6 tips to help your kids with their homework

Now that school is back in session for many parents, I would like to share 6 tips that I learned during a presentation last week on helping your kids with their homework.

  1. Stay in contact with the teacher. One of the biggest complaints that many teachers have is not being able to communicate with the parents.  As much as we love our children, they are not the most reliable sources to pass along messages.  Make sure you are communicating directly with the teacher on a regular basis to track you child’s progress.  I often wonder how children fail a grade and the parents claim to have no idea anything was wrong.  *Sidenote: children don’t usually go from honor roll to failing over night.
  2. Give them space. No only do they need to be in a comfortable area to focus on their homework, make sure there is adequate lighting, resources (encylopedias, reference books, internet sources, etc) available and other supplies.  You should also eliminate any distractions such as television, radio or telephones.  Just because other people are not doing homework, does not mean that these noises won’t be distractions to your children.
  3. Be available. Here’s the catch with this one.  You don’t have to be physically sitting there with your child but they should know that if they need assistance, you are available.  Consider dividing their assignment into things they can do on their own and encourage them to save the harder parts that they need with for last.  This will give them confidence after seeing what they were able to accomplish.  It will also allow you time to help with the hard parts, give them a chance to finish the work then go back and check all of the work.
  4. Help them with time management. Purchase a calendar for your child that allows them to track assignment due dates and help them break larger projects into managable pieces with several deadlines.  It should not be your responsibility to remember all of their deadlines.  Set them up for success by teaching them to manage their own time.  Also set a beginning and end time for homework with the ability to do something “fun” once they are complete.  Although they may run over the time limit on occassion, they will have an incentive to make it to the finish line. Their fun thing could be that their favorite TV show comes on at 8p.  They must understand that the homework must not only be complete but that you will check over it before they are released.
  5. Don’t discount study groups. Once your child is old enough to study with other people, consider hosting a weekly study group.  Make sure the group is also free of distractions and provide some type of incentive for them to do well collectively.  Maybe the parents can plan a hot dog party if the group achieves a certain score on the project.  This will help them to realize the value of team work and not think that everything is just about them.  Also, children are very motivated by their peers.  Forming these groups will help to monitor the types of people your children are hanging around.
  6. Praise your children for the successes. Every day our children are put in situations that chip away at their self confidence and cause them to question everything that they thought they knew about life.  Many parents have resorted to “things” to show their children that they are proud of them or to replace simple phrases like, “I am so proud of you.” “Great job today!” “You are the best son/daughter a mother could wish for” It is amazing how much more valuable these words of encouragement are to your child than the latest sneakers or newest Play Station.  Our children need more emotional support than material items.

I hope at least one of these tips will help you all make this school year a huge success.  Please share any additional tips that you have to help your kids with their homework. Remember: we are in this together, children don’t come with instruction manuals…

Thanks, WordPress, for making this post “Freshly Pressed.”

The best of 287,565 bloggers, 344,137 new posts, 345,906comments & 80,354,498 words today (August 23, 2010) on WordPress.com.

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101 thoughts on “6 tips to help your kids with their homework

  1. hi great blog,

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    Like

    • Interesting… I will definitely check it out, love to learn from others, my son is 4 so I still have time to figure this out but love to help those further along to find great information. Thanks!

      Like

    • Hahahah … funny!
      I think we all had to bear that “guilt” in our years of maturity.
      (Un)Fortunately for me I was cleansed from all guilt by doing a stint as a teacher for 6 years. (I commented quite elaborately somewhere below).
      Being on the “other side” of the fence can also be quite a sobering situation! 😉

      Like

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I try my best to incorporate all 6 of these tips with my daughter when we do her homework and she is only 6. I believe each tip plays an important roll in being responsible, independant and feeling confident.

    Like

    • Thanks, it’s great to hear from someone who is doing it and making it work. Raising children is more of an art than a science. All we can do is our best to raise healthy and productive people.

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  3. Fantastic tips! Having gone through graduate school, I deteremined one of the most important skills I learned in my early years was that of time management. Good to see that you find it just as important. As well, communication with the teacher cannot be stressed enough. Most teachers don’t do their jobs for the money…they do it for the love of sharing knowledge. They are more than willing to go the distance to help children – but parents need to be engaged in order to help make that happen. Bravo on this article!

