When I was younger, I dreaded doing my homework to the point where, in third grade, I just stopped doing it, cold turkey. After a few days without receiving any assignments, my teacher alerted my mom who was, needless to say, unimpressed. Every day after school, I would have to sit at the kitchen table with my mom until I got everything done. Even after that incident, I never could quite shake my distaste for doing schoolwork after hours. Then, when I began babysitting, my favorite thing to do became helping kids with their assignments, even if they didn't need my assistance. I was especially helpful to my brothers, showing them what I had done in years past and catching their mistakes mid-math problem.
Some parents and caregivers think that getting involved in children's homework helps them learn and become better students. It turns out that line of thinking may not be not true. In a new parental involvement study, two sociology professors dug through three decades of research and found that, overall, more-involved parents make very little difference in students' academic achievements, regardless of race, class, or educational background. In fact, sometimes the increased participation can hurt students. This is the case with homework, especially by the time your child is in middle school. According to Keith Robinson, one of the researchers in the study, parents often don't make suitable tutors for older kids. Adults may have forgotten the material or they may not have learned it (or learned it well!) to begin with. With the introduction of the common core in school, things are simply taught differently now. I remember looking at a sixth-grader's math assignment last summer and thinking that it might as well have been in a different language. After all, there is a reason your child goes to school: to learn from teachers, who are the best people to teach her about what she learns. It's also not helpful for parents to communicate regularly with teachers, according to the study. The bottom line is that teachers have to be trusted to do their job.
Not understanding the material is a good reason to get less involved with your child's homework, but it's certainly not the only one. It's hard for a child to feel confident about his homework if a parent is always breathing down his back. Moreover, there is going to be a day when a parent isn't going to be able to help a child with an assignment. If that day doesn't come until he enters college, it's not going to be a good day. It's in your child's best interest for you to prepare him to be independent at a younger age. I understand the urge to help him with his work – especially because I used to have that urge often with the kids I babysat – but the best way to help is to lean back and let her try the assignment on her own first. You can still lend a little helping hand when he's studying for an upcoming spelling test, but it's time to cut back on helping if you find yourself doing it too much every night. If you are worried about your son or daughter's progress in school, there are ways to help without constantly pitching in during homework time. For example, a tutor can work with both the student and the teacher to get the student up to speed on schoolwork. Luckily for Mom or Dad, you've reached an age where you don't have to worry about homework anymore. Enjoy it!
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