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Homework Made Simple

Written by Dr. Felecia Nace, Family and Community Relations Office, New Jersey Department of Education

Homework supports the efforts of your child’s teachers in school.  That is why making sure that homework is completed consistently and that your child puts forth his/her best effort in completing homework is important. Choose an area in your home, which is brightly lit and will allow your child the ability to concentrate on homework with the least amount of interruptions.  This is essential. Many educators agree that there should be a designated time for your child to begin homework each day.  This will establish a good routine with your child and help your child understand that homework is an important part of your family’s daily schedule.

What happens when your child encounters problems with homework?  Sometimes it is quicker and easier to simply give a child the answer to a question or solve problems for your child, but this will not help your child in the long run.  He/she will need to be a problem solver, not only in school but also in life. Therefore, you should act as the “coach,” asking your child questions that will lead him/her to answers rather than solving problems for him/her.

One way to lead your child to answers is to help your child remember information he/she has already learned.  The information that your child has already learned and stored is called background knowledge.  The next step is to help your child use his/her background knowledge to solve new problems.  For example, if your child is having problems pronouncing a word, it is best to ask your child to sound out the word several times, rather than simply telling him/her how to correctly pronounce a word.  This will allow your child the opportunity to use his/her background knowledge of letter sounds to solve a pronunciation problem.

When assisting your child with homework, allowing him/her enough wait time can also be important.  Wait time is when you allow your child enough time to think of an answer.  This will require you to be patient.  Some children, like adults, may take more time to solve a problem than others.  That’s okay. The goal is to get children to think and eventually arrive at an answer on their own.

If, after a very long “wait time” and trying many different ways to get your child to solve a problem on his/her own, your child still has difficulty responding to a problem, then it is okay to write down or verbally explain to your child step by step how you would solve a particular problem.  You will be teaching your child the steps that you take to think through difficult situations. That model will be helpful to your child in the future, when he/she is faced with another problem to solve.

Remember:

  • Provide an area in the home for your child to complete homework without interruptions;
  • Make sure that the lighting in the “homework area” is adequate;
  • Don’t readily give your child the answer to a problem. Instead, ask your child questions that will lead him/her to a correct answer.
  • Give children enough “wait time” to think through a problem and arrive at an answer on his/her own; and
  • If you must give a child an answer to a problem, explain step by step how you arrived at an answer so that your child can view thinking as a process.  It is not helpful to simply give a child an answer without an explanation.

For help with homework on specific topics click here:  http://www.state.nj.us/nj/education/students/help/

For more homework tips from the United States Department of Education click here:  http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/homework/homeworktips.pdf