Help with Homework

Dr. Sam Goldstein

The amount of assistance your child requires with homework will be determined by his/her age and level of ability. Elementary school students, as well as those with learning problems will require more of your time, assistance, and support than secondary students. Your assistance also depends on whether the homework assignments represent practicing a skill already mastered by your child or developing and mastering a new skill. The later will take more time and involvement on your part.

Most parents feel quite capable of providing assistance when the goal of homework is to practice previously learned information. For example, using flash cards and helping children develop a sreading vocabulary represents such an activity. This procedure typically involves having your child write individual reading words on separate index cards. New words are added as your child masters the existing set.

In contrast, many parents feel less capable assisting their child when new skills or problem solving exercises have been assigned. When acquiring new information is the object of a homework lesson, it may be important for you to ask questions about the materials to summarize for your child any past strengths in that area and to ask your child as well as his or her teacher how you can best be of assistance.

It is also likely that you will feel more competent helping your child with certain types of homework tasks. For example, fathers often feel more comfortable helping with math and mothers with language arts. When both parents are available, we advise that both assist with homework. If the child has considerable difficulty with a subject area, tutors can be very helpful.

This column is excerpted and condensed from, Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide for Solving Common Homework Problems by Sydney S. Zentall, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. (1999, Specialty Press, Inc.).