Tag Archives: homework helping tips

Sunday Morning Shout Out

Children are all different when it comes to how they learning, studying styles, and the way they approach homework.  In our household, we have a self-starter, a child who needs a little prodding, and a non- homework “doer,” in the throes of preschool.  One of the most challenging times of the day, can be homework time.  The article “Homework Help for the Distractible Child,” at the Education.com website, briefly looks at common reasons for distractibility and offers some ways in which a parent can encourage their daydreamer with the homework process.

Children can be distracted for many reasons.  While people often think of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) a neurological disorder that impacts a child’s ability to focus and learn, children can also be distracted for other reasons. They include: stress, anxiety, depression, or a learning disability.  For purposes of this article, we will consider general ways to help any child who is distracted.

The article pulls tips from the book 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child, by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.  He states that parents need to firm, calm, and non-controlling.  If a child is melting down about homework and having great difficulty focusing, a parent needs to be an anchor and calmly steer the ship.  We all have probably seen it or “been there,” -where our responses escalates with our child’s, to no avail.  It is important to empathize, give space to vent, but not get involved in a power struggle.

Dr. Bernstein advises parents to help their children get past the “I can’ts.”  His first suggestion is for parents to suggest to their children to go with the thought “they can.”  He says that parents should establish this mood/mode, leave the room, and see what happens. He also suggests some helpful probes when the “I can’t’s,” start.  You can say “Can you tell me how and where you are getting stuck?  Or perhaps “What part of the instructions are unclear?”  Or even maybe “Tell me what you think the answer is.”

Some of Dr. Bernstein’s suggestions are the tried and true.  He is a big believer in a set time to do homework.  While some kids can do homework right away, he states that many distractible children need downtime to decompress and relax, before they can go back at it.  He underlines the value of knowing your child’s learning style to best help her through the homework process. For example, if they are an auditory learner, answering questions about a reading passage, may be best done by reading out loud (you or your child) and helping them process the passage and questions this way.  Visual learners might best get spatial relationships by a piece of cut fruit or a group of pasta, coins, candy, etc to process a problem. Or perhaps they can draw a diagram, a picture, a make a writing web to best sort out their ideas.

Prioritizing the homework load can go miles according to the author, as can praise, support, and guidance.  Asking questions like “Do you know what you should do?”; “Do you have everything you need to complete the task?” can do wonders to move a distracted child into action.  Encouraging them to break down projects, problems into bite size pieces, huge.  He also points out the value of obtaining extra text books for home.  A distractible child may be prone to forgetting hers.  With Common Core standards today, it might be a helpful guide to the parent who is trying to instruct, guide, and reinforce children through new math, etc. Homework may always be a struggle. But it is a necessary part of learning and reinforcing what is taught at school.  While distractible children may find homework more formidable, a calm, knowledgeable, and positive parent can help the process be more bearable, fruitful, and productive for child and parent alike.



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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Homework can feel a bit like a jolt of electricity after summer vacationand leave you and your children a bit disorientated.  Are your children finding it hard to hit the books at home?  Does your homework routine need a makeover?  The article at Scholastic.com titled ‘10 Homework Help Tips‘  by Ms. Stephanie Wood offers some great ideas to ensure an effective homework routine. The folks at Scholastic.com sought and received great tips from parents and teachers around the country, ranging from tips on time and place to do homework, to tips on increasing motivation and curtailing homework anxiety and frustration.

The top tip this article had was to get homework done good and early.  While some kids can hop off the bus and go right at it, other kids need a short break, before they begin their homework.  The biggest take away from this tip was to give a specific time frame-say 3pm to 5pm for homework, and to not start after 5pm for younger children especially.  Young children (and often parents too) are too tired to start at this point and there is dinner, maybe classes or practice, and the bedtime routine to start.

There was a great suggestion to create a call list for when homework is forgotten.  If that vital spelling list is forgotten, a homework buddy can go over it on the phone or have a grownup take a picture of the list to send over the phone. Or it could be e-mailed.

There were tips for motivating the overwhelmed and dispirited child.  It was suggested that you can build initial confidence by tackling that first homework problem together and then turning it over to your child, once she is confident and calmer about her work. Here and always, it’s a good practice to heap the positive feedback on your child’s efforts.  When you do this, you should be as specific as possible. What about the dispirited parent, who has his own homework woes, listening to his child whine and melt down over school work?  The article suggests leaving the room, (sanity saving action) but staying close by until the whining subsides.  It also suggests letting your child complain for a short time and practicing empathy to get over the initial hump.