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    • I agree that time management is something we underestimate when instilling traits in our children. We attempt to manage their time for them and wonder they behave irresponsibly. Children are sponges and absorb what we put forth. Congrats on completing grad school 🙂

      Like

  4. Thanks for this tips. I think one of the biggest problems for kids is, that their parents dont care about homework and leave them alone with all. Hopefully many people will take care more about after reading your blog.

    Greets

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    • I think parents are also quick to accept when their children say they don’t have any homework or that it has already been completed. It is our responsibility to get involved and hold them accountable.

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  5. I think that praise is so important. When I was a kid my parents didn’t care about my homework. They were too busy watching TV to help or praise. Result – I hated homework and did everything to avoid actually doing it.

    I constantly praise my own son (7 years old), not just for homework, but for everything he does. He is really motivated to do his best. I’m not taking praise for that, but I hope I’ve helped a little.

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    • I love that! I am always praising my son when he completes things and makes good decisions to show him the importance of doing well. Kids want that from their parents more than any material item. You can see it in kids eyes when they don’t get enough attention at home. It makes me want to hug them (in fact I hug all of the kids at my son’s day care in the morning and the teacher has commented that some kids who don’t normally show any affection love it when I hug them).

      Like

    • I know… I think about the difference it would have made in my life also. There are many adults with great potential but can’t manage their time which limits what they are able to accomplish.

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  6. Great article!! As a parent who sent off my first one to Kindergarten on his first day, I have been nervous all day thinking about what his schooling future holds.. Glad that I stumbled upon your piece! You are on my blog roll!
    Thanks!

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  7. Symphony says:

    Thank you for the tips. I’m always searching for ways to help my son. He starts middle school today and I’ve been thinking about him all day. I’ve been nervous too Heart, lol, and my son is in 6th grade.

    Like

    • LOL… I don’t think we ever stop worrying about our children. I didn’t understand a mother’s love until I had my son. Now I feel like I’m a part of a secret society with other parents. The love, anxiety, excitement, fear and million other emotions is indescribable, especially when it feels like they are happening all at once.

      Like

  8. Well, it’s all kinda obvious, really, but watching adults I noticed that what’s obvious to more intelligent people ain’t obvious at all to the general populace. So, pointing these things out is very important. Keep up the good work!

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  9. Like the tips, they are classic things we do not do often enough. I love the one about study groups. I tried to get my high-schooler to get into study groups but he was all about resistence. Hopefully my youngers one will take that good bit of advice. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Like

    • Thanks! I think introducing the study groups also prepares them for college since more and more classes are using group projects and requiring students to work together to complete assignments. It allows them to figure out how to work in a group before it really counts toward their grades. Good luck with they younger ones and I bet your high schooler will wish he had taken your advice.

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  10. A wonderful and very useful post. As an ex-teacher and mom of three (now grown and gone), parents do have to play a big role. There’s a fine line between encouragement and taking too much responsibility from the child.

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    • I agree and I am sure you have seen many parents who think it is the school’s role to raise their children and make sure they are educated. I could on for days about that (lol). Looking forward to visiting your blog.

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  11. haha my mum always complains that i never get enough homework! its true,i dont, but even though im donig my GSCE’s early this year, im in y9 (9th grade) i still study independently at home 🙂
    i always do the homework i like first, then i look in my homework diary given to us by school and work through the rest…its a good system! 🙂

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  12. I like the post, but it’s hard to apply to all families.

    For instance, I grew up in a large immigrant working class community. When my parents got home, they were exhausted. I never wanted to disturb them. In addition, once I reached middle school – high school, chances were good that my parents wouldn’t have been able to assist in any difficult questions. So I – like my siblings – were on our own. Or we would phone our friends if we had a question.

    So while your tips are helpful, it doesn’t quite work with all family dynamics.

    My parents always did manage to attend those parent-teacher nights though, which was good. I knew they couldn’t always be there for me, but they were there when it mattered.

    Congrats on being Fresh Pressed!

    Like

    • I agree that there are no absolutes in any situation in life, however, it seems like some of these tips did work for you.
      1. Your parents stayed in contact with the teacher which I would encourage parents today who may be in similar working or cultural situations because even if you can’t provide the assistance for your kids, you will know if they need it and will be able to find the assistance.
      5. You benefited from study groups even if they were not created by your parents or you all may not have physically come together. Working with other students is beneficial because they often “speak the same language”.
      Regardless of education or work schedule, I encourage all parents to praise their children when they do things well and to be available for the kids, even if just to know what the problem is so that they can seek outside assistance for the student.
      Thanks for the comment, great point.

