Being a kid isn’t all fun and games. After long, eventful days at school, most children are required to do some extra work at home to reinforce the lessons they learned in class.
While homework may seem daunting to some children, it is a key part of the learning process that teaches independent learning, responsibility and time management skills.
As a parent, there are a lot of things you can do to help your child with their homework without doing it for them.
1. Set them up for Success. Whether it’s helping them organise one large task into several smaller ones; helping them set up their preferred, distraction-free study environment; or preparing healthy snacks before, during and after a long study session; it all makes a difference. By making sure that your child has their basic needs met before they start their homework, you are giving them the tools they need to succeed.
2. Be Prepared. Before your child even asks you for help, it would be useful for you to already have some sort of idea about what is being covered in class. Ask your child what they learned at school each day or week or flip through their assigned work each night to get a sense of what they are being taught. If you know your child is covering fractions, skim through the chapter in the textbook to refresh your memory. If they are covering the First World War, try to recall as many events and facts as you can so when your child does ask you for help one night, you are not completely taken off guard.
3. Play to your Strengths. Let’s be real: you don’t know everything (even if you often tell your kids that you do!). If your child asks you for help in a subject that you aren’t particularly good at, you may do them more harm than good by trying to help them out. Instead, seek out the assistance of your partner who may know more about that subject than you. If neither of you can help, solicit the help of extended family members or neighbours that your child is comfortable and familiar with. There is nothing worse than trying to help out a frustrated child and then getting frustrated yourself.
4. Play to their Strengths. Sometimes, it’s not the information that children have difficulties understanding, but rather, the way that information is presented. There are so many different types of learning styles that it is important to know what works for your child. If they are a tactile learner, try turning a history lesson into a puzzle. Have them draw pictures of the events they need to know and then arrange them in chronological order. Cue cards work well in any subject for visual learners. Acronyms, mnemonics or facts sung to your child’s favourite song are perfect tricks to help auditory learners. Trying different ways of presenting information may just be the thing to help your child have an ‘ah-ha!’ moment.
5. Take a Step Back. By no means does helping your child with their homework mean doing it for them. It’s safe to say that you have already passed elementary/middle/high school, so there’s no need for you do the work over again. Firstly, only offer help when asked or when your child seems like they are struggling. Secondly, offer help by providing your child different ways to approach their problems. Let them communicate what they are having difficulties with, ask them questions like ‘How do you think you can come to the answer?’ and simply point out possible alternate solutions to get them to rework the problem. Finally, only check a few answers and then let them continue without your help. We all know that learning means making mistakes, so let your child make theirs. It will help them see what they need to work on and it will communicate to their teacher what concepts they are not understanding.
6. Communication is Key. If all else fails, encourage your child to seek help from their teacher. You may need to talk to the teacher yourself if your child is younger, but generally, kids in the fourth grade or older should be encouraged to talk to the teacher themselves. Talking to their teacher will ensure that your child knows how to speak up for his/herself. And in both cases, your child will likely get the help he or she needs directly from the source.
Happy home working!