How to Help with Homework
Show That You Think Education and Homework Are Important
Children need to know that their family members think homework is important. If they know their families care, children have a good reason to complete assignments and to turn them in on time.
You can do many things to show your child that you value education and homework.
1. Set a Regular Time for Homework
Having a regular time to do homework helps children to finish assignments. The best schedule is one that works for your child and your family. What works well in one household may not work in another. Of course, a good schedule depends in part on your child’s age as well as her specific needs. For instance, one child may do homework best
in the afternoon, completing homework first or after an hour of play and another may do it best after dinner. However, don’t let your child leave homework to do just before bedtime.
Your child’s outside activities, such as sports or music lessons, may mean that you need a flexible homework schedule. Your child may study after school on some days and after dinner on others. If there isn’t enough time to finish homework, your child may need to drop some outside activity. Let her know that homework is a high priority.
2. Pick a Place
Your child’s homework area doesn’t have to be fancy. A desk in the bedroom is nice, but for many children, the kitchen table or a corner of the living room works just fine. The area should have good lighting and it should be fairly quiet.
Turn off the TV and discourage your child from making and receiving social telephone calls during homework time.
Some children work well with quiet background music, but loud noise from the CD player, radio or TV is not OK. If you live in a small or noisy household, try having all family members take part in a quiet activity during homework time. You may need to take a noisy toddler outside or into another room to play. If distractions can’t be avoided, your child may want to complete assignments in the local library.
4. Provide Supplies and Identify Resources
Have available pencils, pens, erasers, writing paper and a dictionary. Other supplies that might be helpful include a stapler, paper clips, maps, a calculator, a pencil sharpener, tape, glue, paste, scissors, a ruler, a calculator, index cards, a thesaurus and an almanac.
You may want to ask your child’s teacher to explain school policy about the use of computers for homework. Certainly, computers are great learning and homework tools. Your child can use her computer not only for writing reports and for getting information through Internet resource sites, but for “talking” with teachers and classmates about assignments. In many schools, teachers post information about homework assignments and class work on their own Web sites, which also may have an electronic bulletin board on which students can post questions for the teacher and others to answer.
Show your child that the skills he is learning are an important part of the things he will do as an adult. Let him see you reading books, newspapers and computer screens; writing reports, letters, e-mails and lists; using math to balance your checkbook or to measure for new carpeting; doing other things that require thought and effort. Tell your child about what you do at work.
Help your child to use everyday routines to support the skills he is learning—for example, teach him to play word and math games; help him to look up information about things in which he is interested—singers, athletes, cars, space travel and so forth; and talk with him about what he sees and hears as the two of you walk through the neighborhood,
go shopping at the mall or visit a zoo or museum.
6. Be Interested and Interesting
Make time to take your child to the library to check out materials needed for homework (and for enjoyment) and read with your child as often as you can. Talk about school and learning activities in family conversations. Ask your child what was discussed in class that day. If she doesn’t have much to say, try another approach. For example, ask her to read aloud a story she wrote or to talk about what she found out from a science experiment.
Attend school activities, such as parent-teacher conferences, plays, concerts, open houses and sports events. If you can, volunteer to help in your child’s classroom or at special events. Getting to know some of your child’s classmates and their parents builds a support network for you and your child. It also shows your child that his home and school are a team.
7. Monitor Assignments
Children are more likely to complete homework successfully when parents monitor their assignments. How closely you need to monitor your child depends upon her age, how independent she is and how well she does in school. Whatever the age of your child, if she is not getting assignments done satisfactorily, she requires more supervision.
Many elementary school students often like to have someone with them to answer questions as they work on assignments. If your child is cared for by someone else, talk to that caregiver about how to deal with homework.
Too much parent involvement can make children dependent—and takes away from the value of homework as a way for children to become independent and responsible.
It’s usually a good idea to check to see that your elementary school child has finished her assignments. After the teacher returns completed homework, read the comments to see if your child has done the assignment satisfactorily.
The basic rule is, “Don’t do the assignments yourself.” It’s not your homework—it’s your child’s. Doing assignments for your child won’t help him understand and use information. And it won’t help him become confident in his own abilities.
Talking and asking questions can help your child to think through an assignment and break it down into small, manageable parts.
U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach
Helping Your Child with Homework Washington, D.C., 2005
Helping Your Child with Homework Washington, D.C., 2005