      Like

  13. Concerning study groups: From what I have seen from study groups, they themselves tend to be the largest distraction. Few children (for that matter, not all college students) have the discipline to focus on the matter at hand with the temptation of discussing something entirely unrelated present.

    Save the studygroups for things that actually have to be done in groups or for simple tasks with minor supervision. (An example of the latter: Two children at the kitchen table taking turns to query each other for the set of words to be learnt, while a parent does the dishes.)

    Real study (reading, writing, and, most importantly, thinking) is best done alone.

    Like

    • I agree but I also think that the concept should be introduced in a controlled environment (like your kitchen table example) and at a relatively young age because more and more jobs are focused on people working in groups or on teams. By teaching your children and their friends the proper way to study when they are young, it won’t be an issue when they are older thus making them more prepared as college students and future employees.

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  14. I think you are missing just one good one…listen to the kids! Study groups are great, but they don’t work for everyone, like personally, when I was growing up my Mom would do that, and I HATED it!

    Some people just don’t like studying in groups, so make sure that parents get this all ok with their kids 🙂

    That’s all 🙂

    Like

  15. I think that cartoon is hysterical. thank you for the tips i have a little one who getting to do homework last year was like pulling teeth. now that we are back in school these tips are greatly appreciated. thanks.

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    • LOL… I loved the cartoon also. I think by setting up a schedule and “discussing” with your little one what the expectations are and what process will be like this year, it should be successful. Courtney was correct in pointing out that the kids should be involved in creating this process because we often try to fit them in a box versus letting them shape a box that they are comfortable with.

      Like

  16. I’m so happy some people recognize this! It wasn’t until recently my dad started saying he was proud of me for my accomplishments(as in graduating high school… NOT for things like choosing veganism as a lifestyle because it is what I believe in my heart as right)

    I mainly got yelled at when I was younger, that was my ONLY incentive to do well at things, to not get yelled at.
    But it didn’t really work because I’d get yelled at for the little things I didn’t perfect. *sigh*

    Great post through!
    If I planned to have kids, I would DEFINITELY try my best to follow this, but I don’t want kids because I don’t want to turn into a screaming dictator. :/

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    • Recognizing the events of our past that shape who we are now is the key to becoming better in the future. Don’t plan not to have children because of anything that happened in your past. YOU have the power and control over your future. When I was pregnant with my son, I spent months planning the kind of mother that I wanted to be for him and when he was born, I made conscious decisions to execute my plan. You can be whatever kind of mother you set your heart and mind to being.

      Like

  17. These are good tips. I hope parents will adopt to this methods rather then yelling at them for getting low results. I was lucky that my mom wasn’t like that. That comic was hilarious!

    Congrats on being freshly pressed.

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    • Thanks 🙂 Yelling rarely leads to the desired results but it is easier than working with the children. Unfortunately, most of the parents using those tactics are probably not blog readers or receptive to advice 😦

      Like

  18. funny, i just read about alfie kohn’s The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of A Bad Thing. A compelling expose about homework and how it fails our children

    ” Death and taxes come later; what seems inevitable for children is the idea that, after spending the day at school, they must then complete more academic assignments at home. The predictable results: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. Parents respond by reassuring themselves that at least the benefits outweigh the costs.

    But what if they don’t? In The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn systematically examines the usual defenses of homework – that it promotes higher achievement, “reinforces” learning, teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience.”

    Like

    • I can agree with that. I don’t think the intention of homework is to necessarily influence research, logic or experience. However, in our school system, there is a certain expectation of knowledge to pass along to the next grade. The students are only focusing on each of these subjects for one to two hours per day so I think homework is intended to reinforce the information that was presented during that day and ensure the knowledge was retained. It is detrimental for a child not to retain the majority of the necessary knowledge and be expected to pass along to the next grade. I believe parents should want their kids to be as prepared as possible for the next level, even if that means spending a few additional hours reviewing information.

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      • But just that homework reinforces learning is one of the myths that elmer mentions. Whether this is myth or thruth I cannot judge for myself, but the homework I, personally, had was mostly a waste of time—and, importantly, it was demotivating waste of time (as was most of the highly inefficient schooling): The true trick is to make children want to learn and give them the opportunity to do so. When I was a child, I probably learned more on my own, outside of school and homework, than I did within. Enthusiastic learning works; forced learning does not.

