Homework is a basic pillar of the education system. As unpopular as it might be with some kids, most parents and teachers defend homework, saying it reinforces classroom learning, helps create good work habits and discipline, and benefits concentration and memory. Homework is a child’s task and responsibility, however parents also play a role: that of monitoring, supporting, answering questions and ensuring that their children complete their homework but never, never should parents do the homework for their children.
Not doing homework for the student doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. “The parent has to think of themselves as the coach. A coach does not run with the player nor eat the same calories and, of course, does not suffer the same injuries. A coach has two main functions: organize and advise, with the objective of improving performance,” argues psychiatrist Orlanda Varela. Many parents in all social classes dedicate several hours a day to helping their kids with homework or making sure they do it. This reality contrasts with the widespread false notion that scholastic failure is due to parents’ lack of concern about the education of their children.
Many parents get into a cycle that they feel it is difficult to escape. Each afternoon they review the agenda, organize where their children should start, and resolve each of their children’s questions, etc. This becomes an excessive burden when combined with the various other tasks that parents have to do every day. When parents try to stop doing this, they realize that their children feel lost without them and fear that the child will stop or not do their homework well, so they continue to take charge each night.
This generates a lot of tension between parents and children. Moreover, children feel increasingly insecure thinking that they are not capable of doing things on their own. As time goes on, they will ask more questions and it will be more difficult for them to take charge of their own tasks.
THE TEN ERRORS PARENTS MAKE BY DOING HOMEWORK WITH THEIR CHILDREN AND THE KEYS TO SOLVING THEM
- Doing homework anywhere, in the kitchen while preparing dinner; in the living room while others watch t.v… Instead: Ensure that «homework time» is important; in a fixed place, it is best if it is the child’s own study corner. If there is no separate space available, choose a quiet place in the house, without distractions, without TV...
- Parents complaining about the quantity or quality of the assigned homework. Instead: Accept reality. Homework is what it is. If we see that homework is beyond the capability of our child, we should go the school and let them know, but at home you should respect the decision of the teacher whenever possible. We are preparing our children for life, and in life there will be a lot of work and effort.
- Doing the homework ourselves. Instead: Performing your children’s homework does not increase their work capacity or their discipline or teach them anything new. Common sense, the great tool that all parents have although sometimes they do not pay attention to it, is already telling us this. You do not have to correct the exercises at home. The goal is not to make the child’s work perfect, but rather to get the child to try to do them in order to understand any difficulty. Teacher corrections are better; you should have your child to listen to him or her. However, it is the job of the parent to check that the student has corrected their homework in class and has learned from their mistakes.
- Understanding homework only as a way to acquire new knowledge. Instead: Homework reinforces learning and, above all, is an opportunity to learn to work in an autonomous manner. Parents can explain the answers but it makes more sense to help kids find the answers by looking for them: in their own textbooks, on the internet…
- Convert homework into «argument time» each day. Instead: Convert homework time into a time of peace and tranquility. If the student has difficulty, the student can and should consult with his or her teachers the next day. It is very harmful to create anxiety in a home around things related to school.
- Don’t take seriously the child’s need of your presence and support. Instead: Put down the smartphone and be available, watching and listening to them when they need it.
- Impose absolute control. Instead: If kids want a parent to step in, ask them to say the lesson out loud to make sure they understand what they have learned. If we make them nervous, it is better to trust in their own sense of responsibility. And tell them out loud that you believe in them.
- Avoid talking to teachers. Instead: Promote communication and collaboration with teachers. Consult them if you or your child needs any supplemental help.
- Allow them to face their homework when they are already exhausted from extracurricular tasks. Instead: Extracurricular activities are necessary but do not need to be obsessive. Students can have too many: sports, languages, music, chess…all at the same time. It is better to adapt the activities to the personality and interests of the child. Have some quiet evenings at home in which the children only have play and their studies.
- Be inconsistent. Instead: Homework is, overall, about learning self-discipline and how to work autonomously. We help if we encourage kids to set a consistent start and finish time, perhaps with a minimum and maximum study period. Homework should always be done at the same time, in the same place, and always with the phone turned off. That there is a time for everything is a great learning process for a child. Parents who should demonstrate this in their own lives.
