How much help do your kids need with their homework? Do you find that, as they get older, their homework gets more challenging – for you?
Homework is to help children to develop their understanding of the concepts and material taught in the classroom. Not every child ‘gets it’ the first time they hear it, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. We all learn differently, but when they bring home work to complete and are clearly struggling, do you step in to help or should you leave them to work it out for themselves?
There’s help and ‘help’! If you have a good grasp of the subject it’s tempting to show them how to do the homework. I remember my Dad ‘helping’ with my maths homework – “I’ll do this one, you follow how I work through it and then you do the next one.”
That was all very well, but I still didn’t get it and he would have to continue showing me how it worked. It was frustrating for him and a complete mystery to me!
If you don’t have a clue about the subject, does that mean that you can’t help your child?
Those who can do, those who can’t teach!
Actually, regardless of whether you know the subject or not, the best approach is to ask your child to ‘teach’ it to you. Having to explain something to someone else is a great way to embed knowledge.
Clearly some children won’t feel comfortable if you just announce “OK, you tell me how it works”. It may be necessary to say “OK, before I can help, can you just go through where you’re up to first?”
Gently helping a child to go over what they did in class often sparks a memory of a critical piece of information. It also creates a situation where they feel like they’re ‘in charge’ and respond by covering the information better than their frustrated brains were doing, before having someone else to work through it with.
If there are gaps in their knowledge or understanding, maybe ask a few questions to try and fill them and, if they still can’t make the information all come together, do some online research together.
The dos and don’ts of online research
Now everything is on the internet, it’s all too easy for kids to find what they’re looking for and simply copy it. However, teaching your family the right way to go about using online resources is good sense.
- Believe everything you read on the internet – particularly wiki sites!
- Copy everything verbatim. This isn’t going to help your child to learn much.
- Get diverted by social media, even if they’re using it to ask for help.
- Be too cryptic with search terms – ‘Geography of Europe’ is going to give you far too much information.
- Look for more than one source that corroborates the facts.
- Encourage your child to explore a range of information and put it together, their way.
- Let them ask their friends for help. This is not ‘cheating’ (any more than you showing them how to get the answers they need), it’s collaboration. If one of their schoolmates understands a particular subject, explaining it to your son or daughter will help both of them.
- Get them to ask good questions ‘How do you calculate the density of a liquid?’ rather than ‘Liquid density’.
Finally, make sure that they are actually answering the question that was asked – not going off on a tangent. And, don’t worry that you don’t know enough to help your child when they get stuck with their homework – the secret is helping them to explore what they know, not telling them what you know!