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Should you help your kids with homework?

By Rebecca Andrews, BrighterLife.ca

Comments (2)

While you want your children to succeed in school, there’s a fine line between guiding them in the right direction and doing their homework for them.

Should you help your kids with homework?Janet Ricciardelli, principal of Harrison Public School in Toronto says, “Students naturally benefit from the continuing learning process at home, as homework provides a sense of structure and routine. Taking responsibility for their learning and adopting a disciplined approach to homework is something that students will carry with them through their years of schooling.”

Teacher Lorna Costantini says it’s natural for parents to want to help their children succeed and do well in school — especially in today’s economy. However, too much help can hurt. “Children need to learn how to make mistakes, because if they don’t know how to fail they won’t understand how to move forward,” she says. Therefore, make sure you let your children do their own homework and simply show them the right path by helping them find information resources without giving them too many answers.

ABC Life Literacy Canada is a non-profit organization on a mission to increase Canadians’ literacy skills. “It’s important to make learning part of daily life by showing your children that the learning process is fun, by including topics that interest them,” says the organization’s former communications manager, Nikki Luscombe. She suggests the following 10 tips for helping kids with homework:

  1. Develop a daily routine. Set aside a specific time each day/evening for homework.
  2. Provide a quiet, well-lit working area with basic school supplies.
  3. Understand your child’s learning style. This will help you develop a personalized homework plan for your child.
  4. Help your kids break projects down into smaller steps. It’s not uncommon for kids to get overwhelmed with big assignments. Work on pieces throughout the week and do the hard parts on the weekend.
  5. Talk with your child’s teacher. Become aware of his or her method of teaching. Help your child by using familiar terms and examples.
  6. Don’t save learning for the homework hour. Make it a part of daily life.
  7. Take a break. If your child gets frustrated or distracted with homework, allow a short break. If this frustration continues, talk with your child’s teacher to determine if a tutor might be needed.
  8. Talk it over. To reinforce comprehension and memory skills, take 10 minutes to talk about the stories you’ve read together.
  9. Show your children that the skills they are learning relate to real life. If your child is learning math, for example, balance your cheque book together or have him or her count out change for you.
  10. Teach your children to be independent. Offer to help them with difficult homework challenges, but then let them complete the remainder on their own.

“Communication between home and school can make all the difference,” says Ricciardelli. “Parents can help by providing a consistent time and place and setting clear expectations around homework in general.”

Rodd Lucier is a teacher, father and blogger at The Clever Sheep. He says, “Homework is often seen by children as a penalty, such as when parents say their child can’t watch TV or attend soccer practice unless homework is completed.” Instead, he suggests making sure kids understand the rewards of doing homework — better understanding and better grades, for example. He also believes learning should happen everywhere. For example, ask your child to help with simple arithmetic or reading labels at the grocery store. And he recommends “modeling what learning is” by being seen to read newspapers and books, and by asking questions yourself.

Elizabeth Sharp of Pathways to Education, founded in 2001 to help children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods stay in school, suggests busy parents connect their children to community-based tutoring programs or homework clubs to supplement the help they receive at home and to give them the extra academic support of working alongside their peers. Additionally, she recommends encouraging your children by praising their efforts, rather than focusing completely on the grades they achieve.

For additional tips on how to inspire kids to learn, visit FamilyLiteracyDay.

We also invite you to share any comments or suggestions you may have on how to help children with their homework below.

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canadianbudgetbinder on

Both my mum and dad helped me with homework when I asked for it. My mum was great with writing and dad was good with maths and science. I came home from school and before dinner homework was part of my day. My parents never did my homework for me which defeats the purpose. Rather, they encouraged me to do research, gave me examples and motivated me to think about answers with history. Even today if my parents tell me something I don’t know they tell me to look it up. I do the same with my wife. If we continue to tell our kids everything they come to depend on others rather than take steps to be independent. We will do the same with our child.

Cynthia on

My parents helped me by going over what I didn’t understand ( thank God my dad was a math whiz) I remember alot of evenings spent going over algebra homework! Then they would check it for me to make sure I had done it correctly, if I asked. My mom was a great resource if I asked for help drilling spelling words or definitions. She was available if I wanted or needed her help also. Time management was on me. Cramming the night before or waiting til the last minute for projects was not tolerated!! I have the same approach with my kids. I’m actually thankful that my 15yo has needed my help with his math over the years. When I took my college placement tests, all that math got me a 98%! Now that we are sort of In school together, they are helping me study my definitions. How cool is that!!

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