While raising my daughter, I was baffled at how difficult is was for myself and other parents to know our roles when it came to our kid’s schoolwork. Were we meant to supervise and help them? If so, to what extent? Where was the line between helping them and doing it for them? And was it our job to ensure that it got done or theirs?
Now that the new school year is settling in — with new teachers, new classmates, new challenges, and new responsibilities — you may once again find yourself battling the dreaded parental questions: What is my role? How much is enough? And what is common core math, anyway?
To better identify your role as a parent, first consider the role of homework. It isn’t just a way to help your child reinforce the concepts they’re learning in school. It also serves as an excellent tool to help your child learn how to: manage their time, juggle competing responsibilities, self-assess their own knowledge and skill set, and ask for help when they need it.
Your job is not to do your child’s homework for them. In fact, doing so may actually deprive your child of the opportunity to acquire valuable life skills. You can help your child develop good homework habits, however, by serving as their learning coach — that means being aware of what is expected and offering the time, space, and support to achieve success.
Though your role and level of involvement may change as your child advances through their school years, there are tangible ways to support your kid at any age and stage.
Lay the groundwork for enjoying learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents against trying to give their kids too much of a head start. Instead, focus on just talking, reading, and play. These things are the foundation of a love of learning, trust, and communication.
Monitor good work habits. Ask every day if your child has homework and establish a regular time and proper setting for them to get it done. Provide supplies and ensure they have eaten, is rested, and is energetic. Check to see that your child has completed the assignments and make sure she knows to ask for help at any time if she needs it.
Get some outside help. Your kids need help at this stage to learn how to manage their more complex schedules, with multiple classes and teachers, but ironically, this is a time when kids have a hard time taking advice from their parents. Consider outside assistance - from a teacher, a local teen, or a tutor - to help your kid master the skills they need, including tracking their assignments, managing competing deadlines, and mapping out the steps of long-term projects.
Let your kids take ownership. Assuming your kids have learned and mastered good study habits, you can begin to pull back in this stage, according to experts, only offering help if it is explicitly asked for. It’s fair game to continue to provide the quiet study space, company, and supplies, and to build in family activities around topics they’re learning about in school. If your child is studying the Civil War, for example, a family trip to Gettysburg can be an interactive way to reinforce what your child is learning.