For daydreamers and procrastinators, there are these tips.  A daydreamer may work better in a separate and specific spot to do his homework. In the article, a parent mentions setting her child up in her office.  There is something about letting a child work in a special place (like where you do your important work) that can be very motivating.  For that special procrastinator in your life, the article discusses having her try to beat the clock, to get over the initial hesitancy and inertia.  A parent can set the clock for five or ten minutes and instruct her child to fire away at her school work.  “ See how many math problem you can finish in 10 minutes!  I bet you can beat the clock!”

Other great tips include helping your child breakdown large tasks into more bite size pieces.  By taking a dry erase board or dry erase calendar, you can take that large project and schedule it out into more manageable steps.  For example, if your child has a special project they need to do on the fifty states, that culminates after two months of work, you can look at what has to be accomplished each of the eight weeks.  Doing it this way can help the most overwhelmed child and parent, too!  A last great tip they gave is something like an emergency switch.  If your child is truly done in and exhausted by specific homework, you can cut in half what they need to do. Either you or your child can explain that he did have of what was assigned, but could not complete it.  If a child uses this technique sparingly, it can help squelch a much larger homework problem.  He must then get the help he needs at school , through a peer, a tutor, or you, to further overcome their struggles.  With these tips, struggles should lessen.  Homework woes should ease and everyone should breathe easier at night…

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Tutoring: Is It Right For Your Student?

TutorAlmost every child goes through a difficult academic time at some point in their education. It could be that they are having issues adjusting to a new school or a new grade, perhaps they are having personal or social problems or maybe they don’t get on well with their teacher. With so many factors playing a role in academic performance, you need to carefully weigh the situation to determine whether your student needs help.

Cause and Effect
Always keep a close eye on your student’s grades and keep in regular contact with their teachers. If you or your teacher notices a change in academic performance act quickly. Nipping problems in the bud will make them so much easier to deal with.

Sit down with your student and their teacher to ascertain what the problem is. Everyone has a bad test or a poor assignment score from time to time and one poor grade does not a disaster make. If your student got a bad grade, ask them what went wrong and how they can remedy the situation in the future. Two bad grades on consecutive tests or papers means that there is possibly a miscommunication. Go through the paper with your student to ascertain exactly what went wrong and discuss how to fix it.

If the academic problems persist, it may be time to look at the bigger picture.

Causes Of Poor Academic Performance
Speak with your student to find out exactly how much time they devote to study and what else if going on in their lives. Poor academic performance can be the result of several factors:

  • Too many sports/after school activities
  • Health issues
  • Social problems or bullying
  • Personal or family problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor diet
  • Poor relationship with a teacher
  • Gaps in academic knowledge or skill

Only once you have clearly established the cause of academic discord can you work on a solution. Include your student in any discussions about their future or about possible solutions to the problems they are having. Inclusive practices make it more likely that they will participate in the proposed solutions.

If your students don’t have extraneous reasons for poor academic performances, it may be time to get an in-home tutor. One-on-one tutoring is the very best way to get your student’s academic performance back on track. Tutors are able to establish gaps in your student’s knowledge or skill set and can pinpoint issues that need the most attention. Tutors can also present information in ways that suit your child’s learning style so that they are able to understand the work better.

Tutors can help your students to study for exams and to complete homework and assignments on time. Tutors are experts at study methods and they can help your students to study in an effective and efficient way.

Tutors work with your students on an individual level, so there is no anxiety about answering or asking questions. As they get back on track, their confidence grows and the anxiety they feel at school will be reduced.

(Note: Post adapted from an entry on Sept 27, 2013 at the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog.)

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Figuring out your ideal working circumstances will make choosing your homework spot that much easier! (Image Credit:http://mymajicdc.com/lifestyle/mymajic/slice-of-life-ways-to-cure-the-homework-headache/)

Figuring out your ideal working circumstances will make choosing your homework spot that much easier! (Image Credit:http://mymajicdc.com/lifestyle/mymajic/slice-of-life-ways-to-cure-the-homework-headache/)

Does having your child get her homework done resemble  Congress trying to get their work done?  Do you feel like it is you in one corner and Rocky Balboa in the other, when it comes to getting your child to do his homework?  Leslie Garisto Pfaff  from  “Parents “ magazine offers five tips to help your child with their homework  habits  in her article “Five Steps to Homework Success.”

Teach consistency: Instill a homework routine with your child. Barring afterschool activities, homework should be done at the same time every day, according to Jeannine Schay Schumm, PhD,  author of How to Help Your Child With Homework.   Otherwise, it is too easy to put off and not get it done.  She says to base this on your child’s temperament and your family’s schedule. Some children need decompression time and some physical activity before they can hit the books again. Other children might need to do it right away, while they are still partially in school mode and perhaps before, gymnastics or karate. After such activities, homework can easily be karate chopped for certain children. With a consistent time, comes a need for a consistent space. Particularly in the younger grades in elementary school, that might be a quiet space at the kitchen table or dining room table as opposed to upstairs in their bedroom. As a parent, you want to be accessible and able to monitor their progress with their work. Also keep supplies close by to ward off the great school supply search and procrastination. Plenty of room to work, with supplies at hand, makes for a comfortable and equipped work space.

