The contest to create the best visual often prompts many parents to get overly involved in their kids' school projects. But teachers say that by doing so, parents are missing the big picture. The ultimate goal isn't how beautiful the project is; it's the lesson the kids ultimately learn about taking the necessary steps — from research to presentation — to reach the end result.
The Parent's Job
Parents play an important role in that process. One way parents can achieve that goal is by coaching their child through the steps of a project from start to finish. Here's some thoughtful advice on how to help your child do her best:
- Ask questions. Questioning helps your child define the assignment. Is this historical figure's early life important? Does it make him who he became? What are the five most important events in this time period? What was the turning point in the war? Why would you recommend this book? What character made the most powerful impact?
- Get out the calendar. Help your child set goals and create deadlines. For example, by the end of a certain week, complete all your research. Then create a timeline the following week.
- Narrow his focus. Many kids bite off more than they can chew. Suggest that your child spend the first few days absorbing information and reading about his subject before figuring out what the important elements are.
- Designate a work space. It might be a spot near the computer or a place she can leave out her books or the work in progress. Having a designated space eliminates the need to gather together materials. It also serves as a constant reminder that the work has to get done.
- Do the tedious work. If typing is frustrating your child, it's okay to do it for him. Just don't work on the project without him.
- After the project's done, discuss the process. Talk about whether you had enough time and what you would do differently in the future.
en españolLos diez mejores consejos sobre los deberes escolares
Kids are more successful in school when parents take an active interest in their homework — it shows kids that what they do is important.
Of course, helping with homework shouldn't mean spending hours hunched over a desk. Parents can be supportive by demonstrating study and organization skills, explaining a tricky problem, or just encouraging kids to take a break. And who knows? Parents might even learn a thing or two!
Here are some tips to guide the way:
- Know the teachers — and what they're looking for. Attend school events, such as parent-teacher conferences, to meet your child's teachers. Ask about their homework policies and how you should be involved.
- Set up a homework-friendly area. Make sure kids have a well-lit place to complete homework. Keep supplies — paper, pencils, glue, scissors — within reach.
- Schedule a regular study time. Some kids work best in the afternoon, following a snack and play period; others may prefer to wait until after dinner.
- Help them make a plan. On heavy homework nights or when there's an especially hefty assignment to tackle, encourage your child break up the work into manageable chunks. Create a work schedule for the night if necessary — and take time for a 15-minute break every hour, if possible.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. This means no TV, loud music, or phone calls. (Occasionally, though, a phone call to a classmate about an assignment can be helpful.)
- Make sure kids do their own work. They won't learn if they don't think for themselves and make their own mistakes. Parents can make suggestions and help with directions. But it's a kid's job to do the learning.
- Be a motivator and monitor. Ask about assignments, quizzes, and tests. Give encouragement, check completed homework, and make yourself available for questions and concerns.
- Set a good example. Do your kids ever see you diligently balancing your budget or reading a book? Kids are more likely to follow their parents' examples than their advice.
- Praise their work and efforts. Post an aced test or art project on the refrigerator. Mention academic achievements to relatives.
- If there are continuing problems with homework, get help. Talk about it with your child's teacher. Some kids have trouble seeing the board and may need glasses; others might need an evaluation for a learning problem or attention disorder.