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10 Tips for Homework Helpers
By Jeanne Shay Schumm, Ph.D.

1. Maintain two-way communication with your child.
Don't just lecture. Listen and respond to what your child has to say. When you respond, don't plead or argue. (Pleading puts your child in charge; arguing creates a no-win situation.) Instead, respond assertively and positively.

2. Set goals with, not for, your child. Then focus on one at a time.
Start with a goal that your child is almost guaranteed to achieve. That will make the others more appealing and continued success more likely.

3. Expect progress.
We all respond to the expectations other people have of us. (This is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome.) If your expectations are low, your child's achievements are likely to match them. If your expectations are high but not unreasonable, your child will respond in kind.

4. Make your child aware of improvement. Reward achievement.
Don't "pay" for every accomplishment with a treat or a promise. Often it's enough simply to say, "You did a really good job on that map. I'm proud of you." But if your child works especially hard on a challenging assignment and completes it successfully, that's worth celebrating.

5. Direct praise to the task at hand.
Saying, "You spelled eight out of ten words right. Much better!" is more specific than "Good for you!" Specific praise guides future behavior.

6. Be enthusiastic. Use humor.
Starting every homework session with the Star Wars theme might be going overboard. But it doesn't hurt to smile and say, "I like spending this time with you." And you don't have to be deadly serious about it. Laughter, shared jokes, and even a tickle or two can go a long way toward lightening the homework load.

7. Encourage creativity.
Although you should be careful about "sticking to the rules," a certain amount of creativity can "help the medicine go down." A story in one of the basal readers (reading textbooks) tells of a child whose Thanksgiving homework assignment was to make a Pilgrim doll. The child's mother was an Eastern European immigrant. The child dressed the doll in Russian attire, and the doll served as a lesson to the class that the United States has had many kinds of pilgrims over the years.

8. Take every opportunity to build your child's self-esteem.
This includes, but isn't confined to, most of the other tips already presented here. Use your imagination and your natural affection and concern to think of other ways to show your child that she is a worthwhile and important person.

9.Check with the teacher before correcting your child's homework.
Many teachers want to see a student's mistakes; they use them to determine where more teaching is called for. A perfect parent-corrected paper can be misleading and can rob a child of the extra help she may need.

10. Provide variety.
If a child starts fidgeting excessively over a math book, switch to spelling for a while. Return to math later. In between, share a snack, take a short walk, or have a joke-telling session.

Jeanne Shay Schumm, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami School of Education. She teaches courses in reading assessment and instruction and is actively engaged in research on reading. In addition to coauthoring over 75 research articles, Jeanne is the author of School Power: Study Skill Strategies for Succeeding in School. She lives in Coral Gables, Florida.

Excerpted from How to Help You Child with Homework by Jeanne Shay
Schumm, Ph.D. C 2005. Used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing
Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 1-866-703-7322; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

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