CHILDREN

Free Reports and Books for Children

HELP KIDS WITH HOMEWORK

Teach you children the basics of life.

HELPING YOUR CHILD WITH HOMEWORK

Foreword

Families play a vital role in educating America's children. What
families do is more important to student success than whether they are
rich or poor, whether parents have finished high school or not, or
whether children are in elementary, junior high, or high school.

Yet, for all that common sense and research tell us, family
involvement often remains neglected in the debate about American school
reform. To focus more attention on this important subject, the U.S.
Congress recently added to an initial list of six National Education
Goals another that states:

Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental
involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and
academic growth of children.

The Office of Educational Research and Improvement has produced
Helping Your Child With Homework to contribute to the drive to increase
family involvement in children's learning. As the handbook points out,
we know that children who spend more time on homework, on average, do
better in school, and that the academic benefits increase as children
move into the upper grades.

But the value of homework extends beyond school. We know that good
assignments, completed successfully, can help children develop wholesome
habits and attitudes. Homework can help parents learn about their
children's education and communicate both with their children and the
schools. And it can encourage a lifelong love of learning.

In addition to helping with homework, there are many other
important ways that parents can help their children learn. Parents can
encourage children to spend more leisure time reading than watching
television. They can talk with their children and communicate positive
behaviors, values, and character traits. They can keep in touch with the
school. And they can express high expectations for children and
encourage their efforts to achieve.

We hope Helping Your Child With Homework can lead all of you facing
the challenges of raising children one step closer to success. Indeed,
family involvement in education is crucial if we want our children to
succeed in school and throughout life.

Sharon P. Robinson
Assistant Secretary
Office of Educational Research and Improvement

CONTENTS
Title Page

Foreword
Homework: A Concern for the Whole Family
The Basics
How To Help: Show You Think Education and Homework Are Important
How To Help: Monitor Assignments
How To Help: Provide Guidance
How To Help: Talk With Someone at School To Resolve Problems
Resources
Acknowledgments
Checklist for Helping Your Child With Homework
The National Education Goals

Helping Your Child With Homework

Homework: A Concern for the Whole Family

Homework is an opportunity for students to learn and for parents to
be involved in their children's education. A parent's interest can spark
enthusiasm in a child and help teach the most important lesson of
all--that learning can be fun and is well worth the effort.

However, helping your child with homework isn't always easy. At PTA
meetings and at parent-teacher conferences, mothers and fathers ask:

How can I get Michael to do his homework? Every night it's a
struggle to get him to turn off the television and do his homework.

Why isn't Maria getting more homework? (Why is Jonathan getting so
much homework?)

When is Tanya supposed to do homework? She takes piano lessons,
sings in her church choir, plays basketball, and helps with family
chores. There's hardly any time left to study.

How can I help Robert with his math homework when I don't
understand it?

Do homework assignments really help my child learn?

This book helps answer these questions--and many others--that
parents and others who care for children in elementary and junior high
school often ask about homework. Included are practical ideas for
helping children complete homework assignments successfully. Some of the
ideas in this book may also be helpful for high school students. The
Basics


Helping Your Child With Homework - September 1995

The Basics

Before discussing ways you can help your child with homework, it is
important to discuss why teachers assign homework and how it benefits
your child.

Why Do Teachers Assign Homework?

Teachers assign homework for many reasons. Homework can help
children review and practice what they've learned; get ready for the
next day's class; learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference
materials, and encyclopedias; and explore subjects more fully than time
permits in the classroom.

Homework can also help children develop good habits and attitudes.

It can teach children to work independently; encourage
self-discipline and responsibility (assignments provide some youngsters
with their first chance to manage time and meet deadlines); and
encourage a love of learning. Homework can also bring parents and
educators closer together. Parents who supervise homework and work with
their children on assignments learn about their children's education and
about the school.

Homework is meant to be a positive experience and to encourage children
to learn. Assignments should not be used as punishment.

Does Homework Help Children Learn?

Homework helps your child do better in school when assignments are
meaningful, are completed successfully, and are returned with
constructive comments from the teacher. An assignment should have a
specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched
to a student's abilities, and designed to help develop a student's
knowledge and skills.