        An additional concern must be the ethics of homework: We are only children once, and who are we to waste someone elses childhood on ineffecient learning.

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      • I agree with your points, as they apply to some children. Many of the children that I know need structure in their lives to reinforce learning and when done properly, homework can be fun and rewarding. I was one of those kids who enjoyed the structure and believe that it has benefited me immensely while other children, like yourself, may prefer experience learning. It is imperative that parents know their children and their learning styles to taylor “homework time” in a productive manner. We must also consider that these tips were written mainly for the American school system and I am not sure what the Swedish learning style is like.

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    • To avoid misunderstandings: I am not a practical learner, but a bookworm and a thinker. The point is not about practical and theoretical learning, but about being able to learn in an efficient manner or being forced to waste time in a class room (or through other forms of traditional schooling).

      (That some students positively need school in order to learn is another matter. My main concern is with the many who do better on their own, e.g. by being given an interesting text book on the subject at hand.)

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  19. Thanks so much for this lovely and realistic list. As a teacher I appreciate this post very much. Many parents sincerely don’t know how best to help their kids at HW time, and vicious cycles ensue that invlove whining, crying, yelling and that’s just the parentS! LOL But seriously, if parents follow your tips, they will wind up having peace at HW time and a great relationship with their kids. 🙂

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    • I truly appreciate your comment, especially as a teacher, because parents look at homework through the lens of their lives rather than how it will benefit their children and the life lessons (time management, team work, information retention, etc) that will benefit the students in the rest of their lives. Thanks again!

      Like

  20. SocialAnswers says:

    Thanks for sharing this, LaKesha. The truth of the matter is, I’ve always thought that in spite of parents’ mistakes, no one really has a 101 on Parenting, and it is through low moments that the higher ones usually arise. You’re right, there are some tips that might help one raise their children with more ease and care, but there’s also an important territory on the left side of our chest, that shall forever be giving, forgiving and inspiring.

    Like

    • I like that… the love of a parent means more to children than some people will ever know. So many adults have relationship issues because of the lack of emotion, acceptance and praise from their parents *sounds like another blog post 😉

      Like

  21. Congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed. 🙂 I liked your post, but I disagree with the phrases of praising. No no, I am not against praising! But sometimes I think that too much praising or repetitive phrases wear thin and they become “soup”, as in that they lose their value. I think that “Good job” doesn’t really say much. I would rather praise their efforts or their decisions. Not only words work, but also actions. Those are my thoughts, but each to his own. 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks! I think it depends on the age and the sincerity. My son is four so repetitive praising works for him because the more he hears something, the better he understands it while older children may question your sincerity if you say the same thing over and over again.

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  22. Hi,
    A very insightful blog, thank you…. I enjoy it and it is marvellous! You might also want to buy the book of Kate Raidt –The Million Dollar Parent. How to have a successful career while keeping your family a top priority. You are welcome to visit her blog or website –http://kateraidt.wordpress.com or http://www.themilliondollarparent.com Again thank you, and be Blessed!
    To your success,
    Jean.

    Like

      • Please be so kind and have a look at my blogs, and tell me what you think. Your opinion would be valuble to me.

        Only a pleasure, I sumbled apon Kates’ blog, went to her website, and eventualy ordered her book.

        Take care,
        Jean.

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      • The key to successful blogging is the frequency of your posting. Not only does it help with your search engine rankings but your readers will get accustomed to receiving updates from you and feel comfortable referring you to others. Keep writing 🙂

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  23. thx 4 ur help
    my child impove
    alot
    thx thx

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    ♥ copyright@2010

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  24. Hi, I just noticed that someone (for some unknown reason) is posting my comment under variations of my nickname, dudillah, dusillah and all these stupidities. I apologize for that.

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  25. What an awesome blog! I think people really have trouble helping kids with their homework, mostly because it’s much more complicated than simply knowing the answers and being able to do the work. Too often I think that extremes tend to win out – either the homework ends up being done largely by the parents or the kids get little instruction or support at all. Your tips are clear, concise and get right at the bits that trip up so many folks. Thanks for the great advice!

