Whose homework is it anyway?
How to help without taking over
Friday, August 24, 2007
Short stuff: Education
Many parents help their children with homework and school projects. They are supposed to right? But some parents don’t just help—they do it, leaving teachers not knowing if they should give the A to the child or the parent.
"Parents want to help their children succeed," says Colleen Panega, an eighth-grade language arts and communications teacher at Jerling Junior High in Orland Park. "But sometimes, parents assist too much. It is easy to do, I catch myself wanting to do it with my own kids."
Here are five ways you can help your kids with their homework from afar.
1Time for homework. The family calendar is full of activities blocking out just about every waking moment. Homework is usually done between or after activities. In many cases, homework will be the last thing the child does at night or it will be done over breakfast during the morning rush. When homework is piled high and time is slipping away, it is tempting for parents to just give the answers, Panega says. She suggests having homework time early so that if the child becomes frustrated, the homework can be set aside and attempted again later.
2 Don’t nag. Help your child develop a system for keeping track of homework deadlines, whether it be a checklist in an assignment notebook or a calendar on their bedroom wall. Show kids how to mark not only due dates but how to break larger assignments down into smaller chunks with individual deadlines to avoid the "night before" frenzy, Panega says. Parents should resist the urge to micromanage, but it is OK to ask how the project is going to gently remind them of their deadlines.
3 Provide a dictionary, don’t be one. Panega says parents need to stock the homework area with the correct materials, tools, resources and reference materials and walk away. Students encouraged to look up words they don’t know how to spell and facts that need to be double checked will learn something much more important than the subject at hand. They will learn to be resourceful.
4 Keep your ideas to yourself—no matter how good they are. If your child is having a hard time coming up with ideas for a project, have him list all the possibilities he can think of. Prompt him with questions but resist offering ideas, says Panega. Offering too many ideas or being the one to cut down the ones he has will destroy his creative confidence.
5 Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Failure is in the eye of the beholder. Panega says a student will learn more from the project they failed on their own than the one their parents helped them get an "A" on. This is because the actual outcome of the project is not the point—it is the process of coming up with an idea, struggling through the ups and downs of research and sometimes failing.
Failing offers the perfect opportunity to learn how to re-evaluate one’s approach and adjust. After all, wasn’t it Thomas Edison who said, "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work."