According to research, half of parents struggle to help their kids with homework, but many educators would rather have their students figure it out on their own and have parents help them develop good study and research habits instead.
A recent report of the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) found that 50 percent of parents struggle to find the time to help their kids with homework. 46.5 percent of parents say they wouldn’t be able to help, even if they had the time, because they don’t understand the subject matter.
“The most alienating and scary moments in any parent’s life come when we feel powerless to give our kids what they need,” says Emily Kirkpatrick, vice president of NCFL.
The best way to empower parents, educators say, is by simply showing their children that they think homework is important. Help them set up a quiet study space, and set aside certain times to work on homework in the evenings and on weekends. Younger Children with homework may need a bit more guidance, but older kids should be able to manage mostly on their own. Parents should ask to see their children’s homework and discuss it with them, but avoid trying to puzzle it out for them.
“I tell my students to try, and if they come in the next morning and can show me how they tried, they get their completion credit,” says Carol Graham. “I ask parents to simply check and see if it’s completed or check to see that the student has tried. If it’s a concept the student doesn’t understand, I would prefer to know so that I can remediate. Some parents do too much helping. I’m not grading the parents.”
Educator John Tarpey agrees. “Homework shouldn’t be assigned that kids can’t ‘get’ on their own,” he says.
If kids are struggling, parents can show them how to get help from online resources or the nearest public library.
Donna Cook is a retired teacher who tutors kids in her neighborhood whose parents are non-English speakers and work long hours. When she’s not sure about an answer, she turns to her smart phone and looks it up, especially for math.
“I’ve learned a lot, and the message I hope the kids learn is that you can use various resources to find the help you need,” she says. “Sometimes the lesson is learning the process of how to find an answer.”
More ways educators encourage parents to help with homework:
- Send your children to school each day, well-rested, fed and with a positive outlook.
- Take an active interest in your children’s schooling. Ask specific questions about what happens at school each day and how your children feel about it.
- Try not to let any of your own negative experiences keep you from supporting and encouraging your children’s learning. Let them know how much you care about education by continuing your own learning both informally and formally, to impress its importance upon them.
- If possible, set up a quiet, comfortable study area with good lighting and the school supplies that your children need. This can be almost anyplace in your home; you don’t need a special room.
- Set a family “quiet time” where you and your children can work together on homework, reading, letter writing and playing games.
- Allow your children to study in the way each of them learns best. For example, some children work best when they’re lying on the floor with background music playing.