A recent article from the New York Times, “How to Help Your Child Study,” lays out three obstacles that kids may encounter when it’s homework time. It has suggestions for parents to help their kids deal with them. As I read the article, I was seeing the solutions offered from two contrasting points of view: tutor and parent.
As a tutor, I teach students many of the methods recommended in the article. I am, however, also a parent. My children are adults now, but memories of parenting, through the 12 years or so when my kids were school age and had homework, are seared in my memory. Reading the article through the eyes of a parent, I found my eyes rolling at times. With all the distractions of home life — sports and other activities, music lessons, electronic devices and emotional ups and downs, it is rare for a parent to be able to maintain the level of control necessary to consistently implement these techniques at home.
Though the advice has value, I recommend reading the article and trying what seems helpful. I have seen examples, though rarely, of parents and children whose temperaments are calm and well-aligned. In these cases, when the principles stated in the article are applied, homework is done well and efficiently without struggle. (Again, this is rare, and did not consistently happen in my family.)
The article lists three areas that make homework a struggle: 1) procrastination; 2) being overwhelmed by the workload; and 3) having difficulty retaining information. Here’s a quick summary of the guidance that’s offered.
- For procrastination, remove potential distractions (specifically, cell phones) and require daily adherence to a structure for getting homework done.
- When the workload seems overwhelming, help your child break down large assignments into manageable steps and encourage looking ahead to plan.
- Students who struggle to retain information benefit from memorizing in stages, learning to identify key words and summaries, creating charts to organize the subject material, inventing mnemonics, and engaging in active rather than passive studying.
So, parents, read the article and do what you can, but remember that support is available. A tutor offers help that a parent sometimes can’t without straining their relationships with their offspring. Also, teaching methods have changed since you were a kid. We have kept up with those changes. If you need outside support, we’re here to help!