment will take.[21]
    • Always come to a parent-teacher meeting with a cooperate spirit and leave with a solution or plan to address the issue.[22]
    • If the teacher is not budging--the workload seems way too high, they don’t understand the problem, they won’t take responsibility for helping your child learn--make an appointment with the school’s principal to discuss it.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (19)

Article Info

Categories: Helping Children with Homework