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Homework Help!
By Stacy DeBroff

~ Offer advice and guidance when asked, but refrain from doing your child's work for him. Think of your role as that of a consultant.

~ If your child works in his room, stop by periodically with words of encouragement, to drop off a small snack, and offer praise.

~ Find out from the teacher how much homework to expect during the week, when it will be assigned, when it's due back, how the teacher handles late assignments, and what supplies your child will need.

~ Praise effort instead of your child's natural ability or intelligence.

~ If your child keeps forgetting to bring homework home, let him know that you will assign him homework instead, and that he'll still have to do the forgotten assignment the next day.

~ Help your child look for an answer on the Internet, in an encyclopedia, or in a dictionary. Augment what your child is studying in class with books from the library, discussions, or field trips.

~ Don't assume that your child will struggle with the same subjects that you did in school, and caveat your own experiences, such as: "While I never did like math, I always worked hard at it and tried my best. That really paid off."

~ Often the companionship of an adult makes homework less lonesome and onerous. Use this time to:

Do your own "homework" from the office
Work on your photo albums
Read a magazine, the paper, or a novel
Pay bills or balance your checkbook
Write cards or send duplicate photos to friends or family
Make dinner or clean dishes while your child works at the kitchen table

~ Be ready to drop any your own activities if your child needs your help or becomes frustrated. Let your child know that you are willing to help when asked, but will not finish assignments or battle over methods.

~ Eventually expect your child to tell you he wants to work by himself, giving him the pleasure of banishing you with his newfound independence rather then feeling exiled to struggle with homework alone.

~ Ask to see completed homework. Encourage your child by noting best efforts and giving praise for well accomplished assignments. Offer to help him correct any mistakes he has made.

~ Ask your child to explain to you what the teacher said that he wanted done. This will not only clarify the task at hand to you, but having to explain it will increase your child's understanding of what he needs to do.

~ Treat your child's homework mistakes as no big deal that you can work together to correct.

~ Give your child easier examples to clear up misunderstandings such as on math worksheets and to boost your child's confidence in tackling more difficult problems

~ If your child expresses anger and frustration at your suggestions, consider hiring an older student from high school or college to play the role of neutral tutor.

~ Clarify with the teacher your role in helping to correct your child's spelling, grammar, math mistakes, etc.

~ If your child rushes through homework too quickly, causing multiple mistakes, ask his teacher for a suggested minimum time he should spend on homework. Use a timer, and to help slow the pace have additional work or reading to do for remaining time.

~ Schedule a teacher conference to discuss concerns if you find the homework too easy or difficult for your child and for tips on how to assist your child.

~ Remember that part of the goal in homework is to help your child learn to organize his time.

~ Help your child break larger projects into manageable tasks that can be tackled one at a time and provide your child with an immediate sense of accomplishment.

~ Suggest always starting with the hardest part of the assignment first, to get it out of the way while your child has the most energy and concentration.

~ Write homework due dates on the master family calendar in a color specific to each child. If your child is old enough, have him keep his own homework calendar or date book.

~ Use dinner table discussion to brainstorm for big projects or papers and make creative suggestions.

~ On nights without homework, set aside the homework hour for reading.

~ If your child's teacher doesn't provide one, create a designated homework folder to take completed assignments back to school. Assign your child the job of making sure the folder is in his backpack ready to go on the day it's due.

~ Encourage five-minute breaks every once in a while, especially if it gives your child a chance to lower his frustration level.

~ Avoid criticizing how your child tackles her homework as long as the work is done on time. Let your child's temperament set a pace that works best for him.

Stacy DeBroff is President and founder of Mom Central, Inc., a company devoted to providing pragmatic tips and advice to strengthen busy families and enhance the home environment. She is the author of several best-selling books on household and family organization including The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms; Sign Me Up! The Parent’s Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, and Extracurriculars; and Mom Central: The Ultimate Family Organizer. For more information, visit www.momcentral.com

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