How Much Homework Help is Too Much?
Q: My fifth-grader has never found school to be easy. In the past, he has kept his head above water because I have worked with him a lot. This year, my son’s teacher doesn’t want parents to help with homework. He can’t always handle it on his own, so I’ve had to explain some of the work to him.
My son was so afraid that the teacher would think that I’m helping him with his homework that he asked me to write a note. The teacher did not believe the note. Why does she want to stop parents from helping their kids?
A: The question always is: How much parental help with homework is appropriate? Apparently, this teacher thinks none — definitely not a typical answer. The teacher also seems to think that you are providing too much help. You, on the other hand, think your son needs the help you are giving.
Before you go and talk to the teacher about exactly what your role should be in helping your child, you need to be aware that there is such a thing as too much parental help with homework. It can rob children of learning how to learn on their own. It can make children feel stupid — incapable of doing the work. It can make children too dependent on parental help.
An active teaching role for parents is most appropriate in the early grades for students experiencing difficulty. On the other hand, we fully realize that some help from you might be absolutely essential in helping your son succeed in school.
Right now, your son is caught in the middle between you and the teacher. This is a bad place for him to be. You need to explain to the teacher why your son needs some explanation in order to do homework assignments. And she needs to explain why she doesn’t want you or other parents to help their children with homework.
Unfortunately, you might not have an easy meeting with this teacher, as the teacher did not believe your note. You might wish to have another person present at this meeting so both you and the teacher can have a successful exchange of views and reach the best decision for your son. It is important to establish if your son needs extra help and who will provide it.
Q: My second-grade son’s recent report card had excellent grades. I was very pleased until I noticed all the negative checkmarks under “habits and attitudes.” Apparently he is doing unsatisfactorily in “works well independently,” “begins work on time” and “works neatly.” Should I be concerned?
— Problem or Not
A: The only way to know for sure whether there is a significant problem is to talk to your child’s teacher. Good work habits are definitely important at every grade level. Find out what is being done at school to improve these habits.
You can also help your child acquire better work habits at home. Start each homework session for a while by having your child read the directions to you, study the examples and then explain what needs to be done. This will help him learn how to get started on an assignment. Watch him do an item or two and then leave his side for him to work independently. If he asks for help, guide him toward figuring out what needs to be done and then leave him again to work independently. Gaining confidence in his ability to work independently should carry over to school.