HELP! I Don’t Understand My Kids Homework

I can’t believe it. In my Facebook feed this week, parents of 2 AND 3-YEAR-OLDS were posting photos of their kids homework. Actual homework. What?!

I can’t imagine what #dailybocaavery’s ‘homework’ might look like at her age. I would like to think I would be capable of helping her with it though. But older kids? Math? Science? I get nervous just thinking about it.

Google would be my new best friend (if it wasn’t already, I mean).

How can parents cope? MBMom reached out to Grandview Preparatory School for suggestions…

HELP! I Don't Understand My Kids Homework

Have students’ parents come to you about kids homework struggles?

Here’s what I commonly hear from parents:

  • “It’s such a battle trying to get him to do his homework!”
  • “My child doesn’t have time to do her homework after her sports activities.”
  • “My child is a perfectionist so it takes him/her 3x as long to finish his homework.”

If you’ve ever had any of these thoughts or concerns, the good news is you’re not alone, and there are strategies to help make kids homework time a little smoother.

Overcoming homework struggles can help children learn how to problem solve, manage time, organize tasks, make choices, and focus– all skills that will help them become successful not only in school, but later in life in college, in their future career, and in their community.

HELP! I Don't Understand My Kids Homework

How do you handle or advise these parents?

Here are a few strategies and routines that can help eradicate those nightly battles!

  1. Establish kids homework routines.

By establishing daily homework routines, you are not only making the homework tasks easier to accomplish because it becomes routine, but you are also fostering a sense of structure and order that your child can apply later in life in college and work.

  1. Set up a homework station in your house.

It’s very important to monitor your child’s homework time. You can do this by identifying an area in your house–living room, kitchen, dining room–some place equally public where you can easily check in on them. Make sure the area is a clear workspace that is organized and has all of the materials your child may need to do their homework (pencils, scissors, glue sticks, markers, etc.).

  1. Use an incentive system.

Some children are motivated to do their homework; others are not. Choose a special incentive for your child, but beware of the delicate balance between rewarding and bribing! Rewards are non-negotiable once set, and there should be no gray area. The child either completes his or her homework and receives the award, or doesn’t complete and does not receive the reward.

  1. Build in breaks.

Breaks are great for children who cannot make it to the end of the homework assignment without pausing along the way. For example, you can have your child work on the task for 5-10 minutes then have a snack, call a friend, or play one level of a video game, then proceed to the end of the assignment.

  1. Build in choice.

If your child has multiple homework assignments across different subject areas, let them choose where they want to start. Allowing your child choice motivates him or her and reduces the struggle between parents and children.

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HELP! I Don't Understand My Kids Homework

Can we all have a little chuckle about this? Who knew something like 5th grade math could stump parents like us?

Sometimes you just have to laugh about how much time has passed since your middle school math days! If you don’t understand how to help with your child’s homework, whatever you do, do not get frustrated or annoyed.

Showing your children that it is okay NOT to know the answers can be a good lesson. You can also acknowledge that not knowing something can be stressful, but it’s important to try and do the best we can.

Here are some other things you can do when you don’t understand your child’s homework:

  • Ask them to show you an example they might have done in class.
  • Google it. Google has all the answers!
  • If you are still having trouble, please contact your child’s teacher for clarification.

HELP! I Don't Understand My Kids Homework

Should parents offer to help? Or challenge their kids to figure out their homework themselves?

I always advise my parents to only help when it’s really needed.

The purpose of homework is to reinforce what was taught in class. Therefore, students should be able to complete the assignments independently as a form of practice and reinforcement. Children won’t learn if we do the work for them.

That being said, parents should supervise and be ready to step in if there is confusion. If you notice your child is struggling, please step in and show them how to solve a SIMILAR problem, or show them how to break a really tough assignment into smaller, manageable chunks. Then, send your child’s teacher an email communicating any homework struggles or obstacles at home with a particular skill. This will inform the teacher that this is a concept that needs to be readdressed in the classroom.

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HELP! I Don't Understand My Kids Homework

We’re busy Boca people! How much time is a reasonable amount spent doing kids homework?

The amount of time your child spends on the homework assignment is actually another indicator of whether or not the child has mastered the concept. As a rule of thumb, students’ homework should not exceed 10 minutes per grade level per night. For example: first graders should spend 10 minutes each night on homework, second grade should spend no more than 20 minutes each night, and so on.

If you notice your child spending significantly more time on the homework, please let your child’s teacher know. This may be an indicator that your child is having difficulty with that particular skill or concept.

Shouldn’t creative play and extracurricular activities factor in as “kids homework” these days?

Definitely! Recent research has shown us that copious amounts of homework and busy work are not effective ways to reinforce skills and concepts, and that kids need time to be kids after school. Not be sat at a desk at home to like an adult! 

They learn just as much (if not more) from creative play, interacting with friends, and participating on a team or in a club as they do from homework.

Yes, grades are important, but so is balance. If it seems like your child is consistently spending more time on homework than is recommended for the grade level, it is time to communicate with the teacher to get to the source of the issue. Your child’s teacher is a part of your team and always has your child’s best interests at heart.

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Together, you can work on a solution that helps everyone involved!

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