Helping your kids with their homework

When your kids ask for help with their homework – and they will – you want to make sure that as a parent you are indeed helping them and not doing the work for them.


When your kids ask for help with their homework – and they will – you want to make sure that as a parent you are indeed helping them and not doing the work for them.

The key, Parent Club’s Caroline Fernandez tells Cityline.ca, is that they’re learning the concepts being taught to them.

“It’s hard not to snowplow through and do kids’ homework for them but we have to resist the urge, because doing homework is a life skill kids need to learn,” Fernandez explains.

Think about setting aside a particular time and place for your child to do his or her homework every day after school. Once they settle into a routine, you’re less likely to hear grumbles about the task or, even worse, receive a note from the teacher saying that assignments aren’t getting done.

“Modern families are busy with work, school and extra-curricular activities and homework needs to be scheduled into the weekly routine,” Fernandez says. “The last thing parents want is for their kids to be doing math sheets in the back seat as they drive to soccer practice. A set time and place for homework gives the chore focus.”

Parents will notice that while their little ones need homework supervision when they’re younger, as they move up through the primary grades they’ll start to work independently and may just need their work checked over before they hand it in. Fernandez notes that when her own children were younger, projects often required the use of scissors and glue so her help was a must.

“Now in grades 4 and 7, I encourage my kids to do their homework independently (as they do their work solo in class),” Fernandez says. “They can read and write (and use scissors!) all by themselves now. At this point, they understand homework is not a family project — it is their responsibility.”

Every so often, your child may run into a concept that they can’t wrap their head around. It’s important not to make them feel badly about it. Instead, sit down with them and read through the homework together, Fernandez suggests. Refer to examples, if they’re provided.

“I try to keep them as the lead in homework by asking questions like, “What do you think?” If we come upon a concept that is truly a challenge for us both (and this has happened – have you seen the new math?!), I write a note to the teacher saying my child is having trouble and can they help,” the mom-of-three says.

How much homework is too much? There are debates over what’s appropriate, depending in part on which grade the child’s in, but if your youngster is spending the better part of their evening on their studies, or staying up past 10pm, there may be a problem.

“When my oldest was in third grade, we spent two hours a night — every school night — on homework. It was exhausting,” Fernandez recalls. “Finally, at the parent/teacher interview we mentioned to the teacher the amount of time spent on homework and she was completely shocked. She hadn’t realized how much she was giving and was very appreciative of the feedback. I’m glad we spoke to her because the next week the amount of homework was cut in half — and homework became a happy job rather than a long chore.”

Caroline Fernandez’s homework help strategies:

  • Read through homework together first. Ensure your child understands concepts, vocabulary, tasks. Then step back and have them do the homework independently.
  • Make a resource binder. Create a resource binder with times tables, vocabulary, and timelines for their subjects so that your child can look up things rather than come to you. It will help them to learn independently and take the onus off of you to be Mom-cyclopedia.
  • Give yourself a “job” to do while kids do homework. For example, make dinner while they are at the kitchen table doing homework. Having a chore while kids work lessens the opportunity for you to sweep in and take over homework.
  • Instead of doing homework WITH your child – have them do the homework and then you check the finished product. If there are errors, that is the time to work together to problem solve.

Caroline Fernandez shares family friendly activities and tips on her site Parent Club

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