In the early elementary grades, homework can help children develop
the habits and attitudes described earlier. From fourth through sixth
grades, small amounts of homework, gradually increased each year, may
support improved academic achievement. In seventh grade and beyond,
students who complete more homework score better on standardized tests
and earn better grades, on the average, than students who do less
homework. The difference in test scores and grades between students who
do more homework and those who do less increases as children move up
through the grades.

What's the Right Amount of Homework?

Many educators believe that homework is most effective for the
majority of children in first through third grades when it does not
exceed 20 minutes each school day. From fourth through sixth grades,
many educators recommend from 20 to 40 minutes a school day for most
students. For students in seventh through ninth grades, generally, up to
2 hours a school day is thought to be suitable.

Amounts that vary from these guidelines are fine for some students.
Talk with your child's teacher if you are concerned about either too
much or too little homework.

-###-

How To Help: Show You Think Education and Homework Are Important

Helping Your Child With Homework - September 1995

How To Help: Show You Think Education and Homework Are Important

Children need to know that their parents and adults close to them
think homework is important. If they know their parents care, children
have a good reason to complete assignments and turn them in on time.
There is a lot that you can do to show that you value education and
homework.

Set a Regular Time.

Finding a regular time for homework helps children finish
assignments. The best schedule is one that works for your child and your
family. What works well in one household may not work in another. Of
course, a good schedule depends in part on your child's age, as well as
individual needs. For instance, one youngster may work best in the
afternoon after an hour of play, and another may be more efficient after
dinner (although late at night, when children are tired, is seldom a
good time).

Outside activities, such as sports or music lessons, may mean that
you need a flexible schedule. Your child may study after school on some
days and in the evening on others. If there isn't enough time to finish
homework, your child may need to drop some outside activity. Homework
must be a high priority.

You'll need to work with your elementary school child to develop a
schedule. An older student can probably make up a schedule
independently, although you'll want to make sure it's a good one.

It may help to write out the schedule and put it in a place where
you'll see it often, such as the refrigerator door.

Some families have a required amount of time that children must
devote to homework or some other learning activity each school night
(the length of time can vary depending upon the child's age). For
instance, if your seventh-grader knows she's expected to spend an hour
doing homework, reading, or visiting the library, she may be less likely
to rush through assignments so that she can watch television. A required
amount of time may also discourage her from "forgetting" to bring home
assignments and help her adjust to a routine.

Pick a Place.

A study area should have lots of light, supplies close by, and be
fairly quiet.

A study area doesn't have to be fancy. A desk in the bedroom is
nice, but for many youngsters the kitchen table or a corner of the
living room works just fine.

Your child may enjoy decorating a special study corner. A plant, a
brightly colored container to hold pencils, and some favorite artwork
taped to the walls can make study time more pleasant.

Remove Distractions.

Turn off the television and discourage social telephone calls
during homework time. (A call to a classmate about an assignment may,
however, be helpful.)

Some youngsters work well with quiet background music, but loud
noise from the stereo or radio is not OK. One Virginia junior high
school history teacher laments, "I've actually had a kid turn in an
assignment that had written in the middle, `And George Washington said,
"Ohhhhh, I love you."' The kid was so plugged into the music that he
wasn't concentrating."

If you live in a small or noisy household, try having all family
members take part in a quiet activity during homework time. You may need
to take a noisy toddler outside or into another room to play. If
distractions can't be avoided, your child may want to complete
assignments in a nearby library.

Provide Supplies and Identify Resources.

For starters, collect pencils, pens, erasers, writing paper, an
assignment book, and a dictionary. Other things that might be helpful
include glue, a stapler, paper clips, maps, a calculator, a pencil
sharpener, tape, scissors, a ruler, index cards, a thesaurus, and an
almanac. Keep these items together in one place if possible. If you
can't provide your child with needed supplies, check with the teacher,
school guidance counselor, or principal about possible sources of
assistance.

For books and other information resources, check with the school
library or local public library. Some libraries have homework centers
designed especially to assist children with school assignments (there
may even be tutors and other kinds of individual assistance).