Dial down distractions: Make it a rule that the television, cell phones, computers, video games, and other distractions are minimized, even better off, to maximize focus and the quality of work being done. If possible, make a certain time in the house homework time for all, including parents. By this, parents can be quietly present reading, bill-paying, folding laundry, doing paperwork, etc, modeling how to work in a quiet environment and monitoring for disruption. Older siblings can be modeling for younger siblings how to do work in such a fashion and greatly help younger children instill good homework habits.

Aim for Independence:  While it may be tempting to correct your children’s mistakes while doing homework, please remember the point of homework. It is practice and one way in which your child’s teacher gages their progress. While grade school aged children will likely need some assistance with their work, it is helpful to discuss with your child’s teacher how much assistance they are looking for you to give. Having said this, it never hurts to review your child’s work and to encourage them to independently find the three words or math problems that have mistakes. This teaches them to review their work and puts the onus on them to find them. Additionally, you can use these moments to guide them to use a dictionary or an online reference to help them find answers they do not know.

Discourage perfectionism:  While many parents have the child who rushes over homework, others have the child who agonizes over turning in the perfect paper. When this occurs, it is beneficial to remind your child homework  is for practice and that no one, including their teacher, expects them to be perfect. With such a child, a 10 or 20 minute limit might need to be set per assignment. When time is up they must move on to the next item or get up and play.

Investigate any resistance:  If your child resists all efforts and stubbornly refuses to do homework, it may be a sign of a real struggle with subject material and work. If this persists, it is time to sit down with your child and teacher and see if they are struggling with similar work in school. Perhaps it is a methodology issue and homework can be approached differently.  For instance, one assignment may need to be broken down into several smaller tasks for your child. Jed Baker, PhD, author of No More Meltdowns  says to encourage your child to complete at least one task for sitting.  He says that completing one task may give your child momentum to move on and complete them all.

Lastly, parents should, underline should, recognize their child’s sincere efforts. Such recognition goes far and is powerful, powerful incentive in helping your child feel good about their work and their efforts in school.

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Movement Supports Learning?

As parents, you are probably aware of the importance of getting your child(ren) moving, but what exactly are the benefits? In general, active students experience less stress, are healthier and are more well adjusted then peers who are less active. Playing on a team or getting out with fellow students also has a number of health and social benefits. Studies have shown that activity and movement also have a number of academic benefits too. Proponents of movement education utilize activity to stimulate development and activity in the brain.

Get moving
“Research has shown that movement is linked to specific brain functioning in children. For example, cross lateral movement gets the right and left sides of the brain to work together. It helps to wake up different lobes in the brain,” says Martha Swirzinski, a movement education specialist.
Movement education helps to stimulate various parts of the brain. Increased movement also brings oxygen and glucose to the brain which are both essential for optimal functioning. When students sit quietly for longer than 10 minutes, their brains become lethargic. Incorporating movement into education helps keep students focused and improves their ability to retain information. This is especially helpful for students who have trouble learning.

Evidence linking movement and learning
Dr. Peter Strick and his research staff at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center of Syracuse, New York in the mid 1990’s traced a pathway from the cerebellum back to parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception. This means that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that is involved in learning and memory. This evidence has been confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which shows that the same areas of the brain are stimulated by movement and learning.

How to incorporate movement into learning
There are times when book and computer learning cannot be avoided. Here tutors and educators can incorporate activity by instituting the ten minute dance party or the ten minute walkabout.
Divide study time into manageable chunks of time (like 20 – 30 minute increments), followed by a ten minute walk around the room, a race to the front of the classroom or around the house. Students can also move to an area where balls, skipping ropes, weights and games help them to participate in different movements. Set up an obstacle course around the house or classroom which requires students to jump, run, crawl etc. They should have to complete an academic task, and then go through the obstacle course. You can put them in teams or reward individual achievements.

Breaking up the school day into academic segments followed by physical activity helps students to concentrate, stimulates higher cognitive functioning and improves health while reducing obesity.
Note: This entry was adapted from a post on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog on 10/5/2012 titled Movement Learning: Work Smarter, not Harder

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

There is something about the blossoms on the trees and green grass that make spring time feel like a great time for a fresh start.  This is the time of year when many opt for a good spring-cleaning of their homes. Well, I will be doing that this year, but I will also be “spring cleaning” the school year.

