Did You Get Your Homework Done?

Did you get your homework done? That’s a question heard in many homes as parents and kids settle in for the evening. Part of the anxiety for kids at the beginning of each school year is adjusting to homework expectations. There can be a big difference from year to year in terms of quantity and difficulty.

Research shows that effective homework assignments do more than supplement the classroom lesson. They also teach children to be independent learners. Homework gives children experience in following directions, making judgments, raising additional questions for study, and developing responsibility and self-discipline.

Okay, that all sounds positive. But as a parent the question becomes how involved do you get in helping with homework. Following are my thoughts on the “what and how.”

  • Give praise for things your child does well in school. Look at the pictures, ask how the spelling test went, read the essay. Know what is being studied.
  • Discuss school with your child, both positive and negative. When there is a problem at school it is hard for most children to figure out what they can do to deal with it. They need your help.
  • Meet with teachers – face-to-face, phone, electronically. Have a conversation at the beginning of the school year about homework expectations.
  • Have a special place for homework where there aren’t distractions. Select a place that you can easily monitor. If the homework is done on the computer, check to be sure your child is doing homework and not chatting with Facebook friends or playing games.
  • Set clear rules about when homework is to be done. Evenings can be hectic with supper, music and dance lessons, sports practices and games, church activities, etc. Sit down as a family and decide where homework fits in.
  • Give consequences if homework is not done. Most children will not change habits unless there is a consequence for poor behavior or not following the rules.
  • Stay calm when there is a school problem. Your child’s teacher will have information about what aspects of his work are creating a problem. Then you can work towards a solution.

Your child is going to be in school for many years. Even though she may not have lots of homework right now, you are setting the stage for how this part of her school experience will go. If you can help her develop good study habits now, the payoff will be substantial in the years ahead.

What specific things are you doing to help your child be successful in school?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Still trying to convince him preschool is FUN!!!!!

Preschool. End of September. We are all comfortable and happy when we start off to preschool right? The transition is now complete.

Umm not really. There is still fussing over shoes, whining over show-n-tell and dragging feet at the car door. You think to yourself, “Am I the only parent still struggling to get my child comfortable with starting preschool?” or “Why does everyone else’s child bound happily in the front door while I have to carry mine in?”

Guess what? You are not alone! Every child transitions or has a comfort level for beginnings, at a different rate. In fact, it is likely that by the time your child gets comfortable, there may still be others that haven’t completed the process. Children adjust to new situations (like starting preschool) based on their own individual temperament. And, if you really think about it, you may even recognize some of your own uncomfortable apprehensions in the face of your child (they got their temperament from you!).

As we think about trying to help our children through new situations it is most important to continually think about how it seems from their point of view. They have never been to preschool before, and each DAY is literally a NEW day to them. Yes, they may have been there for 2-3 weeks already but now it’s colder, they have more things to pack in their back pack, more items to remember, the building looks different when it is surrounded by brown & not green, their friends may be louder as they have become comfortable, it’s ALWAYS a NEW DAY. And with newness comes apprehension and uncomfortable feelings. Real feelings we can’t ignore.

Each time we remember to appreciate or acknowledge the apprehension our child feels,  instead of becoming frustrated by it we are able to show our child that we ‘understand’. We may not be able to help our child alleviate the apprehension to newness but we can ‘acknowledge it’ and try to ‘understand’. Those two things alone may help increase your child’s comfort level.

What are some ways that you have shown appreciation for or acknowledged your child’s apprehension? What happened when you did? What are some techniques that you have done to help your child feel more comfortable in uncertain situations? Share your ideas with us!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Project Marco

This month’s podcast is all about engaging our children’s minds – creating opportunities for children to get involved in what they are learning with all parts of their body and mind. We have project based learning all around us – inside our home and outside our home. The podcast was an opportunity for me to learn something new. As I listened I enjoyed recalling a time with my own children where we unknowingly used project based learning!

Enter Marco. I have 3 girls. We like bugs. And spiders. We found Marco in a warehouse and created a lovely terrarium for Marco to live in. Marco was a large Wolf Spider. Marco seemed happy with us. We spent hours together researching what Marco ate and drank, what other Marco’s may look like, just researching everything we could about Wolf Spiders.

Within days Marco created an ‘egg sac’. We pondered renaming Marco, Martha, but decided that in the spider world Marco could have an egg sac. We also “hypothesized” when that egg sac would open and how fast I would need to get that terrarium OUTSIDE when it did. We were so engrossed in our project that we even took Marco on a weekend trip to grandpa and grandma’s house.

