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Tuesdays with Jane: What’s a Parent’s Role in Homework? Kidtelligent Can Help…

All too frequently, both parents and children say, “Yech!” when someone mentions homework. It’s the source of way too many battles across kitchen tables. If your children obediently sit down after school with smiles on their faces and complete their homework without complaint, you can skip this blog. The rest of us have frequent episodes of wondering, “How involved should I be?”

While every school, and just about every teacher, has slightly different approaches to homework, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Children are different. Universal rules about homework can put some children at a disadvantage. Some really need a play break after school. Some can’t concentrate unless there’s a reason to finish by a certain hour. Some need to do homework in the kitchen where there’s hustle and bustle. Some need the quiet of a bedroom or basement corner. If you’ve invested in a Kidtelligent profile for your child, it has a wealth of suggestions as to what might work best. Otherwise, talk with your child about different options. Let them try different ways and see what works best for them.

Teachers need to see student work. If parents think the goal of homework is for their children to turn in perfect papers, teachers may not get enough information on where/how a child is struggling. Especially in math, parents often are unaware of the intricate skills involved in mastering certain concepts and may teach procedures that undermine deep understanding. Or, they can proofread writing to the extent that the child doesn’t learn to self-edit.

There is a definite place for parental involvement—and it may be very necessary if your child is behind classmates. Make sure that the thinking remains in their hands, though. And, keep reminding yourself that as soon as possible, you want no role in their homework—unless you’re really anxious to retake calculus or chemistry!

Instead of correcting your child’s homework, teach them to examine assignments and ask questions before they leave school for the day, to look for mistakes, and to look for help in their books and notes before asking you for help. If the teacher isn’t grading for correctness, your child may benefit from turning incomplete homework that shows what they don’t understand, provided they worked hard to finish it with your support.

Children need to become responsible. Our children’s school had an online homework portal that parents could check. I set ours up so that we received notification only if our children failed to turn in assignments. If that happened, we dictated homework time and place. Otherwise, we left our children in charge of monitoring assignments’ due dates.

If your school doesn’t have that capability, consider a low-tech alternative with progress reports. Perhaps you and your child check in each Friday on whether they’re on top of their homework. They stay in charge unless that progress report you’ll eventually receive indicates that they weren’t being truthful. If they’ve fallen behind, help them determine what kept them from keeping up—not writing down assignments? Not estimating accurately how long things would take? Too much TV? Then, help them figure out how they’re going to do better. These three examples really require different solutions, and perhaps even specific skills that you can help your child develop. However, all too often, parents are tempted to take shortcuts, simply dictating homework time and place.

Think in terms of two clear goals—helping your child develop homework habits that fit how they learn best and eliminating homework wars. It isn’t easy. It’s far easier to monitor homework quality and timeliness. But the payoff is peace at home and a responsible child.

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is http://www.edcoaching.com/