These days many schools have computers in classrooms, and many
households have personal computers. However, you don't have to have a
computer in your home in order for your child to complete homework
assignments successfully.

You may want to ask the teacher to explain school policy about the
use of computers--or typewriters or any special equipment--for homework.
Certainly, computers can be a great learning tool and helpful for some
assignments. They can be used for word processing and on-line reference
resources, as well as educational programs and games to sharpen skills.
Some schools may offer after-school programs where your child can use
the school computers. And many public libraries make computers available
to children.

Set a Good Example.

Children are more likely to study if they see you reading, writing,
and doing things that require thought and effort on your part. Talk with
your child about what you're reading and writing even if it's something
as simple as making the grocery list. Tell them about what you do at
work. Encourage activities that support learning--for example,
educational games, library visits, walks in the neighborhood, trips to
the zoo or museums, and chores that teach a sense of responsibility.

Show an Interest.

Make time to take your child to the library to check out materials
needed for homework (and for fun too), and read with your child as often
as you can. Talk about school and learning activities in family
conversations. Ask your child what was discussed in class that day. If
he doesn't have much to say, try another approach. For example, ask your
child to read aloud a story he wrote or discuss the results of a science
experiment.

Another good way to show your interest is to attend school
activities, such as parent-teacher meetings, shows, and sports events.
If you can, volunteer to help in the classroom or at special events.
Getting to know some classmates and other parents not only shows you're
interested but helps build a network of support for you and your child.

-###-

How To Help: Monitor Assignments

Children are more likely to complete assignments successfully when
parents monitor homework. How closely you need to monitor depends upon
the age of your child, how independent she is, and how well she does in
school. Whatever the age of your child, if assignments are not getting
done satisfactorily, more supervision is needed.

Here are some good ways to monitor assignments:

Ask About the School's Homework Policy.

At the start of the school year, ask the teacher:

What kinds of assignments will be given?
How long are children expected to take to complete them?
How does the teacher want you to be involved?

Teachers' expectations vary. Ask your child's teacher what you
should do. Should you just check to make sure the assignment is done, or
should you do something more? Some teachers want parents to go over the
homework and point out errors, while others ask parents to simply check
to make sure the assignment is completed.

It's also a good idea to ask the teacher to call you if any
problems with homework come up.

Be Available.

Elementary school students often like to have someone in the same
room when working on assignments in case they have questions. If your
child will be cared for by someone else, talk to that person about what
you expect regarding homework. For an older child, if no one will be
around, let him know you want him to begin work before you get home and
call to remind him if necessary.

Look Over Completed Assignments.

It's usually a good idea to check to see that your elementary
school child has finished her assignments. If your junior high school
student is having trouble finishing assignments, check his too. If
you're not there when an assignment is finished, look it over when you
get home. After the teacher returns completed homework, read the
comments to see if your child has done the assignments satisfactorily.

Monitor Television Viewing.

American children on average spend far more time watching
television than they do completing homework. In many homes, more
homework gets done when television time is limited. Once you and your
child have worked out a homework schedule, take time to discuss how much
television and what programs she can watch. It's worth noting that
television can be a learning tool. Look for programs that relate to what
your child is studying in school, such as programs on history or science
or dramatizations of children's literature. When you can, watch shows
with your child, discuss them, and encourage follow-up activities such
as reading or a trip to the museum.

-###-

How To Help: ProvideGuidance

The basic rule is, "Don't do the assignments yourself." It's not
your homework--it's your child's. "I've had kids hand in homework that's
in their parents' handwriting," one Washington, DC-area eighth-grade
teacher complains. Doing assignments for your child won't help him
understand and use information. And it won't help him become confident
in his own abilities.

It can be hard for parents to let children work through problems
alone and learn from their mistakes. It's also hard to know where to
draw the line between supporting and doing.

Different teachers have different ideas about the best way for
parents to provide guidance. Here are a few suggestions with which most
teachers agree:

Figure Out How Your Child Learns Best.

If you understand something about the style of learning that suits
your child, it will be easier for you to help her.

If you've never thought about this style, observe your child. See
if he works better alone or with someone else. If your child gets more
done when working with someone else, he may want to complete some
assignments with a brother or sister or a classmate. (Some homework,
however, is meant to be done alone. Check with the teacher if you aren't
sure.)

