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For many parents, the word "homework" is a dirty word! After a long day of work, long commutes, or dealing with household tasks and younger children, many parents are not thrilled about the nightly ritual of getting their kids to do their homework. But, down deep, we all know as parents that homework is an important part of parenting, both because of the way that our children's learning and grades can impact their futures and also because it is an important way for us to teach our children many of the life skills we want them to develop. So, what are the best ways to help our children with their homework? There is actually a lot of expert advice that can help us with this part of parenting support.

Avoid the Extremes – Doing it Yourself or Doing Nothing

Many parents are under the impression that they shouldn't have anything to do with their children's homework. They see homework as their child's responsibility or believe that help and support should come from teachers, classmates, or the internet. Experts agree that while it is true that parents should not do all of their children's homework for them, leaving children to manage homework all on their own is not the right way to go either. Research shows that parents who get involved in their children's homework in proper ways can improve how well they do in school. To be clear, research on parent-school involvement includes much more than just helping with homework. It also includes parents participating in parent-teacher conferences and volunteering in the class activities, as well as asking questions each school day, providing support with the social aspects of school, and providing opportunities to learn at home.

So, how do you know if you are striking the right balance in helping with homework enough, but not too much? The key is to focus on learning, not just getting the homework done.

The right balance is for parents to provide encouragement and teach effective learning strategies, but don't get so involved that your child misses the chance to learn for themselves. Experts recommend that parents see themselves as "homework managers" rather than "homework doers." This means that parents should strive to provide the support that helps provide the environment and oversees the process for how homework gets completed. This management involves helping to ensure that your child has enough time to be given to homework assignments, providing a proper environment for homework to be done, tracking progress on projects, and providing encouragement and support – particularly when your child feels overwhelmed or discouraged. When it comes to parent involvement, experts emphasize that parents should help their child see their homework as an opportunity to learn rather than to requirement to perform. Teach your children that as long as they try their best and make a diligent effort, you'll be supportive of whatever grade or score they receive. Too much emphasis on grades by themselves can be counterproductive in how your children will feel about homework.

Specific Ways to Support Your Child with Homework

So, what are the ways parents can be effective homework managers that provide the right level of support? Primarily, parents can be supportive by demonstrating study and organization skills, explaining a tricky problem, or just encouraging kids to take a break. Here are four ways you can do this.

1. Monitor and Motivate

Homework can be very discouraging for some children and quickly become their most dreaded part of the day. Do everything you can to approach homework with a positive attitude and let your child know that they have your support and are not alone. Your positivity will make a difference to your child's approach to homework, going to school, and learning in general. Do your best to help your child track their assignments, projects, and exams and don't be afraid to tie privileges like playing video games and hanging out with friends to homework being completed. Most importantly, give encouragement and celebrate success with praise, a favorite treat, or mentioning their academic achievements to relatives to let them know how proud you are of them when they stay on task and succeed.

2. Be an Example of How to Learn and Study

One of the struggles for many kids these days is that they are trying to do homework in the evening when their parents and younger siblings are watching TV, scrolling on their phones, or relaxing in other ways. It is important for us as parents to set a good example to our children to see us learning and studying too. Do your kids ever see you reading a book or working diligently on a personal project? Kids are more likely to follow their parents' examples than their advice. Some experts recommend that instead of watching TV in the evening, parents will set a better example by using that time to read a book while their child does their homework. Having "family library time" during the completion of homework can both provide a good example and help create a better environment for homework to be done without distractions.

Another way to model good learning behavior is when you help your child with a part of their homework they are struggling with. Maybe they have a math problem they can't figure out, or they don't know how to organize their essay for their history class. Good parents can model the learning process by taking some time to understand the assignment and helping their children figure out what to do. Then have your child do the next step or problem on their own, following the pattern you've shown them. It is also important to note that sometimes parents are not able to help with all of their children's homework struggles. If your child continues to have problems with homework you can't help with, then get help. Talk about it with your child's teacher or have your child reach out for help. Maybe your child has a learning disability and needs a professional evaluation. Or maybe you can arrange some tutoring help with a difficult subject in a way that will provide the level of support that is needed. Your child will know how much you care about them and their success – now and in the future!

3. Create a Homework Plan

Every parenting expert that knows the research on helping kids with homework recommends that parents should help their children create a homework plan.
This may be an overall plan on how to do homework for an entire class, a plan of how to tackle homework for a busy week, or a plan to tackle a longer homework project. Here are some recommendations that experts give on putting this plan together: (1) Look at the homework instructions with your child to make sure you both understand the requirements, (2) Break the homework task into smaller manageable chunks, (3) Create an estimate of how much time will be needed to complete each chunk of the assignment, (4) Work backward from the final due date and create a timeline for each part of the assignment, (5) Have your child put the timeline where he or she can see it, and (6) Monitor and encourage your child to mark completed chunks to see the progress made on the task.

4. Create a Learning Environment For Homework

There is a wide range of environments in which kids do their homework these days. Some lay on their beds while they listen to music and check their phones every 30 seconds. Others do homework in the kitchen while their parents watch TV and their younger siblings play with their toys. Other kids have a dedicated space for homework that creates a ritual for learning. Here's what the experts recommend in creating a good learning space for your child. First, set up a homework-friendly area in your home. Make sure that the space is well-lit and has the supplies they will need within reach. Second, schedule a regular study time. Of course, family schedules will change on some nights, but it usually works best for kids to have as much as is possible a set time each day to do their homework. Finally, keep distractions to a minimum. This means creating an environment with no cellphones, TV shows, loud music, and interrupting conversations.

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