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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

7 Strategies for Helping Your Kids With Their Homework

By Christina Katz

Like it or not, parents, homework is an important part of school and learning. Over an academic career, the amount and complexity of work your child brings home will gradually increase as a student progresses through the grades.

If you want the transition from school to homework to go as smoothly as possible, be forewarned: You are going to need to monitor your behavior as much as your child’s. If you follow these simple tips you can avoid homework hassles.

1. Be pro-homework. Whatever you do, do not get down on the idea of homework. If you do, you might implicitly grant your student permission to dismiss it, too. Generally, a negative or critical attitude towards learning, teachers, or school will only undermine your child’s ability to prioritize homework. If your child cannot handle the load that is considered typical for each grade, discuss your child’s challenges with the teacher. Addressing any concerns swiftly and giving teachers and administrators the benefit of the doubt will serve your student’s highest good, inside and outside the classroom.

2. Make space for each student. If you have more than one student doing homework, try to create a separate workspace for each child. The goal of homework is to take students out of a group environment and teach them to work independently. If others are always nearby creating distractions or trying to help, students won’t get a chance to see what they can accomplish on their own. Declare quite time in the house until every student has had time to complete work.

3. Participate but don’t take over. Sometimes you will be invited to participate in homework. When this happens, let students lead the collaboration process. Make sure you are the helper, not the boss. Once you take over your children’s homework, it’s difficult to get them to reclaim responsibility for it. If your child is lost or confused about homework instructions, seek out teacher input to help get your student back on track.

4. Encourage routine. Stand firm that homework is the first priority when students finish classes each weekday. Homework for Mondays can be completed on Fridays or Sundays, according to what works best for your student and family.

5. Take advantage of student-teacher interaction. Some children are shier than others. Other children may have trouble listening carefully to homework instructions. Others may forget to write down assignments. Try to see all of these homework pitfalls as opportunities for your child’s growth. Don’t inter fere unless you have to. Work with the teacher to help your student overcome unproductive habits. Don’t get down on your child. Instead, brainstorm with the teacher about ways to inspire improved academic performance. Teachers always have plenty of experience in this department.

6. Check grades regularly. At some point, your child’s grades will be posted online with the expectation that students and parents will keep up with academic progress. When this happens, it means that you won’t likely hear from teachers beyond parent-teacher conferences and report cards. The onus falls on parents to help students monitor their progress in classes and address any discrepancies in grading. Don’t merely check your child’s quiz and test scores. Students are expected to turn in homework in a timely manner and to participate in class in addition to working hard on quizzes, tests, and projects. Don’t let a few misplaced homework assignments bring your child’s grades down.

7. Use tutors as needed. Despite your best intentions and your child’s best efforts, you may find yourself in need of a tutor. Academic challenges often show up during the elementary school years. When they are met with helpfulness instead of judgment, frustration can be addressed and difficulties rapidly surmounted, especially when parents and teachers work together.

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz actually enjoyed doing homework when she was growing up.