The Homework Dilemma: How Much Should Parents Get Involved?
What can teachers do to help parents help their children with homework?
Just what kind of parental involvement -- and how much involvement -- truly helps children with their homework? The most useful stance parents can take, many experts agree, is to be somewhat but not overly involved in homework. The emphasis needs to be on parents' helping children do their homework themselves -- not on doing it for them.
In an Instructor magazine article "How to Make Parents Your Homework Partners," study-skills consultant Judy Dodge maintains that involving students in homework is largely the teacher's job, yet parents can help by "creating a home environment that's conducive to kids getting their homework done."
Children who spend more time on homework, on average, do better academically than children who don't, and the academic benefits of homework increase in the upper grades, according to Helping Your Child With Homework, a handbook by the Office of Education Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. The handbook offers ideas for helping children finish homework assignments successfully and answers questions that parents and people who care for elementary and junior high school students often ask about homework.
One of the Goals 2000 goals involves the parent/school relationship. The goal reads, "Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children." Teachers can pursue the goal, in part, by communicating to parents their reasons for assigning homework. For example, the handbook states, homework can help children to
- review and practice what they have learned;
- prepare for the next day's class;
- use resources, such as libraries and reference materials;
- investigate topics more fully than time allows in the classroom.
Parents can help children excel at homework by
- setting a regular time;
- choosing a place;
- removing distractions;
- having supplies and resources on hand;
- monitoring assignments; and
- providing guidance.
The handbook cautions against actually doing the homework for a child, but talking about the assignment so the child can figure out what needs to be done is OK. And reviewing a completed assignment with a child can also be helpful. The kind of help that works best depends, of course, partly on the child's age. Elementary school students who are doing homework for the first time may need more direct involvement than older students.
Specific methods have been developed for encouraging the optimal parental involvement in homework. TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork) Interactive Homework process was designed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and teachers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to meet parents' and teachers' needs, says the Phi Delta Kappa Research Bulletin. The September 1997 bulletin reported the effects of TIPS-Language Arts on middle-grade students' writing skills, language arts report card grades, and attitudes toward TIPS as well as parents' reactions to interactive homework.
TIPS interactive homework assignments involve students in demonstrating or discussing homework with a family member. Parents are asked to monitor, interact, and support their children. They are not required to read or direct the students' assignments because that is the students' responsibility. All TIPS homework has a section for home-to-school communication where parents indicate their interaction with the student about the homework.
The goals of the TIPS process are for
- parents to gain knowledge about their children's school work,
- students to gain mastery in academic subjects by enhancing school lessons at home, and
- teachers to have an understanding of the parental contribution to student learning.
Nearly all parents involved in the TIPS program said TIPS provided them with information about what their children were studying in school. About 90 percent of the parents wanted the school to continue TIPS the following year. More than 80 percent of the families liked the TIPS process (44 percent a lot; 36% a little).
TIPS activities were better than regular homework, according to 60 percent of the students who participated. About 70 percent wanted the school to use TIPS the next year.
According to Phi Delta Kappa Research Bulletin, more family involvement helped students' writing skills increase, even when prior writing skills were taken into account. And completing more TIPS assignments improved students' language arts grades on report cards, even after prior report card grades and attendance were taken into account.
Of the eight teachers involved, six liked the TIPS process and intended to go on using it without help or supplies from the researchers. Furthermore, seven of the eight teachers said TIPS "helps families see what their children are learning in class."
In "How to Make Parents Your Homework Partners," Judy Dodge suggests that teachers begin giving parent workshops to provide practical tips for "winning the homework battle." At the workshop, teachers should focus on three key study skills:
- Organizational skills -- Help put students in control of work and to feel sure that they can master what they need to learn and do. Parents can, for example, help students find a "steady study spot" with the materials they need at hand.
- Time-management skills -- Enable students to complete work without feeling too much pressure and to have free time. By working with students to set a definite study time, for example, parents can help with time management.
- Active study strategies -- Help students to achieve better outcomes from studying. Parents suggest, for instance, that students write questions they think will be on a test and then recite their answers out loud.
Article by Sharon Cromwell
Copyright © 1998 Education World
Homework—like yellow buses and lockers—is a hallmark of the American school system. On average, teachers assign third graders 30 minutes and seventh graders 70 minutes of homework every night. Parents who help their kids with their school assignments may save them some time and ensure they’re doing the work. But do moms and dads help or hinder their child’s progress at school if they offer too much help?
Parents—Put Those Pens Down!
Most parents want to do all they can to prime their kids for future success. Researchers from University of Texas at Austin and Duke University, however, discovered that once children start middle school, parental help with homework might lower test scores. The reason: parents might have forgotten about the topics their kids learn in school—or never really understood them in the first place.
“Parents tend to take the reins of how they’re going to help with homework without consulting the child,” says Keith Robinson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas and one of the researchers of the study. “So maybe parents could ask kids, ‘Is what I’m doing helping you?'”
On the other hand, some educators believe that children should complete their homework themselves. They say this will give children more independence, reduce homework-related arguments, and provide parents with more free time.
When Parental Help with Homework Is Helpful
There are still benefits for kids whose parents provide homework help. “It can, for example, provide opportunities for parents to see what their children are learning in school and help families communicate with their children and school staff,” according to The Department of Education. Parents can also set a regular time and place for assignments, limit distractions, take an interest in what their child is learning, and provide resources and supplies.
Other research suggests that kids spend more time on their homework when they receive help from their parents, particularly when it comes to math and social studies. Moreover, children consistently complete their homework when their parents are involved in their education.
How Much Help Is Too Much?
How parents help their children with homework is important. “Don’t complete your child’s assignments for them; ask them to think critically about how they can solve their problems,” says Project Appleseed, an organization that promotes public school improvement. “Feel free to re-explain concepts that they might have learned recently in school, but also encourage your children to look up information in their textbooks or solve a problem themselves.”
So, how involved should parents get? Should parents tell their kids the answer to a problem? Or let them work it out themselves? “Too much help can mean, in the short term, that the day’s lesson is not reinforced, which is the point of homework,” says Laureen Miles Brunelli, writing for The Spruce. “In the long term, if parents are overseeing homework too much, kids won’t learn the organizational skills they need. They can become disconnected from understanding their responsibilities when it comes to homework.” Still, a British study found that one in four parents actually do all of their child’s homework for them, believing that they simply have too much homework to handle.
Calling all parents! Do you help your child with their homework? Do you think parental help with homework influences test scores? Leave a comment below and share your views!