A reader writes that the family has lots of problems with homework at their house. The mother and father are at odds about how much help the kids should get. One thinks it should be mostly their work, but the other says thereís no point handing in work that they recognize as "wrong." They want to know what I think.

        The first thing I want to address is the amount of parent help to be expected with the homework. The best approach is to ask the teacher(s) involved. Some schools have stated policies that children should do all the work, whereas some expect parent involvement. Once you have that sorted out, here are some other tips that may be helpful to you:

  • Set some ground rules concerning the completion of homework. Most children, especially the younger ones, will need some down time immediately following school. This can include a snack, talking to parents, and free play. Determine how much time this should be and then enforce the idea that all work should be done before children talk on the phone, play with the computer, or do other things.
  •  Decide on a place where work will be done. Some children may work best on their own in a quiet room. Others, having been gone from parents and home all day, may need that social connection. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer; some kids need solitude and some need to be within sight of the parent who is preparing dinner or doing housework. The latter child may take more time to get the work done, but will be more comfortable doing it that way.
  • Familiarize yourself with the childís work material. Look at the texts, read the stories, discuss the concepts with her. Bringing yourself up to speed will show your child that you are interested.
  • Be an example to your child. While he is doing his work, find a nearby place in which to do your own, such as balancing the checkbook, preparing dinner, or reading. Stress to your child that his schoolwork is as important a contribution to the family as your household tasks.


This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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