Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Homework Practices - Some Practical Advise for Parents

The following information is from an article in the School Administrators of Iowa monthly newsletter written by Ed Redalen, Director and Tracey Adamowski, parent, Iowa Statewide PIRC.  I found it very helpful and thought provoking.

The January article on homework practices related to homework guidelines from the school perspective. It included suggestions on the roles of parents/primary caregivers relative to the value and importance of homework, expectations and encouragement for homework completion. This article expands on these ideas. Parents/caregivers need to tell their children that homework is important.

They also need to be aware that there are two important attributes to promote with their children to effectively complete their homework: effort and self-reliance. The types, complexity, and amount of homework are determined by the teacher. However, the amount of effort is determined by your child. Your child’s efforts in accomplishing homework assignments needs to be reinforced by providing feedback. For example, it is more appropriate to say, “you were successful on the assignment because you focused on the work and avoided distractions.” This is more reinforcing than saying, “Good job,” as it identifies more specifically what your child did.

The second important attribute is self-reliance. Self-reliance is looking within yourself to identify strategies and accomplish things. It is how your child plans, problem solves and approaches tasks. It is helping them to be proactive in their approach to tasks and learning. It is dependent on learning skills that can be taught by parents/caregivers. For example, by teaching your children how to organize things at home, or asking them to tell you the things they need to do before they go to bed, you are helping them to be organized and self-reliant.

Effort Tips: Effort is defined as exerting hard work and making a serious attempt to try.

• Identify with your child two or three things they do well or enjoy: a school subject, extra-curricular activity or hobby. With each one have them explain how they apply effort to these activities. Tell them that their hard work is what made them successful. Ask what they are doing to get even better.

• Provide reinforcement on things your child does to help the family – clearing the table, yard work, sharing ideas, promoting fun.

• Feedback needs to be specific instead of general, for example:

• “You helped organize your room by taking one thing at a time, and we got it done.”

• “You had a hard work day – from school to soccer practice to homework, and you even wrote a note to grandma.”

• “You stuck with practicing that song on the piano and were able to perform it without hesitation.”

• “When you started your history assignment I heard some moaning and groaning – then things got quiet – later you explained to me the two major causes of all wars. I sure learned some things.”

• Discuss with your child how effort leads to new skills and learning. These things make us feel competent, that we have good brains and can learn new things. One example, “You are learning so much – at the start of first grade you were mainly reading words and now you read whole sentences!”

• Explain how your efforts at work, problem-solving or completing a job have helped you.

• At least once a week share with your child something you are learning. (Some families make a regular practice of sharing what each member has learned that day.)

Self-reliance Tips: Self-reliance is defined as being able to figure things out by yourself, to be proactive.

• Tell your children if they don’t know what to do, there are at least five things they can do:
1. Re-read or study the material again.
2. Contact a classmate. (In some cases teachers provide their phone numbers to students)
3. Identify what you do know.
4. Think about it and wait awhile. Don’t panic, brains slam shut when we panic.
5. Identify problem parts of the homework you need to ask your teacher about the next day in class.

• Discuss and provide a regular homework routine such as where to study, time to study and have materials available. If there is no homework assignment, then use that period of time for reading. (Have a family reading time for everyone – even the youngest non-readers can look at books, parents may read the newspaper or other written material.)

• Help your children organize their work – based on first, second and third areas of importance so that all work is prioritized.

• Discuss with your children how distractions interfere – cell phones, TV – and they need to learn how to set aside the distractions during homework time.

• At times your child may be overwhelmed with homework, “shut down” and have trouble getting started. Have them decide two things they can start now and then discuss the next steps later.

• As a parent/caregiver, share how you do “homework for work or life.”
- preparing for a meeting - planning for family events
- learning a new activity - preparing for a teacher conference
- reading articles about your work - learning how to fix something

Questions to ask your child:
• What are your homework assignments?
• When are they due?
• Do you have the materials you need?
• Have you started any of the assignments? Finished any of them?
• Do you have any long-term assignments (term paper, science project, book review)?

Other ways parents/caregivers can help:
• Look over the homework, but don’t do the work or make corrections. Gently guide them to anything that is wrong.
• Learn about the school’s/teacher’s homework guidelines.
• Meet with teachers early in the year or semester to find out about homework guidelines.
• If your child cannot solve a homework problem and has asked the teacher for help, consider contacting the teacher.

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