homework help

15 ways to support your child

By Janeen Lewis

Let’s be honest – sometimes parents dread homework as much as their kids do. But homework connects parents to what their children are learning in school, and research shows that children are more likely to be successful in school when their families support them. By following these tips, even the most homework-challenged parents can help their children have a successful homework year.

1. Understand the reason for homework.
Homework reinforces what is being taught in the classroom and teaches students important life skills – responsibility, time management and task completion. Children should be able to complete the work with little help from parents, and they shouldn’t come home with an entirely new concept to learn. Homework should be practice or an extension of what they’ve already learned.

2. Know the teacher’s philosophy.
Teachers have different philosophies about how much homework to assign. Some think piling on a ton of homework helps build character. Others think children have done enough work during the day and don’t assign any. Understand where your child’s teacher falls on the homework spectrum so you are not surprised as the homework does (or doesn’t) come home. If you are unsure what a reasonable amount of homework is, The National Education Association and The National Parent Teacher Association recommend 10-20 minutes of homework per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade after that.

3. Learn what the homework rules are.
At Open House learn the homework policy of the school and your child’s teacher. What are the consequences for lost or forgotten homework? Don’t be quick to bail your child out every time you get a frantic text message about forgotten homework. One of the purposes of homework is to teach responsibility.

4. Get organized.
Your child should have a backpack and homework folder to carry assignments between home and school. Teachers of primary students usually send homework correspondence each night. If your older child’s teacher doesn’t require students to record school work in an assignment book, provide one yourself and teach your child how to fill it out.

5. Schedule a consistent time.
With sports, service projects, religious and community activities, it can be hard to schedule one set time every day to do homework. Aim for as much consistency as possible when scheduling homework around after-school activities.

6. Designate a study space.
Pick a homework space free from distractions. However, consider your child’s personality and ability to focus when selecting a homework station. Some children concentrate best in complete quiet at the kitchen table or a desk. Others study well on their bed with background music. And reading areas can be creative like a reading tent or comfy bean bag. Make study areas free from video games, television and the games of other siblings who finish homework early.

7. Create a supply caddy.
Fill a plastic caddy or bin organizer with items your child might need for homework. Some good supplies are pencils, markers, crayons, glue, tape, stapler, three-hole punch, paper clips, notebook paper, small wipe-off board with dry erase markers, art paper, graph paper, calculator, protractor, compass, ruler and a dictionary/thesaurus combo. Also provide a wipe-off calendar for important due dates.

8. Be available, but don’t do the work.
Helping your child with homework is a great way to connect with them, but don’t spoon feed answers. The whole point of homework is for children to practice skills independently.

9. Use a timer if necessary.
Sometimes children like to procrastinate. Some children like the challenge of beating the clock. Either way, a timer keeps a child focused on the finish line.

10. Keep a resource bookshelf.
Can’t remember what a gerund is? Are you a little rusty on what the terms perpendicular and parallel mean? Keep an assortment of reference books or save online references to your Favorites list on your computer. A good math dictionary for parents of elementary students is Math Dictionary: Homework Help for Families by Judith de Klerk. Another great resource is the Everything You Need to Know About Homework Series Set by Anne Zeman and Kate Kelly.

11. Create a phone chain.
How many times has your child left their spelling words at school or forgotten a lesson? Help your child make a list of friends they can call or get to know other parents in your child’s class so you can have a phone chain to get answers about assignments.

12. Model learning as a priority.
Let your child see you reading the newspaper or books. Discuss current events, politics or the new art or history museum you want to visit. Find exciting tidbits in their homework lessons and research them. Show by example that learning is fun.

13. Encourage.
No matter how tired you are, have a positive attitude about the work your child is doing. Encourage their efforts and let them know you are proud of them.

14. Reward.
Homework rewards don’t have to be elaborate, although you may want to up the ante for a struggling child or one who is hard to motivate. A reward can be something as simple as a fun activity when they finish. But you can also keep a homework incentive chart and let your child earn a special activity with mom or dad, some extra screen time or a dinner out.

15. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
If you think too much homework is coming home, that your child isn’t familiar with the material or that they are struggling, don’t be too intimidated to schedule a conference with your child’s teacher. Most teachers welcome feedback and want to help your child succeed.

Finding a Good Tutor for Your Child

– Regardless of Your Budget

By Kimberly Blaker

Does your child have a learning disability, poor or declining grades, poor time management skills, or difficulty understanding homework? If so, tutors are an effective way to get kids back on track and keep them there. But how do you find a good, reliable tutor you can trust? And what if hiring a tutor isn't in your budget? Today, there are many options.

How to find a tutor
Your child's teacher and the school administrator are an excellent place to start. They might be able to recommend a tutor in your community or online resources to help your child.

Also, chances are one of your child's friends has a tutor. So, ask other parents for a recommendation.

Another option is to search online for tutors in your area. You'll likely find a couple of local tutoring companies. These often offer on-site tutoring, but some might offer in-home tutoring as well.

There are also many websites developed for helping parents find tutors. Takelessons.com has a searchable database of tutors. Just enter your zip code and the school subject to find tutors in your area. This site also shows tutors' ratings and their fees per session.

Another source is Care.com, which connects people with various service professionals, including tutors. Experience in tutoring varies widely, however. So, check their reviews and ask for references.

Online tutoring is another popular choice, though, it isn't right for every child. Homework Helpers LLC in Alaska, for example, offers “tele-tutoring” which uses a video chat platform, making it accessible for students to access online academic help. (Visit homeworkhelperak.com.)

Free tutoring
If tutoring isn't in your budget, there are several options. First, check with your child's school. Some schools offer one-on-one tutoring programs for eligible students. Many schools also offer after-school group tutoring. Kids can stay after school to work on their homework with a teacher to assist. Some teachers also offer after-school tutoring for their students.

For example, at the Anchorage School District’s “homework help” online page, you’ll find links to several free expert tutoring resources. (Visit asdk12.org/domain/1183.)

Tutor.com provides live one-to-one homework help on everything from basic math and English to AP physics and college writing every weekday (Monday-Friday) from 8 am-2 am and on weekends from 12 pm-2 am. Practice tests and career resources are also available. (For Alaska residents seeking to use this electronic resource, go to the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) portal for access and assistance at lam.alaska.gov/sled.)

Consider contacting your local high school and community college. Students majoring in particular subjects or teaching are required to do a certain number of hours of tutoring. For that reason, students often offer it for free.

Remember to also check with your school or community librarian for help with books and other sources for homework help.

Another option: Ask trusted family members, neighbors and friends if they can help. You might discover someone you know is enthused to help your struggling child.

There's also the popular Khan Academy website, which offers free online video tutorials for students at all levels. You’ll find online resources/lessons for math, science, economics, computer science and humanities. (Visit khanacademy.org.)

What to look for in a tutor
There are several factors to consider when looking for a tutor. These include:

Is the tutor qualified? Your best bet is to look for someone with a teaching degree since tutoring requires skills that not everyone possesses. For younger students, if the tutor has a teaching degree, specialization in a particular subject isn't necessary. From high school and beyond, look for a tutor with expertise in the subject your child needs help with.

Does the tutor have the right personality? First, a tutor should be patient, empathetic, positive, passionate, creative, and fun. These characteristics help ensure your child can learn from the tutor and will walk away with self-confidence. Also, the tutor's personality should be a good fit for your child. It's essential the tutor and your child connect with each other.

Is the tutor flexible? Each child has their own best learning style. It might be visual, aural, physical, verbal, logical, or any combination of these. Also, some kids are solitary learners, whereas others are social learners and enjoy learning in groups. Look for a setting and tutor that fits your kid's style.

Does the tutor have excellent references? Online tutoring services often have reviews from previous clients. Look for those with overall high ratings and positive comments. But beware of reviews directly on the tutoring company's website, since these can often be manipulated. If you find your tutor offline or find very few reviews, ask for several references. Still, the references a tutor provides might not be an entirely accurate depiction of their character and experience either. So, use due diligence for your child's safety and to ensure your child receives quality service.