Parents will do anything for their children. So, it should come as no surprise that when children are agonizing over nightly homework assignments, parents are eager to alleviate the pain by offering their help. This raises several questions: What are the best ways to help kids with homework, and how much help is too much?

While there has always been some debate about the usefulness of homework, parents and students should keep in mind that teachers have only a few hours per day to teach kids most of what they’ll need to know for the rest of their lives. If you can read, write, add, subtract, or locate North America on a globe, a teacher taught you that. With such a short amount of time to impart so much information, homework has been a necessary extension of the school day since the 1950s.

To ease the burden on children, there are several things parents can do that students will find helpful.

Communicate with Teachers

Open a line of communication with your child’s teacher early in the year. Learn the teacher’s homework policy and expectations. Teachers will also be able to provide parents with information on a student’s area of weakness and how parents can provide the most effective assistance. Or, if a student doesn’t understand a homework assignment, a quick call or email to a teacher can save time and get everyone on the right track.

Set Up a Homework Area

It’s never too early to introduce structure into a child’s life. Kids are most comfortable when life is consistent and predictable, and creating a homework area provides that stability. Create an area in the home that’s well lit and far away from distractions like TV, and yet not so isolated that the child feels they’re in solitary confinement. Stock the homework area with paper, pencils, glue, scissors, or any other items the student may need to complete homework assignments. Personalize the space so your student knows it’s their homework retreat.

Schedule Daily Homework Time

You know your child better than anyone. Do they get tired after dinner and require an early bedtime? Do they need time to burn off energy and decompress when they first arrive home from school? Do they have outside activities that demand after-school time? Schedule a few hours for homework each day at a time when your student is alert without being overly energetic. Once a homework schedule is made, it should be a daily priority. No other plans should ever conflict with the homework schedule.

Motivate and Assist

Your student isn’t going to be motivated to do homework if you’re in another room watching TV. The entire family must commit to the homework schedule. Find something you can quietly do in the vicinity of their homework area. By staying nearby, you can monitor your student’s activities, and you’re also available to offer support and encouragement, or provide a needed break.

The most important thing to remember is to never do any of your child’s homework for them. It may be tempting to give a child the answer to a problem they’re struggling with, but the point of any schoolwork is to educate. Doing the work for them teaches children nothing. Give them advice, point them in the right direction, guide them, but, no matter how tempting it may be to relieve the horrible pain that dividing fractions can inflict, children need to discover the answers on their own.

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