After a peaceful summer, parents and children often dread the approaching school year and its seemingly inevitable homework wars. These conflicts arise when students are overwhelmed by academic demands and their parents function as taskmasters.
However, in contrast to current assumptions, the latest findings in the fields of education, psychology and neuroscience clearly show that the best way for parents to help their children succeed in school is to become highly involved.
According to Daniel Franklin, PhD, an educational psychologist and board certified educational therapist who has worked with families for over 25 years, "The best way to prevent homework wars is for parents to become active collaborators, not task masters. Parents need to give themselves permission to help their children in an effective, empathetic and collaborative manner."
Franklin bases his relationship- and strength-based approach on both well-established learning theory and recent findings that show the brain is a social organ and that children learn best in a highly collaborative one-on-one dynamic with an adult.
For example, Benjamin Bloom, one of the nation's leading education researchers, found that students who receive one-on-one support significantly outperform those who only receive traditional classroom instruction.
Franklin teaches parents that collaborating is not only ethical, but also essential for children who struggle in school. And, there is no better time than now to change their approach. "Homework is something to do with your children, not something you make your children do. The start of the school year is one of the best times to provide extra support."
He offers these tips to help students start strong and finish ahead:
- Discuss the benefits of help
- The first step is for parents to have a frank discussion with their children about why getting school help is valuable and the best means for success. Children are receptive to the idea that parents will be teammates, working together to make decisions about what, how and when tasks will be completed.
- Be enthusiastic
- Children model their parents. When parents are excited about learning, children will likely follow. Parents should find ways to be enthusiastic and interested in everything their children are learning, even the mundane.
- Get informed
- Parents succeed as collaborators when they take responsibility to fully understand what their children are expected to know. Parents should frequently check their children's school websites for daily homework assignments and information, and contact teachers whenever needed.
- Read and explain
- When children are still learning to read, it is very difficult for them to learn from reading. The most efficient way to help them understand concepts is for parents to read the written material themselves and then explain it. Diagrams, illustrations, maps and other visual aids are helpful.
- Actively help children study for tests
- Parents should help their children develop effective study materials for each test. When parents insist that students do this on their own, it diminishes the small reserve of physical and mental energy children have left at the end of the day.
- Be the organizer
- Parents should organize their children's backpacks, binders and study areas. For example, create a wall calendar exclusively for school-related matters, such as assignment due dates, tests and project deadlines. Parents should also give their children a sense of timeline, such as how many weeks are in each quarter or semester and when exams are held.