When parents become involved in their children's schoolwork, studies show the children do better in school. “But that doesn’t mean doing the homework for them,” says LSU AgCenter Certified Family Life Educator Dr. Diane D. Sasser.
“Becoming involved means giving support, guidance and appropriate resources,” Sasser says, adding, “When children do well in school they feel better about themselves. Having a positive self-concept means fewer tendencies toward misconduct and involvement in risky behaviors such as truancy or drug use and abuse.”
The family expert offers 10 tips to help with homework:
1. 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 Web site has this listing along with tips for parents and students for LEAP testing and other aids at http://www.doe.state.la.us/.
2. Set a homework schedule, including both a beginning and an ending time. “Of course, younger children require less time than older children,” Sasser remarks, suggesting a wind-down time after school for kids before they tackle their homework. “Kids need time to be kids,” she says, adding, “But make it clear on how much time is allowed for relaxation and of your expectation that they ‘hit the books’ as scheduled.”
She says kids will whine at first, but if you’re consistent, say what you mean and mean what you say, 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 in mind and last-minute panic rushes can be avoided.
3. 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, adding, “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 doing homework for them.
4. 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.
5. Learn about your child’s learning style. Is he or she a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner or a combination of all three? Does he or she learn better by seeing and reading about things, touching and trying things or hearing about new ideas? Sasser recommends visiting Web sites like http://www.oakmeadow.com/resources/articles/Styles.htm, http://www.homeschoolviews.com/quiz/quiz.html or similar sites for fun quizzes to help you determine what type of learner your child may be.
6. 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 and yet not a distraction,” Sasser says.
7. Look over the homework when it is completed. “Do not correct it unless you have checked with the teacher,” Sasser advises, explaining, “Seeing the pattern of errors is often helpful to a teacher.”
8. 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.
9. “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 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, noting a Web site from the Louisiana Department of Education for families in which English is a second language, also has useful information for all families: http://www.louisianaschools.net/lde/nutrition/lasshi/readers/index.asp.
10. Provide a homework area for your child with plenty of good light and few distractions. “For example, if your child concentrates better with ‘white noise’ (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, adding, “If possible, provide references books such as textbooks and encyclopedias.” If you can’t provide them, she recommends taking advantage of the local library, which has a wealth of information.
If your home has a computer, reference software might be included on the unit. You might also want to investigate Internet sites that have good resources for children and parents.
Sasser recommends these homework help Web sites:
Editor: Mark Claesgens