Luckily we did because the egg sac opened that weekend and hundreds of the cutest little spiders scampered out of the egg sac while the terrarium was perched on the back steps (whew!). We spent several moments watching them scurry & race about. Then one of the girls remembered something we discovered during our research. Once the egg sac opens the adult spider dies. Sure enough there was Marco snuggled in the leaves at the bottom of the terrarium, lifeless. Our project was complete. Or was it? Our Marco project was over 5 years ago, and it still creates lively conversations and sharing of memories. It continues to be a hands-on experience my children can relate to as they learn about scientific theory and life cycles in school.

What are some ‘projects’ that your family has done? How has your families involvement in those projects shaped your child’s learning (or even yours!)?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Episode 7: Project-based Learning

Get kids engaged in project based learning, and they’ll learn more by creating solutions to real-world problems. Learn how in this month’s Science of Parenting podcast.

ISU Extension materials

Help Children Discover Answers with Project-based Learning (PM 3002D)

Related Resources

More from Science of Parenting

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Helping with Homework (Part II)

Now that you have created an environment that is conducive to high quality homework completion, it’s time to dive in, get hands on, and help your child with his/her homework. Below are tips for supporting your child’s homework efforts.

Be available during your child’s regular homework time. Although it might be tempting to run errands or get in a workout at the end of the day, try to make yourself available to your child. You can use your child’s regular homework time to complete household chores, ensuring that you are around to provide support when your child needs it.

Be interested in what your child is learning. Even if your child does not ask for help, it’s good to stop by and check in on him/her from time to time. You can ask questions about what your child is learning, share experiences you have had with the subject, get into a discussion about the topic, or listen to the things your child is learning. Your interest and concern helps your child stay motivated.

Help your child when he/she gets frustrated. When children get frustrated with a homework problem, your help is needed. Try letting your child talk through the problem, or providing some helpful hints to direct him/her in the right direction. Be careful not to give away the answer, but instead, provide guidance so your child can arrive at the answer him/herself. If your child has reached the point of no return and is overwhelmed with frustration, you can be a huge help by simply suggesting a short break from homework.

Expand your child’s learning beyond the classroom. Giving children the opportunity to take what they have learned outside of the classroom and apply it to real life will help them better understand and remember what they’ve learned. You can even apply academic information to your child’s interests!  For example, help your child understand math by discussing the statistics from last night’s baseball game. Encourage your child to expand his/her reading skills by looking up and reading articles about skateboarding. You can even broaden on your child’s knowledge of history by visiting a museum.

If needed, find extra support for your child. If your child is continually struggling with a subject, and you feel as though you have exhausted the level of support you can provide, look into outside resources for more help. Some schools provide peer tutoring, some communities have volunteer tutors, and some teachers are willing to spend a little extra time before or after school to work individually with students.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Helping with Homework (Part 1)

Homework is a part of every child’s life.  On average, 5th and 6th grade students have 1 to 1.5 hours of homework each night, while 7th and 8th graders have up to 2 hours of homework each night. As a parent, there are things you can do at the beginning of the school year to set your child up for a successful year of high quality, homework completion!

Make sure your child has all the supplies necessary to be successful. Schools provide a list of school supplies before beginning each year. Help your child be prepared by ensuring he/she has all the supplies on this list. Especially for middle school and high school student, getting your child a planner is a great way to help with organization. Finally, be sure to provide a well-lit, quiet place at home where your child can complete homework.

Set up a regular homework time. Even if there are nights when your child does not have homework, establishing and maintaining a regular homework time will help your child stay organized and stay “ahead of the game.” When your child does not have specific assignments due the next day, suggest that he/she work ahead on assignments, or study for upcoming tests.

Make sure your child understands the teacher’s homework expectations. Most middle school and high school teachers give students worksheets that explain homework assignments. Help your child be successful by reading through these instructions together, and if possible, clarifying anything your child does not understand. If the directions are unclear to you as well, encourage your child to talk with the teacher and ask questions. This might be scary for some students, but as a parent, you can help ease these fears by reminding children that teachers want to help students be successful.

Encourage your child to work with “homework buddies.” Talk to your child about finding one student in each of his/her classes who can be a homework buddy. A homework buddy is someone your child can call with questions about assignments, someone who can take notes if he/she is absent, and might even be someone your child can work together with to complete assignments.

Get in touch and stay in touch with teachers. With advances in technology, there is a variety of ways to maintain contact with teachers, including email, phone, and in person visits. Teachers can inform you of your child’s academic progress, his/her behavior in the classroom, and things you can be working on with your child to encourage development. You can let the teacher know of any changes at home or in your child’s life, and also find out ways that you can get involved in your child’s classroom.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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