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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.

Begin the year with patience and grace

As an early elementary school teacher, I was both nervous and eager to begin each school year. Every new school year held so much promise. Yet beginning something new took such patience and hard work.

I always knew that by mid-October all of the hard work would start paying off as individual students became a classroom community, learning was evident throughout the day, and teachers and families were settled into their new routines and relationships. However, the first weeks can be tough, and how we all handle them sets the tone for the rest of the year.

Parents, teachers, and students are very tired at the beginning of the school year. Be patient! It is exhausting to implement and learn new routines, recognize new faces, and memorize new names while also focusing on academic learning and homework. Give each other time to get everything running smoothly, and try not to make quick judgments based on information gathered in the first couple weeks of the school year.

Choose a Bible verse, like Colossians 3:12, on which to focus as you interact with your children, other families, teachers, and administrators: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Stressful times can give our sinful natures a foothold, but focusing on God’s Word supports us as we build and grow relationships at the beginning of the school year. Posting an encouraging verse in your car, on the fridge, or on your mirror can be a gentle reminder throughout the day of how you would like to treat others in this time of change.

Just when it seems like things are going smoothly and it’s going to be a good year, a couple things often seem to set off a normally patient, kind, and gentle parent—homework and “mean” kids.

• Homework: Often schools have homework philosophies, and teachers need to follow what is required of them. Teachers work hard to give homework that is not too hard, not too easy, beneficial for every student, and that fits every family situation, but . . . this is tremendously hard to accomplish. The only way for a teacher to know if the homework is or is not working for your family is if you discuss it with him or her. If the amount, type, or content of homework is not working for your child or family, please ask to speak to the teacher privately and then share how homework is going. Ask the teacher to help you problem solve so that your child can best benefit from the homework he or she is doing.

• “Mean” kids: At the beginning of the school year, students often have some kind of social growing pains. They may not have spent much time with friends in the summer, and they now have to learn or remember how to problem solve, work, and play in a group and navigate the recess scene successfully. All kids struggle with some aspect of social learning as they practice being part of a group that includes others and treats others with respect. It’s important for parents to remember that other kids are not enemies—they are kids who are working on learning how to be kind friends and successful learners just like your child. When talking with your child about these experiences, try to help your child remain calm and focused on how to help the situation be better the next day. It is hard to hear that your child is sad or upset, but learning how to problem solve and build relationships with others is a vital skill that your child needs time to learn.

Teachers want you to know that we see these relationship dynamics and are closely monitoring interactions between children. However, we will not always step in, as it is so important for kids to practice their problem solving skills and then ask adults for help if needed. If you are concerned about a situation or relationship that seems to be bothering your child, please talk with your child’s teacher in a respectful way. Often asking the teacher for his or her perspective on the situation sets you up for a conversation focused on helping your child, which works better than an attack on the teacher.

Whether you are frustrated about homework, worried about your child’s friendships, or unsure about a teacher’s decisions, remember the grace that God gives you every day and pass that grace along to others. Choosing to interact with people in a spirit of love, kindness, and patience will make all the difference as you strive to begin the school year with positivity and grace.

Rachel Blum and her husband, Matt, have three young children and are members of St. Paul, Green Bay, Wis.