Parents can aid homework success

Tobie Blanchard, Sasser, Diane  |  1/4/2011 1:08:26 AM

News Release Distributed 08/04/10

When parents become involved in their children’s schoolwork, including helping with homework, studies show the children do better in school, says Diane Sasser, an LSU AgCenter family life educator.

“But that doesn’t mean they are doing their homework for them,” Sasser says. “Becoming involved means giving support, guidance and appropriate resources.”

Sasser offers these tips to help with homework:

– Maintain contact with your child’s school. “Know your child’s teachers and their expectations,” Sasser says. Ask your child each day what he or she has for homework. If you need or are interested in special services offered by your child’s school, consult the list of services at your Louisiana Department of Education. Its website has this listing along with tips for parents and students for LEAP testing and other aids at

– Set a homework schedule, including both a beginning and an ending time. “Of course, younger children require less time than older children,” Sasser says, suggesting a wind-down time after school for kids before they tackle their homework. “Kids need time to be kids,” she says. “But make it clear on how much time is allowed for relaxation and when they need to ‘hit the books.’”

She says children will whine at first, but if you’re consistent, they will fall into the routine. Beware of doing homework too close to bedtime, however, because fatigue may make it difficult. Fridays usually are the best day for homework that must be completed over the weekend. Assignments are still fresh, and last-minute panic rushes can be avoided.

– Encourage your child to divide the homework assignment into "what I can do myself" and "what I need help with."

“You should help only with that part of the homework your child cannot do independently, like reviewing completed assignments, practicing spelling words and so forth,” Sasser says. “This builds responsibility and independence in your child.”

She says not to fall for the old “I can’t do it; you do it” trick. Remember to guide rather than do homework for them.

– Praise your child for doing the homework, especially for accomplishments, rather than pointing out errors. For example, say, “You've spelled 18 out of 20 words correctly – that's the best you've done this semester,” rather than saying, “That’s good, but you missed two.”

On the other hand, if 18 out of 20 are wrong, giving praise for poor work is unproductive as well as misleading. “Instead, encourage your child to talk with you about why there were so many errors, how they can be corrected and what can be learned from them,” Sasser advises.

– Be aware of your child’s learning style. Does he or she learn better by seeing and reading about things, touching and trying things or hearing about new ideas? Sasser recommends searching for child learning styles on the Internet to help you determine what type of learner your child may be.

– Be available when your child is doing homework so you can answer a question if there is confusion. “If possible, it is better for you to be in another room, so you are easily accessible yet not a distraction,” Sasser says.

– Look over the homework when it is completed. “Do not correct it unless you have checked with the teacher,” Sasser advises. “Seeing the pattern of errors is often helpful to a teacher.”

– You might try organizing study groups. Your child may benefit from studying with one or two classmates. But make sure they are using the time to study, the family expert says.

– Build an environment conducive to learning. “Be sure everyone in the family understands how important homework is and does not interfere with or interrupt that time,” Sasser says. Turn off the TV, limit phone calls or do whatever it takes to maintain an environment conducive to study and concentration.

“Proper nutrition and good health also are keys in helping concentration and avoiding fatigue,” Sasser says.

– Provide a homework area for your child with plenty of good light and few distractions. “For example, if your child concentrates better with calming music, provide that help,” Sasser suggests.

She also emphasizes having adequate resources. “At a minimum, this should include a dictionary, paper and pens,” she says. She recommends taking advantage of the local library, if you don’t have a home computer and access to the Internet.

Tobie Blanchard


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