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The Right Way to Help with Homework

For science class, Olivia had a month to make something creative using recyclables. She spent her time watching TV while her dad built a life-size prototype of the NASA space shuttle for her using egg crates, bubble wrap, and Chinese take-out boxes.

If Olivia's in first, second, or third grade, don't do her dirty work night after night. Give her the homework support she needs without enrolling yourself in the primary grades again. When you find your place in the homework equation, she'll find hers.

This balance is critical when the tasks assigned have due dates far in the future. Despite her moaning and writhing to the contrary, long-term assignments aren't impossible missions, especially if Olivia is performing at or above grade level in the second half of third grade. They are perfectly matched to her developing skills. With the rudiments of reading, spelling, handwriting, and composition now behind them, most third graders are ready to work on a project that demands the use of all these skills.

Handling Big Assignments
Long-term assignments teach the ability to maintain a lengthy and ever-developing thought process and complete appropriate tasks within an assigned time. Even first graders get a feel for extended tasks with homework books that cover a week's worth of assignments. Kindergarten kids get their first taste by taking home the class teddy bear on Friday and telling the class, on Monday, how the bear spent his weekend.

How much homework help is too much? If you find yourself complaining too often and too loudly about the time and nature of Olivia's homework assignments, chances are you're doing more than your share. If her teacher can see your sticky hands all over her assignments, and most teachers can see this while standing on one foot with both eyes closed, know you've broken the balance. If Olivia becomes disinterested or cantankerous about her nightly work, or she can't sort her ideas from her dad's ideas from her mom's ideas, you've stepped way over the line. "If parents and kids and teachers think it is too much, it probably is," says Mona S. Wineburg, Director of Teacher Education at American University in Washington, DC. Parents, however, do have a pivotal role in homework for students in grades one through three.


From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.

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