Homework Horror: Is It Ok To Help?

Mar 23, 2017 by

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook Pexels By: Pixabay

It’s Sunday night, and you’ve just settled down to watch TV or read your latest thriller for a couple of hours when, all of a sudden, your child appears in the doorway looking worried. It’s almost bedtime, but they seem a little too tense and keep darting looks at their book bag. Of course, you ask them what’s wrong and unfortunately the answer ‘I haven’t done my homework’ is fairly common, which leaves you, as a parent, with three options.

The first is to make them do the assignment then and there at the kitchen table. However, your child is going to be pretty tired, and the work is likely to be subpar. The second is to write them a note to give to their teacher, saying that they weren’t well and you will make sure they complete the worksheet tomorrow night. Lastly, you could give them a telling off, send them to bed and do the homework, or finish their project yourself.

Research has shown that at least one in six moms and dads actually believe they’re helping by doing their children’s work for them. America’s education program optimistically titled

No Child Left Behind was aimed at improving both kid’s education, but also involving parents in after school and extracurricular activities. Parents of even kindergarten children felt an immense pressure to be ‘seen’ helping i.e. baking brownies to raise money, chaperoning class trips, coming in to hear kids read and having a place on the PTA committee.

Another problem parents have is that the material your current child is studying may be vastly different to what you learned in the classroom. Can you remember the key dates of the American Civil War? Do you understand how to create a website? Are you familiar with new scientific research that makes old facts about climate change out of date? Most parents aren’t teachers so often having them do the work, or a significant part of it can actually bring down a child’s grades even though they have the best of intentions.

What Does Homework Do?

At its most basic level homework teaches children from an early age, even if it’s just coloring in a letter, what is going to be expected of them throughout their school career. An assignment, no matter how simple, teaches them about deadlines, following instructions and time management to ensure they complete it and it’s handed in on time. If these all seem familiar, that’s because they are! We use the principles we learned on day one every single moment of our adult lives. We’re able to do our jobs properly because we’ve been taught how to read, write and add up as well as being generous with our time and physical belongs because we know sharing is important. We’re able to communicate our wants and needs in a specific way because we also learned that shouting, screaming and throwing a tantrum is not an appropriate way to behave.

Homework is also a valuable tool for a teacher to see if your child actually understands what’s going on. On average, most classrooms have at least twenty-five pupils, and many schools will have more per class. Yes, the teacher will do their best to help everyone and answer any questions, but it’s pretty hard to talk to twenty-nine kids in the space of an hour while writing on the whiteboard too. Assignments also show kids strengths and weaknesses and indicate whether they’ve been placed in right group or not. For example, a little girl who’s good at reading, writing, and spelling should be put in a top English set while a boy who struggles with maths needs to go into a group that matches his ability. Otherwise, children, who are finding things too hard or easy, struggle to engage with the lesson and end up learning very little.

Don’t Do It For Them

While we know life would be much easier if you could write that essay, do that sheet of sums or make that paper mache mask for them, don’t! An adult has much better reasoning skills, and it’ll be fairly obvious to their teacher, who deals with this all the time, that Katy didn’t write that English paper. It is also highly likely that if their teacher is new, or just not so great at their job that they won’t pick up on the fact that you completed that science experiment and now believe your child is Einstein. Don’t forget that schools themselves have academic targets to meet, so if they think a kid is doing better than average, they won’t hesitate to make things harder. This means that your child could be moved away from their friends into another group, pressured to take an AP or advanced placement class against their will or given harder work to complete that you can’t understand.

Teachers know that they have to get through an entire, state approved curriculum so they don’t have time to keep going back and explaining things. If they believe your child understands what’s being taught and your child doesn’t correct them, then they’ll move on which leaves your child at a clear disadvantage at test time.

Person Wearing Blue Black Jacket Standing Near Gray Bookshelf

Pexels By: Unsplash

Get Your Child Thinking

By the time you child leaves elementary school, they need to be thinking for themselves, so one of the best ways to encourage independent thinking is by them doing their own homework. Yes, you may have to use a combination of bribery, nagging and tech time-outs but most kids eventually get down to it themselves. Finally, your child will ask for your help, and as long as they’re the ones writing down the answers, doing workings out and reading the relevant passages of text that’s ok.You could ask them what they believe the right answer is and why before looking up the information together, or if they’re revising for an exam, consult  the practice paper to see if they’re correct.

Whatever you do don’t bully or belittle your child if they’re wrong, the whole point of homework is so that they continue learning away from the classroom! Even if they answer wrong still praise them for trying because the last thing you want is for them to associate learning with negativity.

Children also get easily distracted so limit noise and activity by settling siblings first, closing the kitchen or living room door and have a timer set, so they know how long they have left to complete their practice spelling test. Emma McCluskey tells us on her website that kids love practical demonstrations and that not all learning should take place in the classroom! If your child is studying photosynthesis why not bring them to a country garden?

Teachers Hate Homework Too!

It’s true that teachers find homework pretty exasperating at times as not only to they have to set appropriate assignments, but they have to mark them too! If your child is struggling with the amount of homework they receive each night, it may be worth talking to other parents to see if their kids are similarly snowed under. Don’t forget kids in the US have the option of doing more work for extra credit so that could be the case here. If you’re really concerned about the impact the workload is having on your child’s eating, sleeping and social habits then why not arrange a meeting with their form tutor? Often teachers, due to time constraints and last minute lesson changes have no idea what their colleagues are setting so it may be that better communication is needed so homework can be spread evenly throughout the week instead of clumped together.

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Pexels By: Pixabay

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