Some experts say you should hang back and let your kids do their homework on their own. However, when you’re dealing with a five-year-old in kindergarten who can’t read his assignments without your help, that’s impossible! This is, perhaps, why kindergarten students shouldn’t be assigned homework, but since that’s the kind of world we live in, then we as parents have to decide how best we’re going to help our kids complete their work.
The attitude that “It’s your child’s homework, not yours” has become dated in other ways as well. Many teachers are overworked and yet required to give more assignments than ever before, so they want parents to get involved. Teachers simply can’t keep up with the work otherwise. My son’s teachers call his homework folder his “F.I.S.H.” folder, for “Family Involvement Starts at Home.” From the school’s perspective, I would be negligent to not give him some sort of assistance with his work.
Alright, then: if parents are going to have to help their young children do homework, what’s the best way for them to do so? Here’s what I’m doing …
I make sure that homework is generally done correctly.
If I see that my son has made a mistake or is doing something in error, then I’ll let him know. For example, the other day I required him to rewrite the word “and” because he flipped his d to b. He looks to me to confirm his reality, and I don’t want to give him the impression that the direction in which his letters face does not matter.
But they don’t have to be done perfectly, or absolutely neat.
I will not make my son rewrite a word that he’s written a bit sloppy. He’ll learn how to write neater with time. I also pick my battles. His coloring tends to be messy, quickly done, and out of the lines, but I let it go. I don’t expect that he’s going to complete every assignment with the same level of skill or engagement.
I make sure that my son understands the assignment.
“What do we have to do here?” I ask him at the start of each new worksheet or task. Usually, his teachers have showed him the homework in school, and so he remembers. I also have him show me where to write his answers, because I’ve found that when left to his own devices, he sometimes gets creative about this. If he’s at all confused or unsure, we go over the directions together.
I ask him to assess his work.
When he’s all done with an assignment, I ask him if he thinks the work looks neat and correct, so that he can begin to build an idea of how to assess his own efforts. Because that’s the thing: I don’t want to be sitting with him in high school, or even middle school. I want to teach him now how to not just do his homework, but to self-evaluate so that he knows when to re-do it or ask for help.
When he’s confused, I ask him to teach me before I teach him.
If my son is struggling to spell a word, I ask him to sound it out before spelling it for him. Or we count together. At this stage, those are the two biggest skills that he’s working on, but the same would go for any assignment, really. Your child has encountered this work before in school, so see if he or she can remember how to figure out the question or complete the task before reteaching them how to do it.
When I do teach him something, I do it as clearly and quickly as possible.
Of course, sometimes our kids will make errors and need help. In which case, you need to roll up your sleeves and do a spot of teaching. Try not to let this become too huge an endeavor. At the end of a long school day, and in the midst of doing homework, the last thing a child needs is another lesson. Keep it short and sweet, and if possible, rely on real or physical examples. Count with your fingers, for instance.
We take breaks.
We all need them! And our young children’s ability to focus is so much shorter than our own. Get out of your chairs and stretch. Put on music and dance. Sometimes, my son takes a fifteen minute break to build with Legos, which is quiet and physical, drawing on very different skills from reading and writing. Other times, we pop outside just to see what the weather is like, or to look at the garden. Don’t force your child to stay glued in his or her seat.
And finally, I give him rewards for completing his work.
This should be something small, a pleasant part of the day-to-day routine. My son might lay on the couch while I read to him, or I’ll cuddle with him for twenty minutes while he watches television (which he’s only allowed to do for 45 minutes on school nights). Homework, even for a child like mine, who enjoys doing it, is exhausting and sometimes monotonous. Shine a little light on their efforts!More On