Homework plays an essential role in education but can have a significant impact on families. It can be difficult for parents to navigate the issue of how involved they need to be in their child’s homework commitments. The age of a child will invariably determine the level of parental involvement required. However, it is vital to remember that homework is intended for students to do by themselves.
The objective of homework is to reinforce classroom learning and deepen understanding of topics through independent learning. While the responsibility to complete homework is that of the student, there is no denying the positive impact that parental involvement can have on overall academic achievement.
The impact of parental involvement in homework has received much attention in recent years, with researchers seeking to clarify how home-based involvement contributes to learning and achievement. A British study into parental involvement in homework found that parents who allowed their children greater autonomy with their homework by allowing them to come up with solutions themselves was the most beneficial type of parental involvement. Interference was cited as the most detrimental.
So, how do we know how much involvement is too much? We recommend a traffic light approach to the different levels of parental involvement:
Red – Avoid interfering by providing correct answers.
Amber – Use caution when giving orders, directives and advice.
Green – Encourage your child to generate solutions themselves.
When helping children with their homework, we recommend asking prompting questions such as:
- How did you do this in class? Can you give me an example?
- How do you know this? (Relevant for both correct and incorrect answers)
- Tell me what you do understand about this question/assignment?
- What are you unsure about?
- How can I help you with this question?
- Can you ask your teacher for more guidance?
The key point for parents is to support but not do. No-one likes to see their child struggle but it’s important that homework is completed independently. Children will not learn if they are not given the opportunity to think for themselves or make mistakes.
Here are five helpful ways parents can help with homework without doing all the work:
1. Confirm level of understanding
Ensure your son understands what is required of him. If your son is having trouble with a task it’s important to act quickly. Any difficulties will only become compounded if they are left for too long. If your son doesn’t understand the requirements, you can try working through the recommended questions above or reaching out to his teacher to get some clarity.
2. Communicate with teachers
Talk with teachers to get an understanding of the expected approach to learning. Much of the way we were taught at school has changed, so it’s important to ensure that both parents and teachers are expressing expectations and language in the same way, or your son could get confused.
3. Help plan
One way parents can get involved with homework is to help organise tasks. This is particularly helpful for younger students. We recommend creating a weekly planner (there are plenty of printable templates online) to outline daily homework tasks and plan assignments. This will ensure work is not left to the last minute, avoiding extra stress for the whole family! For larger assignments, it can be helpful to break them down into smaller tasks and assign deadlines for each milestone. If you are unsure, seek guidance from teachers regarding their expectations on how long particular tasks are expected to take.
4. Create a happy homework environment
Establish an area in the home that is free from distraction and feels comfortable. The objective is to create an efficient study space of focus that your child will associate with learning, rather than leisure time. It’s also important to help your child establish a routine of sitting down at the same time each day. Some younger children will need a break after school before working on homework, but others might like to get it out of the way. Be sure to find a time when you will be available to support if required. Avoid busy times in the day when you might be distracted preparing dinner or getting younger children to bed.
5. Watch for signs of frustration
The objective of homework is to establish a pattern of independent learning. It is natural for your son to become frustrated at times. If left to fester, small frustrations can lead to much bigger problems. If your son is getting upset or having trouble, it’s okay for him to step away and return to the task when he’s ready to learn. Maintaining a healthy balance of study and play is important for health and wellbeing.
In addition to supporting children with set homework tasks, we recommend maintaining a daily schedule of devoting time to read together. Reading with children of all ages has enormous value and can benefit literacy.
For more tips on supporting children with homework, the following blogs may be of interest:
At Trinity, we celebrate families and all they do for their children and the community. We believe in working collaboratively with parents and students in a supportive Christian environment to ensure our boys realise their full potential, embrace their passions and find their life’s purpose.To learn more about the Trinity difference, and education in general, sign up to our newsletter.