I was inspired to write this article after reading Jessica Lahey's article in the New York Times, "Autonomy Works Best for The Classroom." Lahey, a public school teacher and author of the forthcoming book, The Gift of Failure, believes overzealous parents who manage their children's homework may be encouraging children to give up easily and quit when the work becomes challenging.
No parent wants to intentionally sabotage their child's chances for academic success. As the fabulous Marlo Thomas and Tom Smothers remind us in the classic song "Helping" from "Free To Be You And Me":
"Some kind of help is the kind of help that helpings all about. And some kind of help is the kind of help, we all can do without!"
There are some techniques parents can use that do encourage learning. Parents can give children "the right" kind of help by systematically reinforcing habits that help rather than hinder the learning process.
Here are five homework strategies to try with your child when you have only five minutes!
1. Use Internal Motivation: In journalist Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, his research emphasizes the importance of internal motivation in success. After all, some children simply don't care about homework, and their school performance suffered because of this lack of effort. When these children are told that intelligence is malleable and that they can actually improve their brains by exerting themselves, they tended to try harder.
2. Use The Power of Habit to Relax: In the book I co-authored, The Learning Habit: A groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life (Perigee books), the authors offer a unique approach to homework time. Have children and parents decide on an amount of time they will spend on homework each day. Usually it's 10 minutes per grade. Use a timer to track it. When the timer goes off, they're done. The authors decrease stress by having a clear "beginning" and "ending" to homework time. This is how a homework habit is formed.
"We're not learning when we're being assisted by our parents. Parents need to step back from focusing on the outcome -- the completed, corrected assignment -- and focus on the effort." - The Learning Habit
3. Change of Mind: In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author and psychologist Carol Dweck explains why it's not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn't foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals-personal and professional. During homework time, try offering praise for effort rather than outcome.
4. Stop Multi-tasking and Focus: In the book Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, Daniel T. Willingham believes if you care about what you're doing, focus on it! Leaving a TV on as background noise is distracting. Background music can help or hurt, depending on the "type of music, type of task, type of person, or a combination of factors is still unknown." Willingham offers a detailed perspective on education in the United States -- this is a must-read for any parent.
5. Wait: We are not talking about procrastination; this is planned waiting. In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger and Mark A. McDaniel, the authors bring up a counter-intuitive strategy that helps reinforce learning. Parents can intentionally build in a "Wait Time." Rather than cramming learning into one evening or even one week, parents can work with children and teachers to build in wait time to allow students time to re-study material until a little forgetting has set in.
If you have more than five minutes and enjoy a good read, any of the above titles would make a welcome addition to your bookshelf. Please feel free to add to this list. If you have a great piece of advice regarding homework or an educational book you'd like to recommend, please list in in the comments section below.
The Learning Habit by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, Rebecca Jackson, and Dr. Robert Pressman
Copyright © 2014 by Good Parent, Inc.
Follow Rebecca Jackson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Goodparentinc
en españolAyuda con la tarea
"After you finish your homework."
You have probably heard your mom or dad say these words. It might seem like all the good stuff has to wait until your homework is done. There's a good reason why adults make a big deal out of homework. Homework helps you learn. And getting a good education can help you build the kind of future life that you want. So homework is important, but how can you get it done?
First, you need a quiet place without clutter and confusion. Writing on top of potato chip crumbs while talking on the phone is not going to help you finish your history lesson. Turn off the TV and other distractions. You'll be better able to concentrate, which usually means you'll finish your work more quickly and it's more likely to be correct.
Set aside enough time to finish your work without rushing. You can't just squeeze your science assignment into the commercials during your favorite TV show. Really learning something takes time. But if you find that you're struggling even after putting in the time, you'll want to ask for help.
Why Do Some Kids Need Homework Help?
Aside from just not understanding the lesson or assignment, kids might need homework help for other reasons. Some kids are out sick for a long time and miss a lot of work. Others get so busy that they don't spend enough time on homework.
Personal problems can cause trouble with your work, too. Some kids may be dealing with stuff outside of school that can make homework harder, like problems with friends or things going on at home.
Kids whose parents are going through a divorce or some other family problem often struggle with getting homework done on time.
Even students who never had a problem with homework before can start having trouble because of problems they face at home. But whatever the reason for your homework struggles, there are many ways to get help.
Who Can Help?
Talk to someone (parents, teachers, school counselor, or another trusted adult) if you're having problems with schoolwork. Speak up as soon as you can, so you can get help right away before you fall behind.
Your parents are often a great place to start if you need help. They might be able to show you how to do a tough math problem or help you think of a subject to write about for English class. But they also can be helpful by finding that perfect spot in the house for you to do your homework and keeping supplies, like pencils, on hand. Parents also can cut down on distractions, like noisy younger brothers and sisters!
Teachers also are important resources for you because they can give you advice specific to the assignment you're having trouble with. They can help you set up a good system for writing down your assignments and remembering to put all the necessary books and papers in your backpack. Teachers can give you study tips and offer ideas about how to tackle homework. Helping kids learn is their job, so be sure to ask for advice!
Many schools, towns, and cities offer after-school care for kids. Often, homework help is part of the program. There, you'll be able to get some help from adults, as well as from other kids.
You also might try a local homework help line, which you would reach by phone. These services are typically staffed by teachers, older students, and other experts in school subjects.
You can also use the Internet to visit online homework help sites. These sites can direct you to good sources for research and offer tips and guidance about many academic subjects. But be cautious about just copying information from an Internet website. This is a form of cheating, so talk with your teacher about how to use these sources properly.
Another option is a private tutor. This is a person who is paid to spend time going over schoolwork with you. If cost is a concern, this can be less expensive if a small group of kids share a tutoring session.
Do It Together
Some kids will hardly ever need homework help. If you're one of them, good for you! Why not use your talent to help a friend who's struggling? You might offer to study together. Going over lessons together can actually help both of you.
Information is easy to remember when you're teaching it to someone, according to one fifth grader, who says she helps her friend, Jenny, with multiplication tables. "It helps me to learn them, too," she says. "I practice while she's practicing."
You might want to create a regular study group. You could set goals together and reward yourselves for completing your work. For example, when you finish writing your book reports, go ride your bikes together. Looking forward to something fun can help everyone get through the work.
Still Having Trouble?
Sometimes even after trying all these strategies, a kid still is having trouble with homework. It can be tough if this happens to you. But remember that everyone learns at a different pace. You might have to study for 2 hours instead of 1, or you might have to practice multiplication tables 10 times instead of 5 to really remember them.
It's important to put in as much time as you need to understand the lessons. Ask your mom or dad to help you create a schedule that allows as much time as you need.
And keep talking about the problems you're having — tell your parents, teachers, counselors, and others. That way, they'll see that you are trying to get your homework done. And when it is done, make sure you find time to do something fun!