How to help with homework... without
by Tash Hughes of
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.
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:
Listen to your child
read out their spelling words or what they have written.
Just being interested helps.
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.
Discuss the topic in
general terms, perhaps over a meal, so the child gains a
broader understanding than just answering a few
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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