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It's homework time!

The concept of homework seems quite simple, yet it can cause students to fail, learn to hate school, and wreack havoc at home. Assuming the goal as parents is to instill in our children the desire to become life-long learners, view homework at any age level as a means to assess understanding of a given concept (student/parent and teacher), gain more independence in responsibility each year, and develop solid study skills. We often focus on the assignment only. It is important to consider that while completing a given assignment, your child is, on some level, thinking, using resources, managing their time, and self-assessing their understanding of concepts while working as independently as possible. These are all incredibly important skills for all students to develop in order to be successful, not only in school, but in life! Some will naturally pick up these skills as they move from one grade to another. Others will need help in developing these skills. Sometimes, it is not the actual concepts that are impacting a student's level of success in a class, but their difficulty in putting information together and organizing it that causes them difficulty.

How can you help your children with their homework? Every child is different. Some want to do everything by themselves from first grade on. Others want parents right by their side, almost doing it for them for much longer than should be necessary. I suggest parents keep in mind the end goals:

*developing independence

* encouraging life-long learning

With these goals in mind, provide a consistent place for your child to do their homework. It may be the kitchen table rather than a desk in their room, it doesn't matter as long as the area is not distracting and supplies are readily available so that time isn't wasted searching for things. (See the previous blog post for the importance of providing appropriate school supplies). In terms of homework help, do not help with things your child can do on their own and never give answers. The following are guiding questions for families to help children with math homework, but many may be adapted to use with other subjects as well. When your child is stuck, ask the following:

* What do you need to figure out? What is the problem about?

* What words are confusing? What words are familiar?

* Did you solve problems like this one in class today?

* What have you tried so far? What else can you try?

* Can you make a drawing, table, or diagram to help you think about the problem?

* Does your answer make sense?

* Is there more than one answer?

* What math words or steps do you use in class?

Major homework issues? Teachers usually provide a time frame for how long the homework should take each night. Please let them know if your child is working far beyond the time guideline. If your child has no idea how to approach the work even with your guidance, again contact the teacher. At the very least, these issues will cause a child to lose interest in learning very quickly and you want to avoid this at all costs.

As the first full week of school begins, keep in mind that a calm homework time is a positive homework time. Have a great week everyone!

A., V. D., Bay-Williams, J. M., Karp, K. S., & Lovin, L. H. (2014). Teaching student-centered mathematics: developmentally appropriate instruction for grades 6-8(2nd ed., Vol. 3, Van de Walle Professional Mathematics). Boston: Pearson.

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