Lower school student reading a bookby Renee Wright, Lower School Director

How do I get my child to do homework without doing it for her? What should I do if my child is struggling with his homework? How do I motivate my child to do homework? Have you ever asked yourself these questions as a parent? If so, you are not alone. Most parents of school-age children have encountered homework challenges and struggles.

Many parents believe that their involvement in homework will make a positive difference. In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 85 percent of parents reported that they checked in with their child to see that homework had been completed. But does helping with homework impact school success? Most experts agree that it does, however, defining the right level of parental involvement is important.

In another study, researchers Erika A. Patall, Harris Cooper, and Jorgianne Civey Robinson found that the effects on parent involvement appear to strongly be influenced by four factors:

  • the nature of the homework assignment;
  • the involvement strategy used by the parent;
  • the child’s age and ability level; and
  • the time and resources in the home.

Homework assignments that are project-based and involve in-depth research, thought, and creativity enable parents to engage in meaningful discussions and enhance parent participation. In addition, when parents use strategies that support student independence and autonomy homework support is the most beneficial. Researchers also noted that age and ability influence the amount of help required by parents. Parents report spending more time helping their elementary age children than their secondary aged children. Parents of struggling students also spend more time helping with homework.

Lower School teachers at Mounds Park Academy participated in dedicated scholarly research on homework and established an agreed upon purpose and protocol for homework. They defined the purpose of homework as giving students the opportunity to engage in focused practice to further develop skills, extend lessons, encourage critical thinking, and develop good work habits. Homework, they determined, should also serve as a communication tool between the teacher and the family.

Under the current protocol, parents are encouraged to be less involved with their students’ actual homework tasks and more involved in communicating with the teacher—writing notes when students don’t complete work, asking for additional support, or documenting how much time their children spend on homework tasks. Teachers at MPA believe it is critically important, above all else, that homework does not add stress to family life, and they encourage parents to be open communicators and team up with them on the homework experience.

Students, teachers, and families share in the responsibility of homework, especially at the elementary school level. Parents should provide a routine and a home learning environment conducive to doing homework (examples include a quiet area away from TV, computers, etc.). They should offer support to students and participate in thoughtful conversations about homework, but not do the actual homework. Parents should notify the teacher when homework presents a problem or is taking longer than the time suggested. Parents should also check students’ folders and Schoology accounts on a regular basis to stay current on homework and grades.

Motivating students to do homework can be a challenge, with parents often experiencing high levels of stress. Rather than “making” your child do homework, focus instead on how you can make homework a more enjoyable experience for your child. Create a consistent homework schedule in your home. Allow students a break after school before starting homework; this break will improve motivation when it is homework time. Parents should also participate in intellectual activities during the specified homework time and keep distractions to a minimum. Reading a book rather than watching TV is a good way to model focus and brain work. Show appreciation for your child’s hard work once homework has been completed. Verbal praise or an agreed-upon reward goes a long way toward boosting motivation. Keeping homework a positive experience will motivate your child to complete homework and in the end help your child be a better, more successful student.

When asked what role they want their parents to play in their homework, students across all three divisions responded:

Second Grader: “I want my parents to stay close by and help me when I need help. My parents should not do my work for me.”
Third Grader: “My parents should be close by to help me with the hard stuff.”
Fourth Grader: “My parents should not do the work for me but should offer ideas I can build off of. They should also check my work to make sure it is correct before I turn it in.”
Seventh Grader: “My parents should urge me in establishing a homework habit and inspire me to be responsible and independent.”
Seventh Grader: “My parents should trust me to do my homework but intervene if my grades start to slip. They shouldn’t do my work for me even if I am falling behind.”
Senior: “I am fairly independent when it comes to my homework. I typically ask my parents to listen and, on some occasions, help me develop a schedule to get my work done. My expectation has definitely shifted since I was in Lower/Middle School.”

The responses from students support the research. Students want their parents to play a role in homework, however, as you know, the nature of that role changes as students mature. Students of all ages do not expect or want their parents to do their homework for them. They want their parents to trust them and see them as responsible, independent students who can manage their homework. It is clear that homework is a daily activity that takes time, thought, and energy from both students and parents. Given this investment it is important that homework be a positive, meaningful, low stress experience for the family.

If your family continues to struggle with this topic, be sure to reach out to your child’s teacher(s) and/or your division director. We are here to help.

Mounds Park Academy is proud to offer a balanced approach to homework in a rigorous, college-preparatory environment. If you would like to learn more, please request information today! We would love to get to know your family! 

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