Originally posted on September 10, 2018, by Amanda Proietti, Academic Dean & Grade 4: English
As we are three weeks into the school year, parents have been gaining a sense of their child's homework expectations and the kinds of assignments they will be bringing home. Helping students with organizing and managing these assignments is something parents can certainly do, and we'd like to suggest some ways that you can that most effectively.
Primary School: In the primary school, homework is fairly limited. Whatever work is assigned is designed to allow for additional practice in areas that need repetition, such as math and spelling, and to allow students to develop the expectation of homework and a rhythm for completing it. Teachers generally want students to complete this work on their own as much as possible, and if they are experiencing any difficulty, parents should let teachers know.
Parents can help by asking to see completed work, making sure that all work returns to its proper folder and then to the backpack. Parents can also help by calling out spelling words and sharing their own tricks for remembering spelling. If your child needs some help with math, ask her to explain the problem and the process to you. That in itself can help illuminate the problem. Work a sample or similar problem with your child, step by step, and let your child then complete the assigned problem on his own, as much as possible. Help your child clarify what his confusion is, if he remains confused, so that he can ask the teacher a specific question the next day.
Upper School math and Latin: On the Douglass campus, students will have homework in math and Latin during the week. Again, these are the subjects that require the most repetition and daily practice, and even if your child claims that she has no homework, there is probably an expectation that she will study math and Latin.
Studying math usually means reworking problems done in class that day or working the sample problems from the text without looking at the solution first. This is the best math-studying strategy, and I hope you will encourage your child to use it. Another excellent practice is to have your child work as far as he or she can with a problem, and if he can’t quite solve it, have him write down what is stumping him there on the homework paper. Verbalizing the problem is very useful for the student and for the teacher, and your child will have a helpful starting place the next day in class—asking the question.
An excellent strategy for helping your child with languages is to have her teach you the language. Even if you have had Latin, let your child explain the concepts to you. We often don’t understand something until we teach it, so be your child’s student as often as you can. Help your child create flashcards and study lists and call out the spelling words. Your active participation will help.
Organization: Help your child with organization. Remember that we use a pouch system at the Douglass campus to help keep class materials together, so Latin materials should always go in the purple pouch, science in the green pouch, etc. Encourage that everything-in-its-place mentality at home. The younger they are, the less we encourage multi-tasking, so one pouch comes out at a time, finish the work, put everything back in its place, and into the backpack.
Help your child form the very helpful habit of making lists. At home, provide a white board—not too small, but not necessarily a large wall-mounted model. At the beginning of the weekend, go through your child’s agenda with him and write or have him write down all homework assignments. Then have him add all other obligations or expectations for the weekend, including chores, thank-you notes, sports events, piano practice—everything. Then work through the list. It is important that your child check off what has been completed or accomplished. Remember, the younger your child, the more you will need to verify that the work has been completed. “Show me your Blue Book. Yes, I see it’s complete. Into the pouch and into the backpack. Check.” You might have to do this for a while until your child can do it independently. Some will need this support through middle school. Some are independent in grammar school. Let’s work with what is rather than ought to be. If you have a child who needs homework support, please give it and gradually withdraw as you see independence developing.
This is what we mean by homework support—providing help with organization and verification and allowing yourself to be taught. Some other kinds of help are not so helpful. Fixing mistakes in a paper, for example, is not helpful because no learning happens when you do that. You can say “You have several spelling mistakes in your first two sentences,” or “I don’t really understand what you are trying to say in this paragraph—can you explain more clearly?” Those comments are helpful. And if, after you’ve made these comments, your child does not make all the corrections, back away. You can do only so much. Don’t do your child’s projects for her. Be restrained in the amount of advice or the number of ideas for writing assignments you give. Let your child feel ownership of all her work.
Some struggles with time management and organization are common and do not necessarily indicate a problem. These are skills we learn with practice and coaching. We encourage parents to help students cultivate productive work habits and to communicate with teachers (and encourage their children to do the same) when it seems that help from the teacher is needed. Every LCA teacher is happy to help students overcome obstacles to become the best students they can be.