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Homework Without Tears: 12 Homework Tips for Parents

You don't have to dread helping your kids with math homework.

By Amber Orenstein September 16, 2014


Summer is over and schools are in session which means families are getting back into weeknight routines and dusting off their homework skills. At our Math Fair this summer Christine Price and I hosted a session for families on how to effectively and efficiently help their students through homework assignments, group projects and studying.

Homework helps students develop study skills, fosters independence and responsibility, increases students’ understanding of content, teaches time management skills and builds positive academic self-image. Unfortunately homework can also cause unnecessary frustration, prevent students from participating in extracurricular activities and lead to poor self-esteem.

Luckily those negative aspects are preventable by making homework an important priority for your family and trying out these 12 helpful homework tips:

1. Limit Distractions. Create a homework zone for your students that is away from the T.V. and other places where there could be distractions such as pets, people coming and going and loud noises.

2. Provide Tools. Make sure the materials your student may need are readily available. It’s helpful to have a stash of pencils, pens, a dictionary, etc. available. Check in regularly and make sure that any special materials needed for class projects are provided so their work won’t be disturbed.

3. Help Manage Time. Establish a set time for doing homework. Don’t wait until just before bedtime to do homework when students are tired and easily distracted. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with other classmates.

4. Be Positive. The attitude you express toward homework will be the same attitude your child acquires. Make it a habit to tell your child that the work they’re doing is important.

5. Do YOUR Homework Too. Show that the skills they’re learning are related to things you also do as an adult. If your student is reading, you could be reading too. If your student is practicing math, you could balance your checkbook.

6. Teach Don’t Tell.  It’s important that when asked for help you give guidance but not answers, that way your student learns the material and concepts. Remember that a lot can be learned from struggle and that too much help can teach your child that when the going gets rough, someone will do the work for them.

7. Cooperate. Teachers will often ask that you play a role in your child’s homework. Make sure you’re being an advocate for the teacher and follow their direction so you can show that school and home are a team.

8. Foster Independence. Some homework is really intended for students to do alone. Homework is a great way for kids to develop independence and accountability for lifelong learning skills.

9. Communicate. Make sure you talk to your child’s teacher and understand the purpose of homework and what the class rules are.

10. Build Metacognitive Skills. Help your child decide what homework is hard and what is easy, then encourage them to work on the hard stuff first so they’re most alert for challenging work.

11. Set Break Time. Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. Let your child take a short break if they’re is having trouble keeping their mind on the assignment. Build perseverance but set time limits to avoid burnout.

12. Reward Progress and Effort. When your child has been successful and is working hard, celebrate success with a special event to reinforce positive effort. 

How much is really enough?

These numbers are estimates and the actual time doing homework at night can vary with each child’s motivation and interest level.

  • K-2: 10-20 Minutes
  • 3-6: 30-60 Minutes
  • Mid/High School: 60 Minutes,but varies greatly based on class load

Different types of homework.

Not all homework is equal! It’s important to know the type of homework your child’s teacher has assigned  and what their homework policy is. Here are four examples of homework you might see this year:

1. Practice Homework. Just like it sounds, this type of homework is designed to help your student learn and remember key concepts taught in the classroom.

2. Preparation Homework. This homework consists of material that hasn’t been taught in the classroom just yet, so these assignments are designed to introduce your child to the content that will help them acquire concepts taught later on in class.

3. Extension Homework. Students are asked to apply their skills to other content or a special project in this homework style that is usually assigned over a period of time.

4. Integration Homework. This homework is similar to extension, but often results in a class presentation or event like a science fair.

Helpful websites for parents.

Many of us go to the internet when we want to help our students with homework or to play educational games, but with so many websites to choose from it can be difficult to identify the most high-quality resources. Here are few resources you and your student can use at home:

Calculation Nation - This site was developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and uses interactive games organized around upper elementary and middle grades math curriculum. Students will need to establish an account to play online with games that promote learning and practice with fractions, factors, multiples, and more.

The California Math Council - This resource offers a section dedicated to free math education articles and activities for students from pre-K through high school.

Thinkfinity - Thousands of math focused resources have been screened by educators to ensure accurate content and up-to-date information is made available for students. Resources are even grouped by grade and subject area to make finding resources simple!

Figure This! -  Primarily focused on middle school students, Figure This! provides math challenges for students and families.

The Math Forum -  This interactive site gives families the option to “Ask Dr. Math”, take on an internet math hunt or compete in one of the many weekly and monthly math challenges based on grade level.

Illustrative Mathematics - Visit this site to find mathematical tasks that closely illustrate all of the Common Core Standards for each grade.

Nat’l Library of Virtual Manipulatives - This site is home to hundreds of virtual manipulatives sorted by grade level and interactive tutorials that engage students in algebra, geometry, probability and measurement. Nat’l Library of Virtual Manipulatives promotes three key areas of mathematics: procedural skills, conceptual understanding and problem solving.

While the internet is a great place for students to find important resources for their homework assignments and motivation, not all sites are the same. It is imperative that children are taught internet safety and how to access quality resources. Ensure that your kids are responsible and safe with their internet usage!

Has your teacher assigned ST Math as homework? Read our Parent's Guide to ST Math at Home.

 

Amber Orenstein is a MIND Research education consultant in Colorado.

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