Should Parents Help with Homework?

Parents may need some help in drawing the line between providing guidance for their child's homework assignments and actually doing the work.
If you expect parents to play a part in their child's success in your classroom, then you may want to pass along these guidelines to help them.

Helping your children do their homework

Provide a study area.

Homework can be done in a child's room or at the kitchen table.  The specific place makes little difference.  What's important is that your child has adequate lighting, comfortable seating, enough work surface, good ventilation, and a place to store materials.  Most important, your child's study space must be free of distractions -- TV, radio, phone calls, etc.  It's also helpful for your child to have reference materials on hand, such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, and atlas.  Many students use the internet as a study resource; be sure to monitor your child's use of the internet, however, to make sure he or she is not exposed to inappropriate material.

Plan a specific time.

Teach your child to "manage" his or her time by scheduling a specific period each day to study.  Be sure your child knows that school work is more important than other commitments like sports and play activities.  Establish rules regarding phone use or TV viewing until after homework is completed.

Think of it as "helpwork."  Homework is the perfect opportunity to review and practice with your child what's learned in the classroom - and to show you care about your child's learning.  Give encouragement and help, but don't do the work for your child.  Check each night to see that it's completed, even if your child did the work in school.


Call the teacher.  Teachers can usually clarify or solve difficulties with homework.  The problem might simply be a misunderstanding regarding the assignment.  Some schools also have "homework hotlines" that provide assistance to students and parents by phone.  Don't complain to your child about the problem; this may make the child feel bad or cause a loss of confidence in the teacher.  Talk it over with the teacher first, especially if you feel there's just too much homework given too often.

Watch for signs that help is needed.  Check your children's study habits.  Do they regularly have difficulty completing homework?  Move their lips when reading?  Write slowly or unclearly?  Poor study skills can be a sign that children are having trouble keeping up in class.  Try to identify problems that might affect their ability to concentrate.  Discuss any concerns you have with the teacher.

Look for homework every day.  If your children don't bring work home, make sure they're completing it in school - not simply forgetting it.  If you find they actually have little or no homework, relax.  Some teachers do assign less homework than others.  Just be sure that what is assigned is understood and completed by your child.

Homework hints: 

  • Help with memory work - review material by calling out words or questions.  Use flash cards or play a quiz game to make learning fun.
  • Help children learn where to find information - books, newspapers, magazines, the internet.  Visit the local library and help your child learn where to find various materials; ask the librarian for help.
  • Offer ideas for projects related to school.  Let your child discuss his or her project ideas with you.
  • Review homework that's been completed and discuss it with your child.
  • Praise the work your child does well, especially if he or she is showing improvement in a difficult subject. 
  • Point out mistakes and encourage your child to correct them, but don't dwell on criticism.
  • Let your child take a homework break, especially when he or she has a full load.  A few minutes of rest can refresh a busy mind.

Your caring makes the partnership between you and the teacher mean much more to your child.  Caring is more than a matter of love and dedication.  Your children's teachers have plenty of both.  But a teacher's caring alone is not enough.  Your children should know you care, too.