How Can Parents Help With Homework Challenges?
As their kids grow up, parents increasingly believe they’re out of their depth. You may not think that parents help with homework challenges in middle or high school because the subjects are ‘so advanced’. It’s not time to give up yet. Homework struggles are due to many causes and there are many ways you can help.
To be fair, you can’t expect all children to be driven and self-motivated, especially in middle school. They may need some tangible incentives to keep them on track, while still learning why abstract goals like ‘doing well in school’ will help them later on.
Middle school children may respond to incentives like doing a fun activity when the homework is done, or a more-complex rewards system based on points, which is like a game kids can ‘play’ to win. If you want it to succeed, work out the strategy with your child, giving him a voice as well as responsibility.
There might also be other, deeper causes for lack of motivation, especially for high school students, and you might need to work a little harder to understand what is going on. It may be due to emotional/social issues, so tread carefully and figure out what’s happening. Your child’s teacher may have some helpful insights.
Poor motivation could also be related to feeling overwhelmed or bored. You can teach your child how to break down tasks into more manageable chunks so it is not so daunting. Boredom is trickier to solve. Sometimes you can liven up the homework by showing your child how to connect it to something interesting (math to basketball, or a movie for history report), but at other times the assignment is just plain boring. All you can do is share the many times you’ve had to do dull, boring things yourself and encourage her to take breaks from the tedium. It’s a teachable moment – life’s not always fun and interesting!
Sometimes the problem is not the complexity of the homework, but in getting it done on time. Kids do have a lot to do between schoolwork and extracurricular activities, and time management is often a learned skill. A practical solution is to encourage your child to create a schedule that includes when and where to do homework. You should work collaboratively with your child to make them feel in control of their own time, and support them in keeping to their schedule.
High schoolers have more independence, responsibilities, and of course, more homework! They need to ask for, and use on-campus resources like peer tutoring and the counseling center and be proactive in communicating with their teachers. For example, my son got an F in his Spanish flashcard assignment because he forgot to turn it in on time and was too diffident to ask if he can get partial credit for late submission.
This brings us to our final point about homework troubles – sometimes children are simply having difficulty with the subject matter and need help, and as a first step, you have to understand the problem. Is your child struggling in one class in particular, or a specific topic in that class, or all classes? Is your child struggling with being tested on the material or writing about the material though he knows it? Are your child’s friends also struggling? Talk to the teachers and hear their take on it. They spend a lot of time with your children in the classroom and have a unique insight into their academic abilities and performances. Figure out how other students are faring too.
Next, if you have the skills to help with homework, then help! If your child is having trouble with math and you’re strong in math, then set aside some unhurried time to help guide him. Be patient, figure out your child’s learning style and brush up your skills. Of course, do this only if you are confident in your expertise in the subject and your ability to teach it in a way that fits in with your school’s and your child’s needs.
At the high school level, your child’s school may also offer resources such as school counselors or peer tutoring. Don’t be shy about supporting your child in accessing all of the available resources. Your child may also do better with a study group so encourage him to join one if possible.
If your child needs more help, you should look into supplementing her learning outside of school. After-school learning centers, in-home or online tutors are all options to consider based on the needs of your child. For subject-specific help consider Meemli’s excellent online learning offerings that focus on building understanding as well as skills for success, while providing convenience and flexibility.
Homework offers more benefits than just good grades. Homework teaches children how to plan tasks, manage their time, motivate themselves, and take responsibility, all the skills they’d need in their adult lives. If you see your children struggling, first let them try and sort it out on their own. But don’t stand back for too long; it’s important to be proactive and help your kid before it seriously impacts his school experience. Just one caveat: don’t do your children’s homework for them!
How do you help your kids with their homework?
(This post is by contributor Anna Colibri.)