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Homework: How parents can properly support their children with their homework

March 17, 2017 | From: Nina Steincke | Category: learning to learn | Keywords: homework, learning tip

If homework gets out of hand or if it is too difficult, the child sits at a desk, perplexed. Committed parents are now actively involved themselves - puzzling over math problems or whipping up portfolios. But how much support does it actually make sense?

Homework rarely triggers a storm of cheers among the youngsters. Even if they consolidate lesson content and encourage independent work, their deeper meaning remains mostly hidden from the students. No wonder: after all, vocabulary, geometry and essays only keep you away from the important things in life. Homework is not exactly popular with parents either. They cost valuable family time and can quickly lead to a crooked house blessing. And at the latest when the child is desperate because of the sheer amount of homework or the three-sentence tasks cannot be solved at all, even tough parents' hearts will soften. Then they quickly write the essays themselves, whip up portfolios or do maths problems.

But are parents really helping their children with this? The answer is a resounding “YES”. “Short-term help with homework and school projects is perfectly fine. Often the child just needs a tip to get on again. Quick help can sometimes take the strain off the family's learning situation, ”says Max Kade, educational director of the study group. Nevertheless, parents should not completely relieve their children of their homework, and certainly not over a longer period of time, advises the expert. Otherwise there would be no learning effect and the teachers would get a wrong picture of the child's performance level.

The quality and nature of parental homework support are important

A German-Swiss study published in 2016 even showed that parental involvement with homework in no way leads to better results. 1,700 Swiss schoolchildren and their parents were surveyed. Both the grades in German and the reading skills were worse when the parents often participated in the homework. On the other hand, students who did their homework on their own did better. Nevertheless, this finding is not a reason for a ban on parental homework help for the Tübingen researchers. Rather, the quality and type of support are decisive.

Tips for the right help with homework

  • Leave space and offer support: If parents remind their children of their homework immediately after they return from school, it is annoying and only creates pressure. The students should start their homework independently and decide for themselves when, if and how much help they need. Parents are available in case of problems. They do not pretend, but show learning paths. The advantage: knowledge you have acquired remains in the memory longer.
  • Giving meaning and motivating: Instead of building pressure, parents should rather give schoolwork a “meaning” and motivate them to learn. A child who doesn't know why they should do a task often only does it at half speed. If there is also excessive demand, it will not get any better. It is therefore helpful to make the sense and the learning effect of homework clear. For example, parents could show the everyday relevance and practical applicability of the content.
  • Find learning strategies: By doing homework, students learn to study independently. This also includes developing your own strategies and methods. Parents should work with the child to find out how they can best memorize vocabulary or how complex formulas do not remain abstract. File boxes or learning stories as donkey bridges are great aids.
  • Correct organization: Closely related to this is the joint development of our own work organization. For example, the child could do the easy tasks at the beginning and then, in a good mood and confidently, devote themselves to the difficult topics. Other students prefer to get rid of the heavy chunks first. A good division of work is also part of the organization. With a homework planner, for example, the tasks of the week can be easily distributed over the individual days. A homework notebook is also useful as a reminder for the tasks of the week.
  • All in good time: After a long day at school, children and young people deserve a break and enough time for lunch. How much break a child needs varies greatly. After all, every person has different highs and lows during the day. Parents should try together with their child to find the right time to study and then to use it effectively. Breaks in between are just as important as free time and hobbies after work.
  • The right place: Children need a quiet and bright place to work to do their homework. Ideally, you will have an age-appropriate desk in your own room, where schoolwork can be done undisturbed and without great distraction. If the child feels comfortable at the desk and can concentrate well, homework is also easier.
  • Giving positive and constructive feedback: Parents should ask their child for their assessment of their own performance before giving feedback on homework. Concentrated work also deserves praise and mistakes are perfectly fine, after all they give the teacher feedback on the child's level of learning. Of course, parents can also say if they don't like their homework. However, the criticism must remain constructive if, for example, the schoolwork was only done improperly. More than feedback is not necessary. The child should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to make improvements.
  • Keep an eye on time: If the child sits long before homework every day, this can be an indication of a high level of motivation and a conscientious work style, for which good grades are the reward. But it can also be an alarm signal for the parents. Long periods of time at the desk and still bad grades are clear signs of excessive demands and inefficient learning styles. In this case, parents should seek discussion with the teachers. A homework check also provides an initial orientation.

Of course, there are also (exceptional) situations in which parental homework supervision can go far beyond that. Ralph Caspers, presenter of the show with the mouse, provides a good reason for this in his new book "Ab in die Dertschi". He thinks it's okay to do the children's homework so that there is time for common hobbies or trips. This confession inspired us to the blog parade #homework help. Together with parents blogger Bea Beste from Tollabea, we looked for your curious, instructive and exciting homework anecdotes.