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Balancing Act: Too Much or Too Little Homework Help

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In previous school years, I believe I used to step over the bounds of offering too much homework help to one of my sons by giving him answers when I should have made him struggle through assignments. But this year, I have turned a corner and I am now telling him, more and more, "sorry I can't answer that for you. You are going to have to figure that out yourself."

So, the other night, when he asked for help on some algebra problems, I showed him some examples and made sure he understood the concepts. I then told him he had the tools to figure out the problems. When he solved a particularly difficult problem with no help from me, I said "see, you can do this yourself."

The smile on his face confirmed to me again that genuine achievement, not false praise, is what will motivate him to do better in math.

What ideas do you have for striking that balance between helping too much or not helping enough? I am still struggling with finding that balance.

5 Comments

Homework is only as good as its quality. If it is just a mindless excersise it will be perceived that way at home. Remeber that many of the homes it goes to will be those of parents who did not like school because of homework. So make it valuable when it is assigned. Quality and not quanity.

As the above comment suggests quality not quantity but also there needs to be a purpose - as long as the child knows what they are doing it for and how it relates to them in real life (making that connection is really important) they will be more motivated. Examples of concepts are great and in a familiar context even better and are a great way of supporting - there is a saying "I look and I see, I listen and I hear, I do and I learn" so your example was right on target!

A great person to google on motivation is John Joseph an Australian bloke who is well known for brain based learning, but one of his main messages is finding what motivates a learner in all contexts to eventually lead to their satisfaction and fulfilment - I won't go on but it's worth a look!

My kids are still in elementary school, so for the most part homework is a worthless waste of time. Only rarely is there any value is the work. By rarely I mean, occasionally in third grade and there is a part of my fifth grader's homework that is of value.

This means that my all of my kindergartener's and second grader's homework has been useeless for all of their school career. Over four years of my fifth grader's homework has been almost completely useless.

Most parents understand (not like, but understand) the need for busywork in the classroom. I fail to see any need for anyone to send busywork to my home.

So far, the most effective help I have given my kids on homework is to write a note on the homework that my daughter has already mastered the work, sign the homework, and ask the teacher to call me.

Sometimes our kids need to learn what is worth doing.

I agree with there needing to be that connection between the learner and the given assignment. Brain-based learning has proven that there needs to be a connection and "meaning" behind an assignment for there to be complete transfer and retention of knowledge.

This is a response to Jane. How are children to learn what is worth doing if the parents are making decisions for them? The professional thing to do is to make time to meet with the teacher and explain that your daughter needs more challenging work. Communication is the key to success even with homework.

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  • Nicole: This is a response to Jane. How are children to read more
  • Josh: I agree with there needing to be that connection between read more
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  • Lynne Horrobin: As the above comment suggests quality not quantity but also read more
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