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Homework Tips for Parents

Let’s be honest: nobody likes homework; neither children, who feel that school should end when the final bell rings, nor parents, who feel obliged to police their kids’ adherence to this onerous task. However, schools do place a high degree of importance on these at-home study activities, and they can count significantly towards a child’s disciplinary and educative performance.

Parental involvement in a child’s education is vital. The landmark 2008 study by John Hattie, “Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement,” stressed the importance of parental support. Hattie reported that “the effect of parental engagement over a student’s school career is equivalent to adding two or three years to that student’s education.”

Therefore, whether it thrills us as parents or not, getting to grips with your child’s homework tasks is one of the best ways to support them. When students struggle with their homework, it creates feelings of frustration and inadequacy and can exacerbate poor at-school performance. By contrast, an empathetic, patient, but focused approach to helping children can work wonders.

The following seven tips will help you navigate this tricky task (made much harder when you’ve forgotten all the high school trigonometry you ever learned!) They will help create a conducive environment and complete those essential homework assignments on time and to a high standard.

Tip 1: Create A Supportive Homework Environment for Your Child

Before you start helping your child with their homework, make sure your child has a quiet, comfortable space in which to work, free from distractions from televisions, phones, or other siblings. This can be easier said than done, admittedly, but if you consider every room in your home, you may find an underutilized space you can convert into a mini-study.

Make sure the space is well-lit, the furniture comfortable, and the temperature warm (but not too cozy, as this can make kids drowsy).

Tip 2: Establish a Homework Routine

Try to ensure homework is always done at roughly the same time of the week or day. Particularly for younger kids, getting into a routine can make the task seem less arduous. It becomes just another part of their day, like bathtime, or helping with chores.

A good time to consider might be after the child returns from school, following an hour’s break. That way, they get some rest time, but don’t relax too far into the evening, when they may become tired. Sunday mornings could also be useful time for homework, with a fun afternoon activity as a reward.

Tip 3: Understand the Assignments

It will be hard to help your child with their homework if you don’t understand it yourself. Part of the challenge of homework, is the need for you as parents to refresh your own knowledge of information you may not have accessed for years.

While this may be less possible with older students’ homework, it should be possible to get to grips with elementary and middle-school tasks. Certainly, don’t offer to help until you know what the answer to each question should be, since this can only add to your child’s frustration. “How am I supposed to do it, when you can’t?” is your child’s likely refrain.

Tip 4: Provide Aid not Answers

No matter how tempting it may feel to provide the answer, you’re not helping your child if you simply complete assignments for them. Instead, provide clues as to the methods by which they might solve the problem, or answer the question.

A bit of struggle can be character-forming, especially when your child feels the delight and relief of coming to the correct answer themselves. Homework, after all, is supposed to help develop independent problem-solving skills and critical thinking. The process is more important than the solution, in other words.

Tip 5: Break Down Complex Tasks

Some topics, such as math, computing, or chemistry, can feel overwhelming. Advise your child to break down the task into smaller stages and focus on each one in a logical order. This is particularly useful when your child has a lot of different subjects to revise prior to an exam.

Encourage the creation and use of a schedule for revision, or homework completion, perhaps spreading the subjects over multiple evenings, or setting aside blocks of time, with plenty of downtime in between to prevent burnout.

Tip 6: Offer Positive Reinforcement

Remember to celebrate your child’s achievements, even if to adult eyes, the question they have answered seems a simple one. Remember that there was a time when such topics were brand new to you too. 

Rather than simply celebrating good grades, congratulate your child on homework completed on time, and executed well, and on assignments that receive accolades. Provide small rewards for effort and remember to cheer even minimal improvements. Every step contributes to a successful journey.

Tip 7: Communicate with Teachers

If your child constantly struggles with homework, its worth talking to teachers about this before a problem becomes a crisis. It may be that your child needs additional support in class, or that teaching isn’t proving effective due to problems at school you’re unaware of.

Ask to schedule an informal meeting, or send a polite email, giving examples of any homework assignments that are proving particularly problematic. Your child’s teacher should appreciate feedback that improves their performance too.

Reframe homework as an opportunity for everyone to learn. Rather than framing homework as a chore that must be gotten out of the way, try to see it as an opportunity to touch base with your child and find out how they’re doing. You’ll have a much better idea of how school is going, and it might even help revitalize your own knowledge on certain topics.

As we’ve seen, being a supportive parent when it comes to homework can significantly improve your child’s engagement at school. It can provide an early warning of any difficulties, help make sure they don’t fall behind, and improve their confidence.

In short, it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your child’s educational experience, and you might just learn a thing or two yourself!

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