"Mom, Can You Help me With my Homework?” 5 Tips on How to do it Right

"Mom, Can You Help me With my Homework?” 5 Tips on How to do it Right
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 27 January, 2023

Homework is a part of the daily routine for many children around the world. In most educational plans, it has been assumed that after a certain age, for an effective assimilation of knowledge, it is necessary to have the child perform individual work on the subject. In primary school, homework serves as a way to create a routine, besides helping children who are falling a little behind. When they are older, that’s when they begin to do homework regularly.

In their first grades of school, children tend to have only one teacher for all or most of the different subjects. This professor has absolute control and knows which tasks they assigned as homework. They can estimate, more or less, the time that is required to accomplish them. When kids are slightly older, the matter becomes a bit more complicated. They begin to have a different teacher per subject, which means the tasks one teacher sets are usually unknown by the others. This might be the first problem that arises with homework, that there is a lack of communication between teachers.

Most teachers tend to think that more is less. Or that knowledge will be cemented better the more the child practices. Two theories which are valid if we contemplate them from an abstract point of view. But they represent a problem in some ways. There are more subjects, more after-school classes, or additional difficulty for children who don’t have good basic knowledge.

A mother and daughter are doing homework together.

Homework “do”s and homework “don’t”s

In the last few months, an interesting debate has been restarted about homework.  Parents have come out with testimonials about how their children had to tackle a large amount of homework every day. This is something which conditions their schedules and which turns them into secondary teachers, often because the homework didn’t always reference things the children had already seen or learned in class.

If you analyze the educational systems around the world, you’ll notice that there are various different styles of teaching. China is probably one of the most pro-homework countries, compared with Finland or Korea who are at the other extreme of things. We are talking about cultures which are completely different. Although it is still quite surprising how two countries like China or Finland, in terms of education, can be situated at such opposite extremes.

In our culture, something very interesting happens. An axiom upon which I would have never reflected if I hadn’t seen how a father broke that unwritten law. What happens is that most parents give absolute priority to school homework. Homework is more important than going to see family members, visiting museums, and attending educational talks. A child can be free of everything else, but not that. I’ll let you reflect upon this, since it’s  not the topic of this article.

Mother and daughter are doing homework together.

How should we help with homework?

Just like most children have homework to do, most parents are usually very keen and attentive about  completing it. This attention usually lowers as the child grows older and continuously shows that this is a responsibility they have learned to tackle on their own.

In that “vigilance”, there are moments in which parents realize that their children need help or maybe it is the children themselves who solicit the aid. Thus, the question arises, how can we help them in a way that won’t hinder their learning? Let’s look at 5 key aspects that can help us understand the answer to this question.

Let the child take on the responsibility

First of all, we shouldn’t carry the weight of the homework ourselves. We are merely helpers – people who give hints, who lift the spirits, who provide helpful sources of information, who make a problem more understandable. But we are not the ones who complete the homework. So it is not advisable to sit down with the child when they do their homework.

It is much better to provide intermittent help and  to  never do so right from the beginning. Keep in mind that if we help from the beginning, we are telling the child that we consider they can’t do it on their own.

Let them correct the work in class

The second aspect has to do with avoiding another of the tendencies that many parents fall into. Don’t correct their homework at home. If you do so, you’re keeping your child from learning to do this task in class, which is equally as important.  This also prevents the teacher getting a grasp on how the child is doing in that particular subject. They also won’t be able to adapt the level of difficulty of the homework they assign.

Provide a calm environment

The third key aspect is all about accommodating a space in which the child can be calm and within which they won’t have too many distractions. It is also good to assign a schedule to begin and complete the homework. This should always be after the child has eaten and rested for a while.

Keeping an agenda

In the last grades of primary school, it would be good for the child to begin managing an agenda. They can keep track of their exams, homework and important dates in it. Seeing how they complete each task will be a very positive reinforcement and you will have a very good excuse to acknowledge their efforts.

Father and son are highfiving while doing a homework assignment.

Organize the assignments by difficulty and preference

The fifth and final aspect involves the organization of all of their assignments. Try to make it so that they won’t have to begin or end with the subject they are having the most trouble with. The best thing would be to place it between another two subjects which are easier for them, or that they like more. This way they won’t feel discouraged to do the others, nor will they have to tackle the one they don´t like when they are tired.

Before, we mentioned that you shouldn’t correct homework. What is advisable is for you to check to see whether the correction took place and make sure the child understands the mistakes they made. Furthermore, checking the way the homework has been corrected will tell you more about the process the teacher is trying to implement to solve your child’s issues.

If we do this well, not only will we not hinder the autonomy of our children with their homework assignments, we will be contributing to its value. It is also an opportunity to spend time with them and for the child to feel that they are important to us. This will go beyond us giving them guidelines or more direct signs of affection.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.