Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How involved should parents be in a child’s homework?

Are we modeling kindness for our children?

I dread my daughter’s homework more than she does. From the time she was little, it’s always been a struggle. She seems to sail through school with a great attitude, but by the time she gets home, all her patience and concentration have been used up. And honestly, by that time of day, mine have too. I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that my attitude about homework is just as bad as hers.  

Yet I’m continually trying to improve the process. So I’m going to take to heart some of the ideas shared by this month’s authors and try to incorporate them into my family’s homework routine.  

Do you have some tried and true homework tips? Please share them! Send your tips to [email protected] 

Nicole Balza

Homework can be a source of conflict between parents, children, and teachers if expectations and philosophy aren’t clear. Each teacher and school have a homework philosophy, and therefore, how much they want parents to participate in completing homework may be different from school to school or teacher to teacher. However, I have found that many educators feel that you should help in developmentally appropriate ways through the years and adjust the way you help your child as he or she grows.  

Children from 3K to first grade will need parent support if they have homework to complete. They will often need their parents to read directions for them, listen to them read, or do the homework with them. As soon as students can write, they are expected to write any answers by themselves but with parent support.  

When students in grades 2-4 have homework, they are now able to do most of it without any assistance. They may need parents to check in with them and problem solve if they don’t know what to do, and they may need parent reminders to do their homework and complete assignments on time.  

As students move into grades 5-8, they are now learning how to keep their assignment book on their own, plan how they will complete homework assignments, and study for tests and quizzes. Parents do not need to help very much with the homework itself but may need to help their child schedule his or her time, study for a test, or make sure that their child is asking his or her teacher for help when confused on a homework assignment.  

Some students will continue to need these parent supports in high school, while others take on full responsibility for their homework once in high school. This gradual release of responsibility looks slightly different for each child and should be adjusted to meet his or her needs. Our goal is always to help each child grow and learn more responsibility each year, while still supporting the child with his or her unique learning needs.  

God’s Word does not give advice on doing homework specifically; however, he does tell us how we should conduct ourselves in all situations. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This passage reminds us that as parents we have an important responsibility and opportunity to model for our children the perspective and attitude we should all have when completing tasks and working hard. Homework is no different . . . do it all for the glory of God!    

Rachel Blum and her husband, Matt, are raising their three children in the country in Bonduel, Wis. Rachel currently teaches at St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Are you familiar with the old song: Homework! Oh, homework! I hate you. You stink! I wish I could wash you away in the sink . . .?  

Somehow I can imagine my own kids turning to me and saying, Dad, if you hate homework so much, stop assigning it! Seriously, though, I remember my kids singing this little ditty when they were in school. Homework is probably nobody’s favorite. Nonetheless, homework is a reality for many families.  

I asked a pair of veteran teachers for their advice on how parents can best assist their children with the homework challenge. Here are some tips. 

  1. Establish a positive attitude about the value of school and homework.
    Create a family routine and an expectation that this is important and needs to be done to be prepared for the next day. Nothing is more anxiety-creating than not being prepared and wondering how teachers and classmates will react.
  2. Pray with your children about school and school work.
    God cares about it all. As anxiety and depression rates for children have increased to astounding rates, reinforcing that they have an almighty, loving heavenly Father is ultra-important. He cares . . . even about short quizzes or big.  

  3. Find a comfortable, inviting place for children to do homework where parents can oversee progress. Kids rooms today offer many distractions that can get in the way of the efficient use of homework time.

  4. Understand teacher expectations and communicate with your childs teacher(s). Take advantage of home visits or entrance conferences to talk about homework expectations. Teachers will be happy to share strategies they prefer or tools that can be used at home. Todays digital age gives parents and students amazing toolsemail, websites, online videos. Many curriculums include online videos and tips. This can help alleviate arguments about how to do tasks like multiplication and division correctly.

  5. Dont give up on the old triedandtrue methods.
    They have worked for generations and will continue to work. Strategies like making note cards, using flash cards for math facts, practicing spelling words, quizzing students on their reading assignment, listening to memory workthese all still are great ways to help your students to find success. Help your child to find ways that complement their learning style. 

  6. For uppergrade students, consider becoming a kind of accountability partner.
    At this level, sometimes the subject matter is getting difficult for parents
     . . . even well-educated ones. The homework belongs to the students. In a time when digital contacts are growing, having parents help face-to-face needs to be encouraged. Parents can be a big help by encouraging the student to transition into a self-advocate role. 

  7. Realize the change that has taken place.
    Teachers and parents are not so much the purveyors of knowledge but guides to unlocking and applying it. The information is more accessible than ever; parents can inspire their children’s curiosity on topics they arent naturally curious about. 

Maybe it’s time for a new tune: Homework! Oh, homework! You can be a pain. But at least you’re a way to exercise my brain!

Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves as communications director at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton. 

Moving beyond “How was school today?” 

What is the first question you ask when your child gets home from school? Most parents ask, “How was your day today?” Most children give a short or even one-word answer. Here are some questions you may want to ask to expand the answer. 

  • What was one thing you learned that was new?”
  • “Did you make your teacher smile today?”
  • “Did you help anyone today? How did you help?”
  • “What challenged you today?”
  • Did someone do something nice for you?”
  • How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?”

This is reprinted by permission from christianfamilysolutions.org. The original article, “Strategies for a successful school year,” was written by Julie Educate, a licensed professional counselor with Christian Family Solutions. 


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

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