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How involved should parents be in a child’s homework?

Homework can be a source of conflict between parents, children, and teachers if expectations and philosophy aren’t clear. Each teacher and school have a homework philosophy, and therefore, how much they want parents to participate in completing homework may be different from school to school or teacher to teacher. However, I have found that many educators feel that you should help in developmentally appropriate ways through the years and adjust the way you help your child as he or she grows.

Children from 3K to first grade will need parent support if they have homework to complete. They will often need their parents to read directions for them, listen to them read, or do the homework with them. As soon as students can write, they are expected to write any answers by themselves but with parent support.

When students in grades 2-4 have homework, they are now able to do most of it without any assistance. They may need parents to check in with them and problem solve if they don’t know what to do, and they may need parent reminders to do their homework and complete assignments on time.

As students move into grades 5-8, they are now learning how to keep their assignment book on their own, plan how they will complete homework assignments, and study for tests and quizzes. Parents do not need to help very much with the homework itself but may need to help their child schedule his or her time, study for a test, or make sure that their child is asking his or her teacher for help when confused on a homework assignment.

Some students will continue to need these parent supports in high school, while others take on full responsibility for their homework once in high school. This gradual release of responsibility looks slightly different for each child and should be adjusted to meet his or her needs. Our goal is always to help each child grow and learn more responsibility each year, while still supporting the child with his or her unique learning needs.

God’s Word does not give advice on doing homework specifically; however, he does tell us how we should conduct ourselves in all situations. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This passage reminds us that as parents we have an important responsibility and opportunity to model for our children the perspective and attitude we should all have when completing tasks and working hard. Homework is no different . . . do it all for the glory of God!

Rachel Blum and her husband, Matt, are raising their three children in the country in Bonduel, Wis. Rachel currently teaches at St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Singing the homework blues

Are you familiar with the old song: Homework! Oh, homework! I hate you. You stink! I wish I could wash you away in the sink . . .?

Somehow I can imagine my own kids turning to me and saying, “Dad, if you hate homework so much, stop assigning it!” Seriously, though, I remember my kids singing this little ditty when they were in school. Homework is probably nobody’s favorite. Nonetheless, homework is a reality for many families.

I asked a pair of veteran teachers for their advice on how parents can best assist their children with the homework challenge. Here are some tips.

  1. Establish a positive attitude about the value of school and homework. Create a family routine and an expectation that this is important and needs to be done to be prepared for the next day. Nothing is more anxiety-creating than not being prepared and wondering how teachers and classmates will react.
  2. Pray with your children about school and school work. God cares about it all. As anxiety and depression rates for children have increased to astounding rates, reinforcing that they have an almighty, loving heavenly Father is ultra-important. He cares . . . even about short quizzes or big tests.
  3. Find a comfortable, inviting place for children to do homework where parents can oversee progress. Kids’ rooms today offer many distractions that can get in the way of the efficient use of homework time.
  4. Understand teacher expectations and communicate with your child’s teacher(s). Take advantage of home visits or entrance conferences to talk about homework expectations. Teachers will be happy to share strategies they prefer or tools that can be used at home. Today’s digital age gives parents and students amazing tools—e-mail, websites, online videos. Many curriculums include online videos and tips. This can help alleviate arguments about how to do tasks like multiplication and division correctly.
  5. Don’t give up on the old tried-and-true methods. They have worked for generations and will continue to work. Strategies like making notecards, using flash cards for math facts, practicing spelling words, quizzing students on their reading assignment, listening to memory work—these all still are great ways to help your students to find success. Help your child to find ways that complement their learning style.
  6. For upper-grade students, consider becoming a kind of “accountability partner.” At this level, sometimes the subject matter is getting difficult for parents . . . even well-educated ones. The homework belongs to the students. In a time when digital contacts are growing, having parents help face-to-face needs to be encouraged. Parents can be a big help by encouraging the student to transition into a self-advocate role.
  7. Realize the change that has taken place. Teachers and parents are not so much the purveyors of knowledge but guides to unlocking and applying it. The information is more accessible than ever; parents can inspire their children’s curiosity on topics they aren’t naturally curious about.

Maybe it’s time for a new tune: Homework! Oh, homework! You can be a pain. But at least you’re a way to exercise my brain!

Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves as communications director at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton.

Kids and cell phones: One family’s experience

Parenting sure has changed! I remember a two-week trip abroad as a high school junior. My parents heard via one very quick and expensive phone call that I’d reached Germany, but the only other communication was a postcard arriving after I’d returned to Wisconsin. Now I worry if my high school junior doesn’t text me that she made it to her babysitting job 10 miles away.  

On the plus side, cell phones provide a quick and easy way to check up on our kids, make plans or adjustments to plans, send a picture of the puppy to the one away at college, or ask for someone to please pick up more milk. Bible verses on a stressful day or an “I love you!” randomly sent are wonderful ways to use this technology. 

