Today, parents and students are going a mile a minute. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed much over the years—homework and the way that some students feel about it. Thankfully, there are best practices that you can implement to make homework an important priority and a positive experience in your household.
I cringe when I think of a weekend in 9th grade when I dropped a last minute homework bomb on my dad. He was probably hoping to relax on a Sunday, and instead spent hours helping me make a cell model for my biology class out of concrete, because that's what he (a general contractor) had on hand.
The research on the benefits of homework range widely, but in most schools it's not going away. If homework is required, try to help students focus on developing positive study skills, fostering independence, and creative problem-solving. Research shows students learn better through creative problem-solving rather than through memorizing facts.
Every student has differing needs and every family has unique obstacles to face. Which is why I asked a team of MIND experts to share their most effective, helpful homework strategies for parents. The homework tips below are guaranteed to help parents maximize success, support your student, and transform homework into a positive experience for all.
And to hopefully ensure that none of you are ever stuck making concrete biology cells on a Sunday, when you could be watching football.
8 Great Homework Tips for Parents
Create a homework space. This should be a quiet, well-lit study area for your student with ample space to sprawl out their books and study materials. Ideally, this space should be free from distractions such as televisions, cell phones, or anything else that might capture your child’s attention. Check in on your student to see what support or resources they may need.
Communicate with your child's teacher. It is vital to have an open line of communication with your student’s teacher in order to understand tasks, homework, and the teacher’s expectations. The more you interact with your child’s teacher, the stronger the parent-teacher relationship will be.
Implement a homework routine.Erich Zeller, Instructional Consulting Manager at MIND, shared his insights on the best way to create a homework routine. “Your child will benefit from knowing where, when, and how homework will play out when they get home. Set up a clean, quiet and comfortable place where homework is done. Set a time that homework is done. This could be after they come home and have a snack or after dinner, but keep it consistent. Give breaks: work for 15 min, get 5 min break. If homework takes more time than your child can handle, be an advocate. Ask the teacher how long it should take.”
Model a Positive Attitude. As mentioned above, children learn from us and often adopt our feelings towards things, including homework or how we approach tasks. If you say things like, “Math is hard” or “I’m not a math person”, chances are, your child may also adopt those feelings. Be positive and express a positive attitude towards homework. If you experience math anxiety, explore and model ways of dealing with it, like reframing and practicing mindfulness techniques. Don't be afraid to talk openly about the role that homework plays in learning and make it a habit to reinforce that the work your child is doing is important. Encourage your student to persevere and problem-solve. Productive struggle and mistakes are where growth happens!
Do the hardest thing first.“Don't wait,” were the two words that Brian LeTendre, Director of Content and Communications, said when offering his best homework advice for students and parents. “Do the hardest thing first. If you leave the hardest thing for last, often you won't have the time, focus, or energy it requires. Completing the most difficult task first will set the tone of your homework session, and inspire you to keep going. And the earlier you start, the more time you give yourself to get everything done.” Doing the hardest thing first and planning how to approach a problem is a great way to build metacognitive skills.
Encourage Problem-Solving.Brandon Smith, MIND's Lead Mathematician, expressed the value of encouraging a problem-solving mindset. “Most importantly, help a student expose their reasoning without giving away any how-to’s on the problem. As they make their assumptions known and persist in solving the problem, not only do students learn the concept better, they also build core skills in productive thinking. The more effortful and intentional the learning is, the deeper it goes and longer it holds.”To hear Brandon talk more about this, check out the “Reframing Project- and Problem-Based Learning” episode of Inside Our MIND podcast.
Teach Don't Tell.“After school, there is no answer key. To prepare for this, it is important for children to develop the ability to check their own work and to learn from their mistakes,”Matthew Feldmann, Vice President, Product explained. “When reviewing your child's homework, rather than telling a student that they answered a specific question incorrectly, you can ask them to find their mistake and correct it. You can also build this skill when you are working with your child on a specific question. If they ask ‘Did I get this right?’, rather than answering with yes or no, ask them ‘How could you check it?’ or ‘What's another way you could solve this problem?’. This approach has the added advantage of helping students develop multiple strategies for solving problems.”
Start a Dialogue. “When your child is working on homework, use that as an opportunity to help them think about and communicate their thinking. This will help them process what they are learning, learn from their mistakes, and make connections to things they have already learned,” explained Twana Young, Director Product - Instructional Development. Some things you might say include:
Tell me about the problem you are solving.
What strategy are you using?
Why did you choose that strategy?
Talk me through what you tried and why you think it didn’t work.
Show me where you think the mistake might be and let’s see what we learn from it?
Have you ever done anything like this before?
What are things that you know that might help you solve this problem?
Not all homework is the same! Homework is assigned for a variety of reasons and understanding your child's assignment, the teachers' goals, and what concept your student is important. The understanding of differing homework types will help to add value around why certain homework is assigned and what it's trying to teach your child.
Here are four examples of homework you might see this year:
Practice Homework. This type of homework is assigned to help your child with concept mastery and to help reinforce learning taught in the classroom.
Preparation Homework. Preparation homework introduces content that will be taught in the classroom in future lessons.
ExtensionHomework. This type of homework asks students to apply their skills and critical thinking to new content or a special project, often assigned over a period of time.
Integration Homework. Integration homework requires students to apply varying skills to a single task, such as a class presentation, book reports or a science fair project.