Other things to consider about learning style:

Does your child learn things best when she can see them? If so,
drawing a picture or a chart may help with some assignments. For
example, after reading her science book, she may not remember the
difference between the tibia and the fibula. But by drawing a picture of
the leg and labeling the bones, she can remember easily.

Does your child learn things best when he can hear them? He may
need to listen to a story or have directions read to him. Too much
written material or too many pictures or charts may confuse him.

Does your child understand some things best when she can handle or
move them? An apple cut four or six or eight ways can help children
learn fractions.

Help Your Child Get Organized.

As mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to set a regular time for
children to do homework. Put up a calendar in a place where you'll see
it often and record assignments on it. If your child's not able to write
yet, then do it for him until he can do it himself. Writing out
assignments will get him used to the idea of keeping track of what's due
and when. You may want to use an assignment book instead of a calendar.

A bag for books will make it easier to carry homework to and from
school. Homework folders in which youngsters can tuck their assignments
for safekeeping help many students stay organized.

Encourage Good Study Habits.

Teachers generally give students tips on how to study. But it takes
time and practice to develop good habits. You can reinforce these habits
at home. For example:

Help your child structure time in order to complete assignments.
For example, if your eighth-grader has a biology report due in 3 weeks,
discuss all the steps she needs to take to complete it on time,
including:

selecting a topic;

doing the research by looking up books and other materials on the
topic and taking notes; figuring out what questions to discuss; drafting
an outline; writing a rough draft; and revising and completing the final
draft.

Encourage your child to write down how much time she expects to
spend on each step.

Help your child get started when he has to do research reports or
other big assignments. Encourage him to use the library. If he isn't
sure where to begin, have him ask the librarian for suggestions. If he's
using a computer for on-line reference resources--whether the computer's
at home, school, or the library--make sure he's getting whatever help he
needs to use it properly. As mentioned earlier, many public libraries
have homework centers where there are tutors or other kinds of
one-on-one assistance. After your child has done the research, listen
while he tells you the points he wants to make in the report.

Give practice tests. Help your third-grader prepare for a spelling
test by saying the words while she writes them down. Then have her
correct her own test.

Help your child avoid last-minute cramming. Review with your
fifth-grader how to study for his social studies test well before it's
to be given. You can have him work out a schedule of what he needs to do
to, make up a practice test, and write down answers to the questions
he's made up.

Talk with your child about how to take a test. Be sure she
understands how important it is to read the instructions carefully and
to keep track of the time and avoid spending too much time on any one
question.

Several books and pamphlets listed in the Resources section of this
book give more tips on how your child can get organized and develop good
study habits.

Talk About the Assignments.

Ask your child questions. Talking can help him think through an
assignment and break it down into small, workable parts. Here are some
sample questions:


Do you understand what you're supposed to do? After your child has
read the instructions, ask her to tell you in her own words what the
assignment is about. (If your child can't read yet, the teacher may have
sent home instructions that you can read to her.) Some schools have
homework hotlines you can call for assignments in case your child
misplaced a paper or was absent that day. If your child doesn't
understand the instructions, read them with her and talk about the
assignment. Are there words she doesn't understand? How can she find out
what they mean? If neither you nor your child understands an assignment,
call a classmate or contact the teacher.

What do you need to do to finish the assignment? Your child may
want to talk through the steps with you (or make a written list of them,
if he's able to), as described in the section above on good study
habits.

Do you need help in understanding how to do your work? See if your
child needs to learn more, for example, about subtracting fractions
before she can do her assignment. Or find out if the teacher needs to
explain to her again when to use capital and lowercase letters. If you
understand the subject yourself, you may want to work through some
examples with your child. But let her do the assignment herself.

Have you ever done any problems like the ones you're supposed to do
right now? See if your child has already done similar problems that can
guide him in completing these particular ones.

Do you have everything you need to do the assignment? Sometimes
your child needs special supplies, such as colored pencils, metric
rulers, maps, or reference books. As mentioned before, check with the
teacher, school guidance counselor, or principal for possible sources of
assistance if you can't provide needed supplies; and check with the
local public library or school library for books and other information
resources.

