How Much Should Parents Help with Homework?

January 8, 2013

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If you’re a parent of a school-aged child, you’ve probably asked yourself this question.  Naturally, you want your child to do well in school.  But at what point is your involvement helpful, and when can it be harmful?

“One of the great benefits of homework is to keep parents engaged in what kids are doing,” said Diane Salvatore of Ladies’ Home Journal in an interview with NBC News.  Homework time can be an excellent opportunity for parents to impress the value of learning and to encourage a positive attitude towards homework.

However, Salvatore points out that “Being able to do homework at home is a way for kids to be alone with their work and be self motivated — two things they can’t learn in school.”  Giving your children too much help—like providing them with the answers—means they don’t get the chance to practice these skills.

For some parents, helping their children can mean allowing them fail.  In a post on alphamom.com, one mother blogged about an incident in which her eldest son waited until the night before a long-term assignment was due to start working on it.

“It would have been easy to do the work for him, to write the essays, or to spoon feed him the answers,” she writes.  “I wanted to help him.  I wanted him to get a good grade.  I also wanted him to be capable, independent, and confident in his own abilities.  In the end I went to bed and left him sitting at the kitchen table working.”

Parents, what are your thoughts? Do you help your children with their homework, and how much?

Teachers, to what extent (if any) do you feel comfortable allowing parents to help their children with homework?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony Dilemme January 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I’m an 8th grade science teacher. I generally agree with the points made in this article. I would be ecstatic if all of my students had parents that participated in their homework in some way, however spoon feeding answers is not the way to go. Being present so that the student can bounce ideas off of the parent(s) would be a good thing for example. Guidance is good. It is clear to me that those students who have parents that participate in their education are more successful.
Check out my new science education blog at http://dilemme.posterous.com/

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Wanda Gladney January 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I am a home schooling parent. What we aspire to do is to be there to guide our children to be strong in their skills and to gain confidence in logically thinking through situations to arrive at correct answers. I remember all to well, especially in math with story problems, not understanding how to think through a problem to know WHAT to do. This is what I’m instilling in my children. It takes longer, but it’s worth the effort that they understand what is being done and why versus gaining skills just to pass a test. I love the process of discovery, and then to see their own desire surface for the love of learning. I think that every one who loves teaching what to see this from their students.

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Azadeh January 9, 2013 at 4:02 am

In my opinion, we should avoid becoming helicopter parents! Child’s homework belongs to them and parents should not take on the responsibility for their homework. Although we should monitor the assignments and help them if needed.

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Annie Mathew January 9, 2013 at 6:31 am

I have always wanted to make my view on this point. A Parent guiding their child/children in their homework is good as long as they know how to do it.

(1) I find a lot of parents over doing this just so that their child gets good grades and ultimately ends up with a child that requires spoon feeding way beyond his/her years. They just don’t know how to put a full stop. This leads to frustration in parents because the child ends up dependant on them always.

(2) It is good as long as the school does not advocate it. These days the schools here in the UAE, India ..etc tend to over crowd each class (money making strategy – more number of seats much more revenue) leading to a disproportion of teacher to student ratio. Why would a school expect the parent to be proficient in a subject or have the teaching skills required to get a subject across to the child? Ffor example : I was asked by my son’s Hindi teacher to speak Hindi (national language of India) at home as a language is better learnt with usage for which I queried – “we have a mother tongue and english in which we can speak. Why are we expected to speak at home in a language that we ourselves are not so familiar with?” I also asked her, “if the arabic teacher would ask the parents to speak in arabic so that the child learns arabic what would I as a parent do?”

(3) If the parent was that proficient then why would the parent not opt for home schooling and save on the humangous fee plus other costs that the schools burden parents with these days.

(4) These days both parents are working parents. No longer do we have a joint family system or do we have that kind of support system where in which we can ease our day to day burdens ……..In such a scenario – Why does the education system burden the parents further? Of course as a parent we want our children to get the best and so we send them to a school according to our capacity – isn’t it in human to burden parents further. Imagine parents with late working hours rushing back home – provide food, take up the studies of children, other responsibiliteis hand in hand…etc – How exhausting can it get?

I can foresee – couples deciding not to have children at all (personal choice) – this will lead to an imbalance in nature itself. From a large family we have seen a reduction to WE 2 OURS 2, then down to WE 2 OURS 1 and these days it is further gone into a WE 2 HAPPY 2 and a few ME ALONE HAPPY SELF (due to adjustment issues, whatever) – wowo !!! Where is this world getting to ???

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Lama January 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

I’m not a parent yet (hopefully soon), but I know that my parents, particularly my mother, spent ALOT of time with me working on my homework.. until sometime in middle school when I started doing it all my own. I think younger children definitely need the structure and guidance of homework time with a parent there, but older children should become more independent. I don’t think that I’d be as successful as I am, though, if my mom had not spent those precious hours with me when I was a young child and pushed me to get top grades.

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Ginny Standley January 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

I am a retired special education teacher and I think what needs to be remembered is that homework should be a review and practice of what has already been taught in the classroom. There is nothing wrong with a parent giving a child some help with homework just as a teacher would give some help to a student in the classroom if he/she is having difficulty. If the child is having a great deal of trouble with homework assignments then the parents and teacher probably need to have a meeting to discuss why this is happening. Parents should never just give the answers to their children as when it comes time for the child to demonstrate his/her knowledge of the specific objective, when taking a quiz or test for example, he/she will not be prepared to do so effectively. Instead, give direction and guidance until the child develops his/he own answers. As far as long term projects, some children need extra support in order to have the project completed on time. If, for example, they are given three weeks to compete a project some children may need a parent to sit down and develop a time line with them in order to have the project completed on time. Example, by the end of week one this will be completed; by the end of week two this will be completed; etc. etc.The parent may need to follow up weekly and have the child mark off the tasks as he/she completes them. It depends on the age and abilities of the child as to whether or not this support from the parent is needed. If the child just leaves the work go until the end and doesn’t complete it then I think the Mom who left the child at the table and went to bed was “right on.” Completing the proect for the child would not be teaching the right lesson.

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Rania January 17, 2013 at 1:02 am

I am a parent , really I want to know when could I leave my child to study and do his homework alone.

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The IXL Blog January 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi, Rania. We would recommend that you discuss this with your child’s teacher.

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Sam March 24, 2013 at 6:49 am

Hi,

Just a quick couple of points. The only way that I help my son is by being home when he comes home so that he does not feel alone. Any questions regarding homework and all I say is “it’s your homework, not mine, so figure it out”. I will help with reading to the extent that I help him look up, define an pronounce words. That’s about it. Born overseas and brought here at 4 years of age has been very challenging but come 5th grade next year after being held back in third grade he has grown by leaps and bounds. Is it he best way? For us the results would indicate so.

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FIST May 6, 2014 at 2:19 pm

i am really bad at typing. is it alright to ask my parent to type it for me

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The IXL Blog May 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Hi there. We recommend you ask your parents and teachers if you have any problems completing homework. They will let you know if they’re comfortable with your parents typing homework for you.

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