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Homework help

Experts say that parents should assist, but not do the work

Experts say that parents should assist, but not do the work

March 17, 2006|by JULIE GREENE

Parents play a key role in helping their children get their homework done, teachers say.

The key is helping, not doing.

"Too much help from parents really teaches the student that, when the going gets rough, someone else is going to be there to pick up the pieces. Give them independence and build confidence in what they're doing," says Judi Martz, a math teacher at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport.

There are plenty of things parents can do to help their kids with homework, but the line tends to get blurry when a child gets stuck.

Teachers recommend parents review a similar problem from the textbook or notes, or ask the child questions to help make sure the child understands the assignment.

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Parents shouldn't be doing science projects either.

Parents can help make sure the child picks an age-appropriate science project, suggest research sources and help construct the display - as long as it's not part of the project, says Rebecca Beecroft, a science teacher at Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown.

Several teachers suggest parents check with teachers to see what kind of help teachers want them to provide.

Also, find out how you can reach that teacher, such as e-mail or an after-hours phone number, in case the student is struggling.

There are a number of ways parents can help their children with homework:

· Set a time and place for homework.

Chris Atkins' two Boonsboro middle-schoolers are expected to start their homework when they get home from school.

"I find personally that if I gave them a break, they tended to get out of the study mode or school mode, and it was so hard for them to switch gears back," says Atkins, of Rohrersville. They often do their homework in their rooms without the distractions of a television or radio.

Roben Ryberg, PTA president at Boonsboro Middle School, has one son who does his homework in front of the television. While that seems unorthodox, she says it works for him - he's on the distinguished honor roll.

· Check whether there is homework and that it is done. Asking about homework ensures the child understands the assignment because they need to explain what they have to do, says April Crowl, whose job includes working with students and training teachers at Boonsboro High School.

Having their children explain what they've learned also helps students retain the information long-er, Crowl says.

How much monitoring and assistance a child needs depends on each child's age, skills and level of independence, says Karen Palmer, who works with small groups of students and trains teachers at Winter Street Elementary School. Younger children aren't as independent and might want a parent nearby in case questions or problems arise.

Washington County Public Schools students, at least through the seventh grade, should take home a planner that contains their homework assignments each day, says Sabrina Blair, a science teacher at Boonsboro Middle School.

Some teachers have Web sites with calendars that list upcoming assignments and quizzes, and many county public schools have a homework hot line that lists assignments.

· Make sure they have the needed resources. This could include index cards for taking notes, a trip to the library or a field trip for research, Martz says.

Parents also can check to make sure students using the Internet are using valid sources, Beecroft says.

· Help them when they're stuck, but don't do the homework.

When Boonsboro resident Cindy Damewood's son gets stuck on a math problem, she reviews a similar problem from the textbook with him.

Ryberg says her children will call or instant-message a friend for help when they reach a roadblock. Sometimes they get together as a study group. Ryberg says she trusts her children are doing their own homework based on their grades.

Atkins will ask her child about the assignment or reword a question until it's understood.

Some teachers, like Blair, offer after-school help.

If students are struggling or taking longer than they should to complete an assignment, parents should let the teacher know.

Palmer says the general rule for how much homework a student has is 10 minutes per grade level, including all subjects, meaning roughly two hours of homework for seniors.

More ways to help

In addition to parents and teachers, another resource to help students with their homework is the Washington County Free Library.

The library provides access to two interactive online homework help programs through its Web site at www.washcolibrary.org.

Tutor.com typically provides a 20-minute session with a tutor who has a college degree, says Jeff Ridgeway, assistant children's librarian.

Assistance is provided through a live chat room. There is a white board so students can draw a math problem and students can send a tutor an essay for feedback.

At the end of the session, the student evaluates the tutor.

From the library's home page, go under the Kids menu to "Just For Kids" and click on "Homework." Then click on "Tutor.com" and type in your library card number.

Select English or Spanish language and a grade level - 4 through 12 or college intro - and then a subject - math, science, social studies or English.

The service is available from 2 p.m. to midnight every day.

Ask Us Now! provides a live session with a librarian in Maryland who fields questions and provides research guidance.

From the library's home page, go under the Teens menu to "Homework Help." Click on "Live Assistance" and read the instructions.

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