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Should parents help their children with homework?

Ciaran Smyth

Feb 27, 2015

One thing that is often overlooked when academics argue over the virtues of homework is that parents have vital roles in their child’s educational journey - and they should be encouraged to engage with it as often as possible.

Parents are typically the first port of call when their child is stumped on a question, needs a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent in, a TV switched off with a “Hey! Back to work!”, a lift to the library, or even a quick healthy snack to fire up the brain.

While not every parent conducts research in educational theory, what they are is more important: an expert on their own child.

Being an 'Own Child Expert' means wearing many hats: leader, role model, friend, psychologist, chauffeur, doctor, career advisor, and human Wikipedia, to name a few. Expecting them to also be a teacher, subject expert, editor, scientist, and all-round homework helper is, in my opinion, exceedingly unfair - and unrealistic.

 

You don't need to know everything

Education isn't the same as it was when we were at school. Educational methodologies change at an amazing rate, especially with the integration of technology into the day-to-day learning experience and study methods of the younger generation.

Content changes as well: when we went to school, Pluto was a planet, and the Higgs Boson was theoretical - both would now earn you a big red cross on your homework! These changes can often be so rapid, parents simply don’t have the ability to help their children with their homework.

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A recent OECD study showed that students average six hours of homework per week. Depending on where your child is in their school journey, that might seem like too much, or too little. But as with most things, the quantity of time spent on homework isn’t, and shouldn’t be, as important as the quality of that time.

Given that parents don’t have all the answers, when they are pressured to get involved with their child’s homework, they can often accidentally disrupt the learning experience homework is supposed to engender, or lower the efficiency of the time being spent. Worse, when parents see their child in a state of mild distress over a particularly curly question, their natural instinct is to dive in and help get them past that state - often requiring them to “do the work”. It might help their child at that moment, but longer term, it’s doing the opposite.

 

Why homework is important

There are two major processes that occur during homework. The first is that by revisiting, revising, and engaging in repetition of content explored earlier that day at school, the new concepts are better cemented in the brain of the student - aka: 'Practice Makes (nearly) Perfect'.

The second is the establishment of independent learning and responsibility for study, which contribute significantly to a student’s self-confidence in their studies and ability to identify, establish, and stick to a routine that works for them.

When parents attempt to help by rebuilding an experiment or ghost-writing segments of a report, for example, what happens is that the self-confidence of the student is negatively impacted, often leading them to think that they can’t do the task themselves, that their efforts aren’t good enough, or that shouldn’t try to get over that last bump in the road between them and an elusive eureka moment.

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Be an 'Own Child Expert'

So how should parents help their child with their homework, given they should be encouraged to be involved, but shouldn’t be too hands-on? Easy: by being an 'Own Child Expert', not an 'Education Expert'.

An 'Own Child Expert' is able to ensure that their child has a distraction-free environment to study - TVs and radios go off, phones go away. They can make sure that their child has a local library card in their pocket, and the ability to access all the resources provided there - both in-branch, and increasingly online through the library’s website. They can make sure that their child understands the importance of study as it relates to their career and life goals. They can be a source of encouragement and support, hugs and snacks, and high-fives each time a eureka moment is reached, or a major task is complete. Most importantly, they can ensure that their child is engaging in quality homework time by getting them timely access to experts in the areas they are studying, at the point they are studying.

 

Give help, not answers

We founded studiosity.com with the driving methodology of 'Help, not Answers'. Our network of on-demand, online, Subject Specialists are all committed to working through every step of a troubling problem with each child to arrive with them - not for them - at an educationally sound answer that cements core skills while building confidence and can-do. But most importantly, we work with Own Child Experts to help them help their child.

We’re their reinforcements. 

 

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