    Like

    • After receiving all of these comments, I have been thinking about the concept of homework much more deeply than when the post was originally written. I think homework can empowering for children and a bonding time for the parent and child. It isn’t so much about the “work” but the time the child can spend in reflection on what was taught during the day in a noisy classroom while the parent has an open door to dialog with the child, not only about the homework but other things happening in the child’s life.
      Much like other trainings that we instill in our children, these tips should be implemented earlier rather than later because as children grow and form their habits, much like adults, they become stubborn and unwilling/unable to break their bad study habits which will not serve them well if they choose to pursue additional education.

      Like

  26. Good tips. Having pretty strong feelings about the actual amount of homework young students receive at an early age, I wish that tip number 7 could be “Ask for less homework from teacher.” 😉 Homework is valuable in certain amounts and at the right time of development. What it has become, however, is stacks of mindless drone work that can often do more harm than good. I’m sure that there is no shortage of articles about homework, but this one I felt was particularly interesting and valid: http://www.physorg.com/news4333.html

    Like

  27. Hi there! Awesome blog…

    I noticed your usage of the cartoon. Next time I can draw a specially commissioned little sketch for you (naturally free of charge)!
    They are often handy for use in presentations or newsletters.
    But if you really hate my sketches you can print the drawings and use them for wrapping fish…
    My attempts at art are here…
    http://thysleroux.wordpress.com/

    Like

  28. emt training says:

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

    Like

  29. I was a teacher for a period of 6 years.
    The problem with “homework” is that quite often teachers are pressurized to hand down these assignments in order to make up the quota of work for the terms.

    Within this pressurized situation the kids also feel the tension and end up not enjoying the work.

    The best way to address this as far as the teacher is concerned is to ask a non-invasive question, something like “I found the assignment about x interesting, my son/daughter is struggling with… when will it be convenient to talk to you about assistance?”

    I always used to react terribly when confronted by parents who believed themselves superior and knowledgeable in every which way, including the way I handed out assignments.

    True, the flipside holds some truth regarding “irrational tasks” such as getting a 7 year old to build a full scale battleship for history class.

    Learners on the other hand should also be pampered less, knuckle down and just do it. That is part of life.
    Let them check out the way the Japanese kids are taught. Most other systems pale in comparison to what those kids have to endure for the sake of education.
    They are however quite content with it, because from an early age the “work-ethic” is instilled into them with a sense of pride.

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  30. @thysleroux

    I repeat my previous point about only having one childhood, etc., and point to the problems many Japanese experience later in life. Further, again, just “knuckling down” does not lead to efficient learning—and even its effectiveness can be disputed.

    As for the parent situations you mention: I cannot speak for the specifics here (there is too much room for interpretation), but you may want to consider that homework is something that stretches into family life—and that you, as a teacher, have to respect the parents right to determine their own family life.

    Like

    • I agree 100% with you on this, if my previous reply wasn’t clear on that I apologize.
      The draconian standards often imposed upon kids was one of the reasons I quit teaching.
      “Children should be allowed to be children”.
      All I wish to convey is that the system also forces the teachers to hand out assignments, irrespective of whether it is conducive to efficient learning.

      However, “knuckling down” withing fair parameters can and should be expected from a learner.
      After all, we all survived it.

      You will notice my reference to “silly” and often time-consuming assignments that really offer no advantages of any kind to the pupil, parent or teacher. These should be dealt with as well.

      I normally assigned very little homework and also believed in the sanctity of family life, but to reiterate, the root cause for unwarranted amounts of homework should be investigated at root level.

      Comparing “western” learners with the Japanese is indeed unfair, but it should point out the fact that a lot more can be managed by a child than we normally give him/her credit for.
      Again, within reasonable parameters, the same same parameters parents would expect if an education is indeed to “useful”.

      If Lakesha objects to our discussion here perhaps you could rather contact me on my blog, I don’t wish to hijack this blog ;-

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  31. this is great advice for some parents who really don’t have the knack of getting their kids interested… they are quicker to write them off as ADHD or dis interested and i see so many of them waiting at psychologist clinics… what we tell them is that all their kid needs is a channeling. not counselling. and the one who needs help is the parent, for being over anxious!

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    • That’s a great point. It does seem that more kids are being diagnosed with some type of disorder when they are just being energetic children. Some parents are choosing medication over doing the work of being a parent.

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  32. That’s a good list you got there. Two basic ideas should be considered with regards to praising a child. One is that they need to hear constructive answers, there isn’t only one right answer. And the other is to always keep your goals in mind as you decide your approach.

    Parenting Articles

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