At the beginning of the school year, I do many well-intentioned things. Come October, they seem to have gone out the proverbial door.  Here is my list of spring-cleaning:

1)     I will really lie out the clothes the night before school. I have two little girls who can be particular about how things feel. This will save a lot of time and temperamental moments for all of us.

2)     Instead of opting for more shut eye, I will get up a half an hour before the kids each and every day. Not only does this give me a jump-start on the day, it centers me, focuses me, and provides a peaceful start each morning.

3)     The folders will be reviewed as soon as the girls get off the bus. I will stop this year’s bad habit of reading things before bedtime or in the morning. I am fortunate to have an older daughter who diligently completes all homework on her own accord.

4)     The lunches and snacks will be completely made the night before.  This will save precious time in the morning.

5)     I will have my work done by the time the girls are home from school so I can be more present when they are home and not preoccupied with my to do list.

6)     More frequently, I will go beyond the normal homework and apply the principles of what they are learning to regular life.

7)     We will look up and research the things we say we want to with the kids.

8)     My husband and I will better model a better balance of work and play for our children.

9)     We will give the kids more credit and appreciation where it is due. They have their moments as all children do, but they are great kids overall. Great kids!!!

10)  I will make these changes more permanent and not just for a short season.

Off to clean!!!

We hope you are having a good holiday weekend.


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Adult Involvement and School Projects: How Much is Too Much?

The year is…unimportant. I am in seventh grade general science, and I have to create a model of an animal for some project. Whether by choice or by assignment I am instructed to spend the weekend making a model puffer fish.

Rewind. I am in fourth grade, and all fourth-graders participate in the fourth grade science fair. I come up with what I think is an ingenious idea, but to make my project really stand out I need to build a prototype.

Fast forward. I have just finished student teaching, and the final project is to set up a booth to display the work you’ve accomplished over the semester for the college community to view. You’re supposed to display your work to its best effect, which in student teacher land means make a trifold poster.

Fast forward. I am in graduate school, and to teach the students I have in my tutorial the basics of grammar I have to create a powerpoint. Grammar is not their favorite subject (or, admittedly, my own), so I have to find some way to compensate with a visually exciting presentation. Awesome.

Projects that require creativity and outside-of-the-box-thinking have always been my academic Achilles’ heel. Give me a multiple-choice test or an essay any day! My fear of creative projects was always that they felt vague and undefined. The criteria of what was needed always felt less certain. Sure, these kinds of projects are supposed to allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of a subject in a different way. Maybe teachers even intend these projects to be fun. I don’t believe I’m alone in dreading these kinds of projects, however, and I’m sure that, like me, many kids have parents who want their children to do well.

Enter the silent partner on student projects: the adult. I truly believe that when teachers assign a creative project they intend for parents or guardians to help out. How can you expect a five-year-old to create a longhouse out of popsicle sticks without some help? The problem isn’t adult involvement…but adult OVER-involvement.

You know that kid at the science fair with the perfect posterboard and the project that involves photons and neutrons and sophisticated lab equipment? Is it a coincidence that her aunt works as a nuclear physicist? The biggest problem with adult over-involvement isn’t even that it may be unfair to other students, but that it is actually unfair for the student who initially seems to benefit.

Let your child take the lead on his next school project! You may be surprised at his creativity! (Image Credit:http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/424014)

Teaching kids that they aren’t capable of completing successful projects on their own is a bad path to start down. Having an adult take total charge rather than allowing the child to spearhead the creative efforts disempowers the child from making decisions and building confidence. First place in the science fair with a project your aunt made doesn’t feel as good as getting an honorable mention with a project a child made by him or herself. Even if your child comes up with the idea, if you do all the execution, your child will lose the sense of ownership and pride that comes from a job well done.

So how can adults be involved in children’s projects? Start by having a brainstorm session together. The child should be doing most of the talking and idea generating. Rather than giving the child ideas, try supplementing with additional information or, better yet, a question. If your child suggests using toothpicks to make the puffer fish’s spikes, ask what he or she thinks should be used for the body. When you’ve finished brainstorming and have come up with a great idea, you can help get together supplies. Remember– expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better! Encourage your child to find materials around the house. You may want to flip these two steps around if your child is having a hard time brainstorming…sometimes props can make all the difference in sparking creativity!

When it comes time to actually put together the project, offer help when it is asked for. If your child is constantly asking for help, try to push him or her to try some steps alone. “I think you can take care of painting the fish, and you’ll do a great job!” Remember to use positive reinforcement to encourage your child to try new things, and be supportive of the results! Even if the project comes out looking like, well, a second-grader made it, bear in mind that it wasn’t supposed to be your project in the first place!

What are some other tips you have for parents helping their kids out with school projects?


Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences