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How to help with homework... without doing it!

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Homework is a chance for children to do some work that will enhance what they do in school. There is no point in homework if parents or older siblings do the work for them.

Yet, if you can help your children with their homework, you show that you care about them and their education. This can make a big difference in their success at school.

In families where communication is slow, working together on homework can build trust and develop relationships.

So how can you help with homework without actually answering the questions for your child? Obviously, this will depend on the child’s age and ability as well as the particular piece of homework, but the following ideas can often be applied:

o       Listen to your child read out their spelling words or what they have written. Just being interested helps.

o       When your child is stuck on finding a fact, show how to use a book or the internet to look it up. Alternatively, a trip to the library is a good plan.

o       Discuss the topic in general terms, perhaps over a meal, so the child gains a broader understanding than just answering a few questions.

o       Have appropriate materials readily available – it’s hard to present neat work if the child doesn’t have a ruler and sharp pencils, or only has scraps of paper to write on.

o       Make suggestions or ask questions that will lead the child to think of the appropriate answers for their homework. If your child needs to know if summer is hotter than winter, don’t say “yes it is”. Ask “when do we go the beach?” or “do you remember when we went to the snow?” so they can think out the difference between the two seasons.

o       Don’t worry about the child’s work being perfect, as long as s/he worked at it and tried their best. If every word is spelt incorrectly, perhaps point out every third error or so; if you correct every word, the child will lose confidence and feel they failed. Likewise, if your child has reasoned out their answer, and researched it, let it stand even if you can see a flaw in it. What is important is that they tried and you acknowledge their efforts; the teacher will help correct further errors at school.

o       Whenever you are aware of a general topic being studied at school (eg animal habitats, the water cycle, natural disasters, the gold rush) try talking about them with your child. This not only teaches your child more, it gives your children a chance to share their knowledge with you.

o       After a tough homework session, tell the child and others how proud you are of that child’s efforts. You might tell Grandma or Uncle Jack “Sam worked really hard on his maths assignment” and Aunty Jill “Chris now knows how to spell ‘where’”. This positive feedback will make the hard work worthwhile for the child.

o       Make sure you have a suitable dictionary and other reference books available for your child to access. Instead of spelling out a word, show how to look it up in the dictionary – this is teaching a valuable skill rather than spoon feeding the homework answers.

o       Choose your moments to help. If your child is writing a long piece, then helping spell a word or two will allow them to keep on with the main work. On the other hand, if the homework is writing only a few short sentences or a spelling list, tell your child to use a dictionary or sound it out for themselves.

o       Watch your child. If things are getting too hard and the child is becoming very frustrated, this is the time to step in. It may be time for a break from homework to do something active or a good time for you to work with the child. You may find that you can see a way to simplify the homework to make it less frustrating. That doesn’t mean you change the tasks, but perhaps you can break the overall task into smaller bits the child can manage.

o       Do activity based homework together, or test out answers where applicable. For instance, if the homework is about measurements you could get out a ruler or tape measure and compare different objects around the house. Let your children see that ‘longer’ and ‘shorter’ can be specified in concrete terms.


 An involved Mum of four in Melbourne, Tash Hughes has spent many hours helping with homework in between providing professional writing services for businesses of all sizes and types. For easy-to-understand materials that effectively communicate your message to customers and prospects, contact Tash and her team at www.wordconstructions.com.au

This article is available for free use on your web site or in your newsletter.

It must be acknowledged as written by Tash Hughes of www.wordconstructions.com.au and copyright remains the property of Tash Hughes.

Please notify us of your use of this article or to request information on commissioned articles.


© 2004, Tash Hughes