 Our family policies 

Although every family is unique, eighth-grade graduation is the time when our children receive their first cell phone. Once in a while there’s a free bonus month, but the kids pay the monthly service fees themselves. And, besides reminders about Christian conduct, general encouragements like “No phones at the table,” and an expectation that a timely response is necessary if Mom or Dad texts or calls, we don’t really monitor their phone use. This seems to have worked, but I wondered what the three kids, ages 22, 20, and 17, who currently have phones, and the 13-year-old, who doesn’t yet, thought of our family policies? 

On waiting until eighth-grade graduation for their first phone, our kids all agreed it was fine. “For our situation, it was just right because that way we wouldn’t get caught up in social media until we were a little more responsible and we would entertain ourselves in other ways. In some cases it might be better to get it earlier if that particular family member needs to be able to communicate for rides and stuff when they are younger.” 

On our relaxed phone rules, all four said there aren’t any other policies we should have that we don’t: “It is good for us because we have built a trust bond so you can rely on us to be smart with them. Some kids do need a feeling of being watched over their shoulder or else they will do really dumb stuff.” And, “As a parent, you should be able to trust that you raised your kids to be responsible enough to make good decisions.” 

As for paying their service fees: “Nothing in life is free, so it’s good to learn basic responsibilities like paying for a phone.” Another commented, “It makes you think that it is a privilege that you’ve earned not just something given to you,” but “younger kids should not have to pay for it because their parents are the ones giving it to them as a necessity.” (I would also like to add that no one has lost their phone for longer than a few minutes, which seems to be somewhat of a rarity these days and perhaps due to the fact that these kids are paying their own way.) 

 Some positives and negatives 

I also asked, “Did a cell phone change you or your life?” One said, “It did not change me, but it changed my life. It made it easier to contact friends for homework help or just to socialize.” Another mentioned, “[A cell phone] definitely came with negative and positive changes. A lot of the time I overuse my phone when I could be doing something else or talking person to person instead. You’re oftentimes so worried about what everyone else is doing that you don’t take advantage of what you have in front of you. Social media tends to warp your mind and make you ungrateful, but on the other hand, it can also be simple entertainment.” One also commented on useful apps like GPS and managing his bank account, but says, “It can take too much of your time or [lead to] spending money because of wanting the newer or better thing.” One other note from the child who admits to being rather “anti-phone”: “I don’t have an excuse for not knowing certain things or being ‘off the grid.’ ”  

So, friends, there you have it! Not necessarily the definitive guide to parenting in the cell phone age, but, at least, what has worked for us. May God bless our families as we use the tools at our disposal to raise our blessings in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  

Ann Ponath and her husband, David, have four kids ranging in age from 22 to 13. Their oldest son, David, shared his thoughts about cell phones in this article titled “Don’t let your cell phone run your life.” 

Don’t let your cell phone run your life

As a 22-year-old, soon to be college graduate, the day I got my first phone seems so long ago. The thing is, I can still remember that moment, as the moment I finally caught up to all of my friends. As a seventh and eighth grader, I can still remember the jealousy I had whenever I would see my friends using their phones to communicate with friends or family. (And they only had flip phones back then, I can’t imagine the agony I would have been in if they all would have had smartphones!) My family has always had a rule, and they have kept to it for all four children, that no one gets a phone until after eighth grade. Growing up, I hated that rule, but looking back, I think that rule was fair and necessary.

Our world is so technologically driven, and much of it starts and ends with phones. It is important that there is a line drawn between freedom and control when it comes to parents and monitoring their kids’ phone use. My parents did not have any strict rules regarding phones besides no phones at the table or at places like church, and I think that was necessary. It is important to trust your kids with their phones and to not be too overbearing. Kids should be able to make decisions for themselves regarding phone use, but at times I think almost everyone gets to a point where phone use becomes too prevalent.

With all the communication and social media phones are capable of nowadays, it is very easy to be constantly wrapped up in your phone. Teenagers and college-aged individuals are so interested in what everyone else is up to they often think they need to check their phones so they don’t miss out on a social opportunity.

I feel that throughout my time as a phone user, I have often become too interested with my phone. Recently, I have begun to limit the amount of time I spend using it, and I try to be more focused on the activity I am doing or on the people that I am around. I think it is also important to try to do that with teenagers, who tend to take for granted everything they have in front of them. Stress that they focus more on the task at hand or the moment than their phones. Whether they’re having family time, doing homework, or attending a public event, it is important that they spend more time in the moment than on their phone. There are so many things that can come from leaving your phone behind, it is important that everyone does that every now and then. Phones are a fun and entertaining blessing, but they can also be a hindrance at times and it is important that everyone from adults to kids understands that and keep themselves from spending too much time wrapped up in their phones.

David Ponath is a member at Christ, North St. Paul, Minn., and a student at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. Read the article his mom, Ann Ponath, wrote titled “Kids and cell phones: One family’s experience.”