Parent Connection

    Help Your Child Build Great Literacy Skills
    Tips for Helping Your Child with Homework
    The following tips were found on www.teachervision.com

    Many children benefit from a set homework schedule. For some, the responsibility of deciding when to sit down and do home work is too difficult. These children may decide to do their homework after school or after dinner. This is a personal choice and has to do with learning style. However, once the time is determined, the schedule should be adhered to as realistically as possible. This will also relieve the problem of having to "hunt down" or "corral" children to get them to do their homework. After a while, this will become a natural part of their schedule. It should be noted that during this time, no interruptions should be allowed. Phone calls, TV, and everything else can wait until the work is completed. 
    For some children, the decision about what to do first becomes a major chore. They may dwell over this choice for a long time. Other children use horizontal perspective. This occurs when everything takes on the same level of importance and no priority is seen.

    If you choose to rank order, suggest which assignment to do first and so on. Many children tend to use a quantity orientation (number of assignments left) rather than a qualitative orientation (difficulty of assignment). This means that if they have five things to do, have them finish the four easy ones first. In their eyes, they have only one assignment left even though it may be a more difficult task.

    Many parents will say that their children cannot work unless they are sitting next to them. It is not that many children are unable to work, but that they choose not to work. The work stoppage on the part of children occurs when a parent attempts to break away and no longer provides them with undivided attention. This "dependency" is very unhealthy because it is not imitated in the classroom. Consequently, such children may put off doing their classwork and bring the unfinished work home. In this way they may gain mom or dad's full attention. After a hard day's work, parents are tired, and the thought of sitting down with children for up to three hours doing homework can only lead to problems.

    If you are already locked into this type of situation, you should not break away all at once. You should desensitize children a little at a time. Sit at the end of the table for a few days. Then slowly increase the distance between yourself and the child's work until he or she is working alone.

    Parents sometimes have a habit of "zeroing in" on the incorrect problems. Next time your child brings you a paper to check, focus first on how well he or she did on the correct problems, spelling words, and so on. For the answers that are incorrect say, "I bet if you go back and check these over you may get a different answer." Now the child will go back and redo the problems without any animosity or feelings of inadequacy. If you focus first on the incorrect problems and become angry, when the child returns to the work area he or she will likely be more involved in dealing with the loss of parental approval rather than  finishing the task.

    You may want to check small groups of problems at a time. Many children benefit from immediate gratification. Have your child do five problems and then come back to you for checking. Zero in on the correct ones, and after they are checked send the child back to do the next group. In this way the child gets immediate feedback and approval and the necessary motivation for the next assignment. Additionally, if the child is doing the assignment incorrectly, the error can be detected and explained, preventing the child from having to redo the entire assignment.

    Sometimes parents will allow a child to work on homework for several hours or until they finish. This is fine if the performance of the child is consistent or the assignment realistically calls for such a commitment of time. However, in the event that a child is no farther along after one or two hours than after ten minutes into the assignment, you should stop the homework activity. The only thing accomplished by allowing a child to linger on hour after hour with very little performance is increased feelings of inadequacy. The parent may choose to end the work period after a reasonable amount of time and write the teacher a note explaining the circumstances. 

    There may be several reasons for such a behavior pattern. First, the child may not have understood the concept in class and therefore will not be able to finish the assignment at home. Second, the child may already have feelings of helplessness. Consequently, waiting long periods of time may result in the completion of the assignment by the parents. Third, the child may have serious learning difficult ties, especially if this is a pattern, and may be overwhelmed by a series of assignments.

    Most text books have the chapter questions at the end. When this procedure occurs, many children are not aware of what they should be looking for while reading. Discuss and talk about the questions before children begin reading. By using this strategy, they will know what important information to look for in the chapter.

    Some children have a tendency of trying to remember everything. You may want to give them a pencil and suggest that they lightly note a passage or word that sounds like something in one of the questions. This will help many children when they have to skim back over the many pages in the chapter.

    Parents will often say to they never get frustrated or yell while working with their children on homework. However, if all communication were verbal, then these parents would have a good case. But as we know, nonverbal communication is a large part of overall communication. Since this is possible, many messages, especially negative ones, can be communicated easily without your awareness. Grimaces, body stiffness, sighs, raised eyebrows, and other types of body language are all nonverbal responses. If children are sensitive, they will pick up these messages, which can only add to the tension of the homework relationship. This is extremely important with younger children who cannot distinguish between loss of parental approval and loss of love. Such a state can only add stress to their ability to perform.
    Some parents will complete an entire assignment for their children. While the parents' motivation may be helping their child finish a difficult assignment, the end result may be very destructive. Children tend to feel inadequate when a parent finishes homework. First, they feel a sense of failure. Second, they feel a sense of inadequacy since they can never hope to do the assignment as well as mommy or daddy. I have seen parents do an entire social studies term paper. This can only foster increased dependency and feelings of helplessness on the part of children.

    If children cannot complete an assignment, and they have honestly tried, write the teacher a note explaining the circumstances. Most teachers will understand the situation.

    To recap, before you sit down to work with your children, make sure that they are not exhibiting symptoms that may reflect more serious concerns. When parents attempt to work with children who have severe learning problems or a high tension level, they may be faced with tremendous frustration, anger, and disappointment. Following basic guidelines when helping with homework can result in a more rewarding situation for both parents and children.