Homework! A word that puts a dark cloud of fear and loathing into the minds of many students. It also stirs negative emotions in the parents of those students. Homework often means parents having to nag and argue with their child to finish it. It means the child spending important family time in their bedroom pulling their hair out over the work. It also causes distress when the child begs the parent to help, and parents feel at a loss as to how to help.
When I was a teacher, one of the most popular questions I would get asked by parents was:
“How can I help my child with their homework?”
Well here are six tips to help parents work with their child and help them with their homework stress free.
1. Read the question.
When your frustrated darling comes running out of their room, ready to scream because they ‘just don’t get it’ ask to see the assignment or task. Spend some quiet time reading the question. Ask to see the rubric. Good teachers put a great deal of time designing assessments, however most students don’t take the time to read all they have been given. Help your child by reading all the teacher has provided the student.
2. Work from concrete to abstract.
When trying to explain a task, focus on the concrete first. Abstract words refer to intangible qualities, ideas, and concepts. These words indicate things we know only through our intellect. Concrete words refer to tangible, qualities or characteristics, things we know through our senses.
An ABSTRACT piece of advice would be: To improve in class, you’ll have to work hard.
CONCRETE: To move from a C grade to a B grade in class, you’ll need to do go to every class; do all your reading before you go; write several drafts of each paper; and review your notes for each class weekly.
By speaking in concrete terms your child will have a better idea on what they will need to do in terms of actions taken to improve.
3. Break complex learning into simpler components.
Kids get overwhelmed because they look at the overall picture. Many young people have trouble breaking a task up into bite size pieces, and feel a great deal of anxiety because they have no idea how they are going to get to the finished product.
Help them work out a step -by-step guide to complete their homework task. It may also help to write these tasks out on a timeline and put it somewhere everyone can see to make sure the steps are progressed.
4. Check for understanding of procedures and instructions.
As most teenagers feel it is their duty to answer in monosyllabic utterances, asking your child “Do you understand now?” may get you a “Yep, Ugh, Or AhHa” but will you really know that they understand enough to go on with the task? Asking open questions, asking for an example, asking to explain it back or even teach you a component are all ways you can see if your child really does understand.
5. Help maintain a record of achievements.
Big or small it is important to celebrate wins. This is especially true when it comes to homework. When your child completes a task they are proud of, take a photo, remember the details. This will act as evidence to provide them with when they are down on themselves and don’t think they can ‘do it’.
6. Encourage peer support and peer tutoring opportunities.
Kids can learn well from each other. Encourage your child to set up a weekly ‘homework’ session at your place after school. This can be a weekly get together where students can ask each other questions and consolidate their learning. Every student will take different lessons out of each of their classes. If they can get together and discuss those lessons they will be able to learn from each others perspective.
Remember, it may be wise to be close at hand to keep the little workers on task.
And finally, listen to them. Often kids are just frustrated by what they cannot do straight away. Sometimes they are not asking you to do it for them, or even to explain it, they are just looking for a sounding board to vent their learning frustrations. Listen carefully when they complain about homework, sometimes you may not need to do any more than that.
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