Whether you home school or send your child to school, there are times when you'll find yourself helping your child with their homework. This can be frightening to many parents who barely remember their time in school, and who attended school long before classrooms went high-tech.
But educating your child at home is important, and it can even be a great way to bond. Many of my friends look back with a smile at the times they did homework with their mom and dad. Here are five tips to keep it productive and fun.
Concentrate more on the skill than the material given. Sometimes your child will need help with a certain skill, such as reading. The teacher will ask you to tutor them at home, possibly giving you some advice on the method and the materials. While their advice on the method can be golden, take the materials they recommend with a grain of salt. You know your child best and if you have a better idea of how to practice the skills in question, take it. My mother taught me how to read by giving me a cookbook and asking me to read the instructions as she prepared a cake. It was fun and I didn’t even notice I was studying. Schools don't always have the flexibility to engage kids with individualized materials. You have the freedom to try something else — use it.
Let them correct their own mistakes. If your child gives the wrong answer to a question, or their calculation is wrong, that’s ok: They are learning. Don’t immediately tell them the correct answer, just let them know they were wrong and get them to rethink their answer. At best, you can help them out by giving them some clues as to the correct answer. If that doesn’t work, it's best for them revise and find the correct answer themselves. Keep in mind that they don’t need to do everything in one day, and the second revision can come the next day or even a bit later. That way, they can solidify what they know and with fresh concentration work out the problems they could not solve before.
Use the methods they use in school — most of the time. It's very likely that you used some other method for long division back in the day and that modern techniques confuse you. But you shouldn’t force your child to do it the way you know. It's important to stick with the method they use in schools and try to get them to fully understand it. If you feel that your method is much better and easier, show it to them as an alternative to use alongside the school’s preferred method, but not exclusively. It can not only be confusing to the child to switch between methods, but it can lead to problems when teachers don’t accept the alternative method.
Let them explain things to you. A great way to learn is by explaining the subject matter to someone else. Once your child revises their materials, let them give you a short lecture on what they learned. You can ask questions, pretending you don’t understand, and let them guide you through the problems. In this way, they won’t feel like a student being questioned, but a teacher in charge of the subject. Explaining is an important life skill that will come in handy even after the chemistry homework is handed in.
Don’t let the homework session last all night. You need to teach them organization, and that's best taught by example. If you have young children, you are most likely to be the one who will schedule study sessions. Schedule them in the afternoon and don’t determine only the beginning, but also the time by which you should finish. Be realistic, but aim to be productive as well. Teach your child that there is time for homework and that during that time there shouldn’t be any distractions — but also teach them that there is time for relaxation and sleep. If you don’t manage to do everything you planned, but you worked hard, finish at the time you said you would. Rework your future study plans and catch up tomorrow.
Remember, your child is not you and they can have completely different affinities: Don’t get frustrated if they don’t excel at something you love. When studying with your child, be supportive and offer constructive criticism, but try not to show disappointment or lack of belief that they can do it. They need you to have faith in their potential so they can too.