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How Much Should Parents Help with Homework?

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Most of the big questions about our children’s upcoming school year are already answered. Who are their teachers? What are their class schedules? When will they eat lunch? But there’s another big question all moms need to answer every fall: should parents help with homework?

After years of missing the boat on this one, my answer is yes—at least at the beginning of the school year. Let me explain. We want our children to develop independence in study matters, but if we don’t monitor our children’s homework the first few weeks of school, they could be headed for trouble.

I took the hands-off approach with my son last year, but around week six, I realized he had already dug a homework hole, and I stepped in a little too late. Your child might not require this much hands-on attention if they’re self-disciplined, and you can probably do less. But it’s better to start the school year with too much help than too little. Once your child has a good homework system in place, you can take a step back, supervise less, and let out a big sigh of relief.

Avoid that headache with these 6 steps for parents who help with homework.

1. Strategize with your child.

When you help your child with his homework it might look like a team sport, but ultimately it’s your child’s responsibility. Have a strategy session to help him come up with a plan. Will your child start his homework as soon as he gets home, or will he get a break first? Will he do all of his homework at once or will he do a big chunk, take a break, then complete it? Will he do his hardest subject first or his easiest?

Discuss the strategy with your child and dictate as little as possible. Ask him questions that give him choices– both of which are comfortable to you. The more involved he is in coming up with a game plan, the more responsible he’ll feel for taking ownership of his homework.

2. Agree on the rules with your child.

Make sure the homework rules are very clear. This homework magic printable offers a very simple approach, but for older kids, you might have to make the rules more specific.

3. Review the day’s school work.

Once school starts, stick with your routine. One of the most important things you can do is to review the day’s school work with your child. Go over each class with her and ask to see her notes and her homework assignment list. Let her take the lead in pulling up her notes and explaining them to you. Once you’re clear on what’s due and when, ask how she plans on getting the work done. If her answers are vague, ask her if she would like for you to give her some options. Again, be sure to let her take ownership.

4. Study prep.

As you become familiar with your child’s homework schedule, help her come up with a study plan for quizzes and tests. For example, if the test is on a Friday, ask her how much she plans on studying the four days prior to the test. Let her finalize a schedule and add that to her daily homework routine.

5. Sit with your child.

If your child has a hard time staying focused on his homework, pull up a chair right beside him while he works, or at least have him in the same room with you. If he’s working on a computer, have him sit so that you can see the screen while he’s working.

6. Touch base with your child’s teacher.

Communicate with your child’s teachers regularly. Shoot them a quick email and ask if your child is turning in her assignments on time and if they’ve been completed properly. Do this early in the school year, so that if there is a problem, you can nip it in the bud.

Want more good ideas for how to make this school year a great one?

Here’s one that really works: Have your children’s dad start, or attend, an All Pro Dad’s Day at your children’s school. He’ll get to share breakfast with your child on campus, receive tips for how to be a better dad, and get connected with other dads for encouragement. Since research shows that children benefit from having their dad involved in their school life, it’s a win-win for everyone!

iMOM Director Susan Merrill’s E-book, Every School Year Counts has lots of great ideas. Get it free, here. 

Is your homework approach working for you and your kids?


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