“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” - Nelson Mandela
Whether they’re in primary school, secondary school, or college, doing homework can be tricky. Younger children especially may need help from their parents with their homework.
That said, it isn’t always obvious whether or not they need help. Whether it’s due to bad memories from school or a lack of understanding, there are plenty of reasons why parents may struggle to help with their kids’ homework.
Don’t panic! We’re here to help.
Not Knowing How to Help
You don’t need to be ashamed... Not knowing how to help your child with your homework doesn’t make you a bad parent. There may be a few reasons for this:
- You left school early. Some parents had to leave school to go straight to work. That doesn’t mean that their children can’t continue beyond their level.
- You struggled in a given subject. Not everyone is good at every subject.
- You didn’t study the language that your child is studying. You may have studied French instead of German, for example.
It’s a good idea to be honest with your child. Tell them that you can’t help them with the answer, for example, but work with them to help them find the answer.
Find out the best way to help them. You could look online for the answers. There are plenty of websites and YouTube videos explaining concepts. Perhaps a friend of the family member could help. An older sibling, a cousin, a family friend, etc. Don’t hesitate to get outside help, such as from a private tutor if you don’t have any close contacts who can help.
Finding outside help doesn’t make you a bad parent. On the contrary. Rather than struggling through the situation yourself, you can get someone in to help instead and it’s probably the best option.
Helping Your Child with Their Homework: Organisation
The first thing you need to do is get organised. Start with finding a place to work. We recommend that you get a desk for your child but a lot of children will do their homework at the dining table.
The most important thing is that it’s in a quiet place. There shouldn’t be music, their siblings running around, or a TV to distract them. Where they do their homework will vary according to the type of homework that they’re doing. For reading, it’s probably better to sit around the dining table or in the living room whilst maths problems will probably be best done at a desk.
Make sure you have everything that you need: pens, pencils, textbooks, exercise books, a maths set, etc. Homework is an opportunity for kids to use materials that they mightn’t have at school.
Choose the right time for them to do their homework. They might need a short break and a snack just after school before sitting down to do their homework. You might want them to sit down and have a meal first. They must be relaxed when they sit down to do their homework.
Set aside an appropriate amount of time for them to do their homework.
Have a Good Attitude Towards Homework
While the jury's still out on the benefits of homework, your child’s academic success may depend on your attitude towards study and homework. We mentioned that being relaxed is good for doing homework.
Parents need to be positive, encouraging, and calm. You want to avoid stressful situations and focus on learning. Show your child that you’re proud of them and encourage their learning.
Take your time, accept any mistakes they make, and look for something positive to say. Of course, you also need to take the side of your child’s teacher. Easier said than done. You also need to be considerate but also take care of yourself.
Before you get involved with your child’s homework, think about your well-being. If you’ve just got home from work and are stressed, you might want to wait before offering to help. Helping your child while stressed won’t teach them the right lessons and they may blame themselves for your mood.
Be honest with them and explain that you’re tired and that you need some time before you can help them. Your mood will rub off on them, that’s for sure!
How Can You Help Your Child with Their Homework?
Before starting the homework, help them to get started. If they have some new words to learn and maths problems to solve, you may have a good idea of which one they should do first. Help them to prioritise their tasks and become autonomous learners. If they can do the maths on their own, get them started with this and check it afterwards.
There are three steps to helping them with their homework:
- Helping them understand: Get them to reexplain the concept in their own words and use books or videos to help them.
- Help them to remember: You might want to make notes, do a drawing, create a song, or make flashcards. Each child is different. Don’t hesitate to go back to it later and see if they’ve remembered. A few hours later, you can quickly quiz them on their memory.
- Apply the lesson: Test their knowledge and understanding of a given concept.
Switch Roles: Let Your Child Be the Teacher
If you can explain a concept in your own words, you’ve got it. If your child comes home saying “Guess what I learnt today! I learnt about the Middles Ages, fortresses, and...” let them go on.
In the end, ask them questions about it to get them to think about it. This will show whether they’ve fully understood the lesson.
Ask your child what you should do, too. If you’re doing geometry, ask them how to do it and let them show you. Get them to guide you through the process. Much like explaining what they know, explaining how to do it will show they understand it.
The Fear of Getting it Wrong
Throughout their education, your child will have homework to do and they may struggle with it. A lot of parents are worried that they won’t be able to do enough.
Here’s our advice:
- Focus on your relationship with your child.
- Celebrate the small victories.
- Talk to your child and let them choose their favourite approach. Don’t do the work for them as this can take more time and is less helpful.
- Accept that they’ll make mistakes. Remember that everyone makes them.
- Accept your child’s limitations and be patient.
- Don’t hesitate to look for help from a private tutor, friends, or family members.
- Trust your child and what they’re capable of.
Throughout their schooling, your child will need help from you or somebody else and if you can’t help them, there is help out there for them.
If you or your child need help with homework or schoolwork, consider getting help from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on Superprof. There are tutors for academic support, homework help, and specific subjects all over the country and around the world.
Private tutorials are either taught face-to-face, online, or in groups and each type of tutoring comes with advantages and disadvantages so think carefully about which one is right for you and your budget before hiring a private tutor.
One-on-one tutorials are just between the student and the tutor and can be tailored to suit the student's preferred learning style. This makes these types of tutorials incredibly effective as every minute is spent working to help the student. However, they also tend to be the most expensive type of tutoring available as you'll be paying for all the extra time and effort the tutor puts into planning and adapting their lessons to the student.
As they don't have to travel to each tutorial, online tutors can afford to charge less than face-to-face tutors and they often do. While these types of tutorials mightn't be as effective for certain hands-on subjects, they're excellent for academic subjects, study skills, revision, and help with homework.
Group tutorials are an excellent choice for families on a tight budget. With several students attending each session, there won't be as many opportunities for the tutor to adapt the lessons to the individual, but the cost will be shared amongst everyone participating, which makes these tutorials cheaper per student per hour.