Homework – finally getting it done

homeworkDo you think homework struggles start in Junior High? I would suggest much earlier, when your job as a parent is to explain tasks, create a comfortable working environment and encourage your child to learn working hard and thinking for himself. As tasks become more complex each year, I decided (before it’s too late) to turn for answers to Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Tutor.com that provides online, on-demand tutoring.

How can you motivate your child to complete his homework?

The best way to motivate your child is to set expectations and then have a plan to carry them out. Let your child know you expect him to finish homework each day. Have a routine that is consistent and right for your child’s schedule and personality. If you have a high school student with hours of homework, let him take breaks—it’s fine to check Facebook or text with a friend for a few minutes and then get back on track. And you can break the “finish your homework” rule when your child has spent hours on homework, is exhausted and frustrated. Let him put the pencil down and get some sleep. You may want to contact the teacher and let them know your child put in the work, but simply couldn’t finish the assignment.

How much should a parent be involved in homework process? What’s the best approach?

If you are lucky enough to understand your child’s homework (50 percent of parents say they can’t help with homework), it’s tempting to help a bit too much. You start helping with one problem and all of sudden you’re doing it all. I follow the rule of one and done – help your child do one question and make sure they understand the underlying concept. Then let her finish the homework on her own. She’ll feel more success and you’ll know she really learned the material.

Are there certain common homework obstacles kids struggle with?

Tutor.com helps about 6,000 students every night and the problem we hear most is “I didn’t understand this in class.” Even the best teachers don’t always connect with every child, especially in classes of 20+ students. When a kid doesn’t understand the subject in class, the homework can be really frustrating. That’s why I always recommend that you get your child help early and make sure they understand what’s happening in class on a day-to-day so that they don’t fall behind.

Is there a perfect time or environment for homework?

No! Every child and every household is different. In my own home, my high school daughter plays sports and has other activities after school so homework starts after dinner. You have to find the right groove for your child. Some kids are happy to come home and open the books right away while others need to hang out and have a snack first. Just pick what’s right for your child and stick to that routine.

What’s the best way to establish a working relationship with your child’s teacher to discuss homework?

We have more than 3,000 tutors at Tutor.com and over 50% of them are teachers. They have given us great advice on this topic. Introduce yourself to the teacher at the beginning of the year either in-person or via email. Make sure you attend back-to-school night and your child’s parent-teacher conference. These touch points early in the year will help create a good relationship. Email is one of the best ways to stay in touch with teachers throughout the year.

Should homework completion be rewarded or treated as business as usual?

Homework is part of being a student just like brushing your teeth is part of taking care of your body. In my house, we treat it as business as usual. I want my daughter to take responsibility for her homework and have good study skills for college, but that doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate big wins. If she has been working for weeks on a paper or finishes a stressful exam, we’ll celebrate with a family dinner out. Other families may have a movie night, go out for ice cream or let their child download a few new apps.

When do you know you need a tutor?

If your child is asking for help with homework a few times a week, seems generally frustrated about school, and/or complains about a class or teacher, then it’s time to get help. Most parents wait until a bad report card comes home, but you’ll see these signs long before a report card is issued and the earlier you get help, the better. You don’t want your child to get so frustrated that he gets turned off a subject that he may be really great at with the right help.

What are some success stories of kids working with tutors via Tutor.com?

We have done more than 10 million tutoring and homework sessions so there are more than I can share here! One of my favorites is a young woman who first tried Tutor.com after failing a middle school math class. She took the class again and with Tutor.com’s help had the highest grade in the class. She went on to take college level calculus classes! We also help many students taking AP classes keep up with the tough and fast-paced curriculum. What we love best is that students tell us they are motivated and confident after they work with Tutor.com and 90 percent of students improve their grades.

How do you decide how much tutoring is required?

It depends on your child. What we love about online tutoring is that families get to choose how much time their child needs day-to-day and week-to-week. You don’t have to stick to a specific schedule. Some students may need to work with a tutor pretty regularly if they have fallen behind in a subject and need to master several concepts. Other kids just need help once in a while to stay on track. Check in with your child to see how they are doing on homework, quizzes and exams to ensure they are getting results from their tutoring.

Can you get your kids to like homework?

It’s a pretty universal truth that kids are not super excited about doing homework, but they do love success and that feeling of accomplishment. So while homework can be a drag, the reward of a great grade is worth it!
Do you struggle with homework or is it a breeze for your kids? Share your thoughts!

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