How to Help With Homework

Kids think they’re stressed about homework! In a cross-country survey last year, 72% of parents said  homework is a frequent cause of stress. The most important thing to remember, as parents, is that your children need to do their own homework. Help them, of course: Ask them questions, provide explanations, coach them through problems. But don’t do it for them.  

How to Help With Homework

The Early Years: Elementary School

Have your child work in a common area, where you can oversee and be ready to help. Work alongside them, suggests Angela Marseglia, a Toronto Oxford Learning Centre owner and former teacher. “Balance your chequebook while they’re doing math; read while they’re reading.”

Be a coach. It’s easy to provide answers, but better to draw the answer from your child. Together, look at the example, then go back and re-read where it explains what to do. If necessary, do the first question or problem with them.

Help kids become active learners by quizzing them. “They think that because they’ve looked over the material, they’ve learned it,” says Marseglia. Not true. “Ask them what they’ve learned so far, and what they think the next step will be.”

When should you contact the teacher? “As soon as you think your child is not comprehending, and not that they don’t want to put in the time,” she says.

Growing Up: Middle School/Junior High

Put all of your child’s activities-school projects, sports games and social occasions-on a calendar. Teach them time management by having them spot gaps where they can do homework.

Big projects can seem overwhelming. Help them break projects down into manageable parts spread over time.

Older students may erect barriers between themselves and the subject, says Pamela Kozak, a Kumon Math & Reading Centre owner. “They say ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I’m stupid.’ Back up a few steps and make a running start. If they’re having trouble with difficult fractions, first do some work with simple ones.”

Don’t wait to be asked. An Ipsos-Reid survey done in association with Kumon revealed that four of five children who wait for homework support to be offered are performing at a below average level.

Independence Days: High School

“The Internet is their first call of information,” says Maryam Moayeri, a B.C. teacher and a 2006 winner of the Prime Minister Teaching Excellence Award. “If possible, help them learn internet literacy. High school students aren’t strong searchers, and they need to know where to go to find reliable information.”

The trend in high school homework is exam preparation, so if they’re not studying regularly it’s time to call the teacher, says Moayeri.

When you do call, Moayeri suggests you begin by asking, “What can I do to help?” It’s a shared responsibility.

“Positive reinforcement supersedes all other advice,” says Marseglia. “Tell them what they’re doing really well. Be specific. Ultimately, you want to set the tone for learning being fun.”