Dr. Mary Ann Smialek
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A Note about Parents Doing Homework!

Does this really happen, you ask? Yes it does! Although you would not use this technique to help your child, don’t even entertain the thought of doing your child’s homework for him. Some parents out of desperation and frustration do complete their children’s homework assignments. (If you ever get to this point, at least, write the answers on another piece of paper then have your child copy your answers on the original homework paper.) If you do your children’s homework for them what message are you really giving them? Think about that for awhile! The best solution is to write a short note to the teacher, tell her of last night’s situation ask for an extension for your child to his work. Most understanding teachers will accommodate this request if it doesn’t happen too often.

Use a Homework Planner or Assignment Notebook

To help your children acquire the necessary organizational skills, an assignment book may be the strategy that your kid needs. Many students need to be shown how to use the assignment booklet. Demonstrate where to write homework assignments, how to write them, perhaps using abbreviations. When the assignments are finished put a check mark next to the work that is completed. Even a better idea would be is to sign your initials next to the checked off finished work. It would be helpful to the teacher if you would also write a short message as to how well the children did on the tasks during the homework session. Many teachers will comment back to you as to her evaluation or with some insightful tips for future homework completion.

If by chance nothing is written in the homework notebook, instruct your child to call a friend. Keep a list of classmate’s phone numbers to contact them in case clarification is needed. If handwriting in the planner is illegible or if assignments are not recorded on a consistent basis notify your child’s teacher of the problem. She surely will have some suggestions for you.

Showing students how to graph their homework completion is a powerful strategy. This feedback is just what some children need to help them stay on track. I have used this strategy with my students and it is really an "eye opener" to both children and their parents. Students used green magic markers to record completed assignments, yellow for late assignments and red for assignments that were either incomplete or not turned in. Yellow would become green or red depending on the student’s follow up. A simpler variation of this method works just as well. Students put a green, yellow or red dot in the homework assignment book next to the assignment. In both instances, many red dots speak loud and clear to all: students, parents and teachers about the child’s consistent failure to complete homework. Green dots are always a cause for celebration. You might want to consider a reward for weekly homework completion (all green dots). Ask your children to select a possible treat e.g. selection of a particular home video, choice of a favorite restaurant or more play time. Rewards can be small treats, but they go a long way in defining schoolwork as important.

Even if homework is not assigned on a particular day, sign the assignment booklet anyway. Get into a habit of doing so. Consistency in this matter may just the thing that will turn your kid’s homework woes into happier times. Write short notes about how well your youngster is doing. You won’t have to complain that you are unaware that your children are doing badly at parent-teacher conference time or when you receive their report cards if you check the assignment book daily. Signing the homework assignment notebook and exchanging short notes with the teacher are frequently effective in alerting both parents and teachers that the child is experiencing problems. Early warnings allow time to address the problem before it is too late in the school year.

  • Use a Calendar or Chart.
    Use a calendar or chart as an extension of the homework assignment book if needed to organize your young one’s weekly schedule: chores to be done, dates of tests, baseball practices or Scout meetings. This way they’ll know what to expect each week. There won’t be any surprises.

  • Check Contents of Backpack Before Child Goes to School
    Check with your child at night or in the morning after homework is done to make sure that everything (books, binder, homework, assignment notebook etc.) are in his backpack and ready for the new day at school. Homework requires a set of skills that are not often times directly taught by teachers. Yet these skills involved in completing homework successfully such as time management and organizational strategies are important well beyond the school years and need to be taught also if not in school – at home!

Adults continue to seek methods to improve their skills, often at considerable personal cost. You as a parent, along with your child’s teacher, can do much to help students assume responsibility for their own learning and to acquire these basic, life long skills. With patience, insight and an action plan you can avoid Missing the Bus this year and help your children experience homework success. Show your added interest by reviewing your child’s textbooks so that you know what they’re learning in school by planning family activities that relate to their studies.

Know Your Child’s Teacher

The homework issue should not be whether children should or should not be helped with homework but rather how to assist them. Sometimes knowing the teacher and coaching your kids to respond to the teacher’s values is more important than advising the teacher of your child’s needs. All of us have sought assistance in our out of school assignments and your children are no different.

For children to learn good study skills, teachers and parents must work together. It is most important to help children build good habits, to develop a system that works for an individual child, and to use the system effectively and consistently. Preferred learning styles vary from child to child. Children need to discover, with both the parent’s and the teacher’s input, how they learn and then work out a study system that works best for them. Use homework completion suggestions from the teacher to teach organization skills and to improve study skills. Remember that the primary purpose of working together with your child’s teacher is to improve his overall learning and to foster good work habits.

Meet the Teacher Night at the beginning of each new school year is a great way to gain a clear understanding of the expectations, rules and standards regarding homework. Ask the teacher in what subjects she plans to assign homework, how much and approximately how long assignments should likely take. Some schools even supply a Homework Manual for your reference. If you’re one of the fortunate ones to have this benefit, refer to it often.

  • Ask for Further Testing.
    If a discrepancy arises between your kid’s homework performance and the teacher’s expectation discuss alternatives with the teacher. As a parent, you can be part of the solution by providing descriptions concerning what happens at home during homework time. Sometimes the solution requires that the teacher adapt assignments to the student’s capabilities. If the teacher cannot give you a clear and understandable answer as to why your child is experiencing difficulties in school and in doing homework, ask for some basic testing that the school provides. This is your right and above all the right of your child. If the amount or difficulty of the assigned work does not match your child’s ability and frustration level, it is your duty to speak with the teacher to modify and adjust her expectations.

  • Time Management Considerations
    Time management really means managing your self! It is a way to be happier, more efficient and effective. It is a strategy that your child will need to succeed in school and throughout life. It enables your youngster to:

    • Lead a more balanced life
    • Have more free time
    • Meet deadlines
    • Achieve more

The best benefit of learning time management skills is that you avoid spending time on things that are unimportant. Your can be on your way to time management balance when you:

  1. Make a list of things to do on paper.
  2. Divide the list into 2 parts: fixed commitments (homework) and flexible commitments (free time, having friends over).
  3. Complete tasks that you must do at certain times (school, sleep, meals and appointments).
  4. Assign priorities. Number items accordingly.
  5. Update the list. Cross off items as you do them. Add new ones.
  6. Make up a schedule. Pick the best times to work and to play. This puts you in charge of your time!
  7. Look at the schedule. Use the schedule. Follow it. Make time work for you!
  8. Monitor and adjust.
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