Tips for parents helping with homework

South Bend, Ind. Homework battles can begin in the first grade and can last through the entire academic process.

Tricia Sloma has a look at how parents can help with homework, and when they should throw in the towel.

Eric Derr is in the 4th grade, traditionally, a heavy homework year. Just ask any parent who tries to help.

“Every week he's got a spelling contract, he usually has some math, and the spelling contract has to be done every night,” said Pamm Derr.

So how much is too much? Experts say there's a rule of thumb: 10 minutes per grade level. That means 10 minutes for a first grader but a 6th grader should have about 60 minutes of homework. And parents, if you're helping out, do the tough stuff first.

Kent Kolbow with Sylvan Learning Center tells parents that when they help kids understand their homework, be sure to use the terms that the teachers are using. A lot has changed since we were in school.

“Remember in math when we used borrowing and carrying?” Kolbow asks. “Now the word is regrouping. There's a lot of estimating. So when you're talking to the child, you need to make sure you're using the same terms. Otherwise they're going to tell you that's not the way my teacher tells me how to do it.”

And for the older kids, good luck. Sometimes it's just too hard for parents to help out

“I'm in 8th grade now, so I mean I'm going on to high school. It scares me that it’s going to be super hard there,” said Cassie Derr.

Cassie likes it when the teacher gives her time in class to do her homework. That way, if there's a question, the teacher can help.

“It's really nice to have that option, if you're really focused you can get it done in class. And then you don't have anything when you come home,” she added.

Parents, if you get stumped, use technology.

“You can Google this stuff online a lot of time there are sample problems about how you can do it...remember, you're not showing them the answer, you're showing them how to get the answer in a step by step process.”

And if it's still too tough, meet with the teacher first for advice. It may be time to look into tutoring or a learning center.

“Maybe you're spending a little money now but, trust me, the timing you save the frustration at home, the child's confidence, motivation in the classroom, starting to see those a's and b's. It's well worth the money.”

Especially if your evenings are filled with fights and tears.

“There are times at night that you do get frustrated with the homework, it's ok. Let's just put it on hold right now. Write a note to the teacher. Most teachers are parents and they understand.”

Because the ultimate goal is to help kids become successful learners....

“It does take some prodding, there's the occasional ‘I don't want to do my homework,’ but it gets done and they've done really well.”

So should kids do their homework right after school? Or take a break and do it later? Kolbow says every child is unique. Try to figure out what's best for your child and just keep it consistent.

If your kids need extra help, check to see if your school offers free tutoring. For a link to sylvan learning center and other after school help, just click on the Big Red Bar.

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