Does your answer make sense to you? Sometimes the response to a
math problem doesn't seem logical, or the meaning of a paragraph your
child has written is unclear. If that's the case, your child may need to
check over the math problem or revise the paragraph.

If your child is still confused, ask:

How far have you gotten on the assignment? Let's try to figure out
where you're having a problem.

Do you need to review your notes (or reread a chapter in your
textbook) before you do the assignment?

Are you still having problems? Maybe it would help to take a break
or have a snack.

Give Praise.

People of all ages respond to praise. And children need
encouragement from the people whose opinions they value most--their
parents. "Good first draft of your book report!" or "You've done a great
job" can go a long way toward motivating your child to complete
assignments.

Children also need to know when they haven't done their best work.
Make criticism constructive. Instead of telling a third-grader, "You
aren't going to hand in that mess, are you?" try, "The teacher will
understand your ideas better if you use your best handwriting." Then
give praise when a neat version is completed.

-###-

How To Help: Talk With Someone at School To Resolve Problems

Homework hassles can often be avoided when parents and caregivers
value, monitor, and guide their children's work on assignments. But,
sometimes helping in these ways is not enough. Problems can still come
up. If they do, the schools, teachers, parents, and students may need to
work together to resolve them.

Share Concerns With the Teacher.

You may want to contact the teacher if :

your child refuses to do her assignments, even though you've tried hard
to get her to do them;

instructions are unclear;

you can't seem to help your child get organized to finish the
assignments;

you can't provide needed supplies or materials;

neither you nor your child can understand the purpose of assignments;

the assignments are often too hard or too easy;

the homework is assigned in uneven amounts--for instance, no homework is
given on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, but on Thursday four of your
child's teachers all make big assignments that are due the next day; or

your child has missed school and needs to make up assignments.

In some cases, the school guidance counselor may be helpful in resolving
such problems.

Work With the School.

Communication between teachers and parents is very important in
solving homework problems. Here are some important things to remember:

Talk with teachers early in the school year. Get acquainted before
problems arise, and let teachers know that you want to be kept informed.
Most elementary schools and many secondary schools invite parents to
come to parent-teacher conferences or open houses. If your child's
school doesn't provide such opportunities, call the teacher to set up a
meeting.

Contact the teacher as soon as you suspect your child has a
homework problem (as well as when you think he's having any major
problems with his schoolwork). Schools have a responsibility to keep
parents informed, and you have a right to be upset if you don't find out
until report-card time that your child is having difficulties. On the
other hand, sometimes parents figure out that a problem exists before
the teacher does. By alerting the teacher, you can work together to
solve a problem in its early stages.

Request a meeting with the teacher to discuss homework problems.
Tell him briefly why you want to meet. You might say, "Rachel is having
trouble with her math homework. I'm worried about why she can't finish
the problems and what we might do to help her." Parents for whom English
is a second language may need to make special arrangements, such as
including another person who is bilingual.

Don't go straight to the principal without giving the teacher a
chance to work out the problem with you and your child.

Approach the teacher with a cooperative spirit. Believe that the
teacher wants to help you and your child, even if you disagree about
something. It's hard to solve problems if teachers and parents view each
other as enemies.

If you have a complaint, try not to put the teacher on the
defensive. For example, avoid saying that you think the assignments are
terrible even if you think so. You might say, "I'm glad Calvin is
learning to add and subtract in the first grade, but he doesn't want to
do his math work sheets. Can we find another way for him to learn the
same material?" This might encourage the teacher to let Calvin (and the
rest of his classmates) try another approach. Perhaps he can learn
addition and subtraction by moving around buttons, sticks, or shells.

Let the teacher know if your child is bored with assignments or
finds them too hard or too easy. (Teachers also like to know when
children are particularly excited about an assignment.) Of course, not
all homework assignments can be expected to interest your child and be
perfectly suited to her. Teachers just don't have time to tailor
homework to the individual needs of each student night after night.
However, most teachers want to assign homework that children enjoy and
can complete successfully, and they welcome feedback from parent


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