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The Right Way to Help with Homework

The Adult Role in Homework

  • Act as point man. Don't make it obvious, but hover nearby when Olivia does her homework. If she likes working at the kitchen table, for example, sit at the other end and write bills or work at your computer. This puts you in a prime position to watch how she paces herself, how she plans her work, and what kinds of problems make her restless and edgy. Note that if she can accurately explain her task and engage with her work comfortably for a short period of time, about ten minutes, she doesn't need help.

  • Be proactive. To update her teacher about negative homework patterns you see forming and especially before the next long-term assignment, schedule a conference. "Teachers are less apt to be defensive when parents address problems as they're forming or before they happen," says Wineburg.

  • Come clean. Parents get better homework grades from teachers when they admit they were the ones who made that refrigerator box elephant with the Clorox bottle legs. Admit it, and then be specific about which tasks you felt Olivia was incapable of doing. If, for example, you drew the state of Ohio on poster paper because hers was the size of a postage stamp, admit it, and then discuss ways to teach Olivia size and proportion. If you put the teacher in the teaching position, you've won an advocate for your child, and you.

  • Set a good example. Obviously, you don't want to send the message to Olivia that it's okay to take credit for work performed by others (namely, you). Subtle patterns about honesty and accountability are being shaped here.


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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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