HOW TO ORGANIZE HOMEWORK TIME
There should be a starting and ending time for homework. Putting a clock on the table helps kids monitor the time. We should remember that it is not possible to maintain an uninterrupted focus for more than 40 minutes (depending on the child’s age this time is much shorter). It is important to take small breaks for 10-15 minutes between different activities.
To facilitate homework and to make sure they do not get depressed, it is recommended to start with something brief and simple, and later do the less pleasant tasks, but leaving for last the easiest task or the task the child likes the most. Children reach their maximum performance after 30 minutes. At an hour and a half, performance decreases, and thus they shouldn’t deal with the most difficult subjects then.
You have to adapt the homework times to the age of the age. 15 minutes is sufficient for the youngest children to read or perform math exercises. 6 to 8 years: between 30 and 40 minutes. 8 to 10 years: one hour. From that age: between 60 and 90 minutes. In high school: between 2 and 3 hours.
We recommend kids do their 15 minute Smartick sessions every day before homework, at the same time. This will help children concentrate better on their tasks later.
Conchi Ruiz Cabello
Conchi has spent the last decade working in the children's digital space and following closely all the latest trends in educational apps. On the weekends, she loves exploring Boston with her three-year-old daughter and taking pictures of their time together.
Latest posts by Conchi Ruiz Cabello (see all)
If you have kids in school, you know how much homework can take over their evenings. With all the different subjects and assignments they have on their desks, it can be hard for them to keep track of everything.
Fear not, here are some helpful apps for kids and parents to get on the same page when it comes to getting those assignments done, and done right.
Having a good calculator on hand is a must for any student. This scientific calculator app provides everything students need to sine, cosine, or tangent to their heart's content. There's also a handy note-taking component of the app that lets kids keep track of their answers, and more importantly, not forget how they got them. (Free, iOS; similar Android version called RealCalc)
The new ways that math is being taught these days is a departure from when we were growing up. For those tricky textbook algebra equations or logarithms that no one can quite figure out, turn to PhotoMath. Simply snap a photo of the problem, and PhotoMath will provide a detailed step-by-step overview of the solution. It's like having a digital math tutor in your pocket. (Free; iOS, Android)
Kids learning a second language will really appreciate the ease of iTranslate. This easy-to-use app offers translations of words, phrases and text in 90 languages. It even offers the ability to audibly hear different dialects in both male and female voices, so your kids can immerse themselves in the language and learn to speak like a native. (Free; iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows)
Flipping through pages of a dictionary is so old school. With the Dictionary.com app, students can get definitions in a matter of taps. In addition to a whopping 2 million words, the app also provides bonus features like audio pronunciations, word search, favorite words, and of course, a word of the day. (Free; iOS, Kindle Fire, Android)
Papers, projects and deadlines, oh my! Keeping homework organized can be a task in and of itself. With myHomework, students can keep tabs on every assignment, get reminders for when projects are due and notate when tests are occurring. Similar to the master planners from the days of yore, this digital helper makes sure that a deadline is never missed. (Free; iOS, Kindle Fire, Android, Windows, Chrome)
Although not a mobile app, Anti-Social is a helpful web app that helps turn productivity on by turning all distractions off. Locking your computer from social sites, like Facebook and Twitter, for any predetermined amount of time lets students focus on the work at hand and not the images their friends are posting. ($15; Windows XP, Windows 10, and Macs OS X 10.8-10.11)
It's helpful to have contact information for the parents of the students in your child's class. If you have a print-out of parents' contact information, simply snap a picture with the app and it automatically digitizes everyone's information into a list. You can then group chat, text or email with other parents and keep track of what's going on in the classroom. (Free; iOS, Android)
With Class Messenger, parents and teachers can communicate in a private group setting, share photos, share documents and keep the lines of communication open. Parents can communicate about homework assignments, ask general questions, and even schedule parent-teacher conferences through the app. (Free; iOS, Android)
Maybe your child's homework assignment or science project sparks something that you want to learn about. Lucky for you, there's an app like Khan Academy that gives you access to thousands of hours of high-quality instruction—for free. Khan Academy offers more than 10,000 videos about any subject imaginable and makes you feel like you're in school again—without the homework. (Free; iOS, Android)