I have gotten a few bits of advice from teachers on helping kids with homework in a way that helps them become self-sufficient and independent. Here's what I learned:
- Have a Homework Spot. Make sure they have a quiet place to do their homework with all of the supplies they need (and maybe a snack). This helps them keep focused on what they are doing and not stop and get distracted by trying to find a pencil or get something to eat. Even if they don't have a desk to work at, you can set up a basket with the usual supplies that they need.
- Do homework at the same time every day. The idea on this one is that it is supposed to be a habit so you don’t even have to remind them and they get used to working on their own. Sounds great . . . in theory. This bit of advice doesn’t work for us. With everyone doing different sports and activities, we have a crazy schedule and can’t do homework at the same time all the time.
- Only Offer As Much Help As They Need. Only help if homework is supposed to have parent involvement or if they aren't understanding it. Some homework (when they are young) requires that you read together or that you read spelling lists for practice. Other homework can be done on their own. Let them work on their own when they can. The idea is that if you are helping them all of the time, they don’t develop the confidence in their ability to do it on their own.
- Back Off Before They Get It. If you are explaining how to do something, back off just before they get it. Sometimes I find it hard to tell the right moment, but this one makes total sense and I never thought about it before. If you are always right there when they suddenly understand something, they get the idea that they need you there to figure things out. If you guide them in the right direction and then back off just before they understand it, then they get the accomplishment and the confidence of the “win” of understanding.
- Do something else while they are working. This gets kids in the habit of asking for help when they need it, instead of expecting help to just show up. That is an important habit because with so many kids in class a teacher may not be aware that your child needs help unless they ask for it. And doing something else keeps you from hovering :-) Bonus points if the something else is related to what they are doing. If they are reading, you read something yourself. If they are doing math, balance your checkbook. This is supposed to help them see that what they are working on is related to real world things.
- Stop helping if either of you are frustrated. Suggest a little break. This teaches kids that there are going to be times they aren’t understanding something and get frustrated and that sometimes a 5 or 10 minute break is all they need to take a fresh look at things are figure them out.
What homework advice have you gotten from teachers or what worked for you when you were in school? We'd love it if you could share what works for you and your kids with STM readers.