How to Help With Homework

Q: My fifth-grader has never found school to be easy. In the past, he has kept his head above water because I have worked a lot with him. This year, my son’s teacher doesn’t want parents to help with homework. He can’t always handle it on his own, so I’ve had to explain some of the work to him. My son was so afraid that the teacher would think that I’m helping him with his homework that he asked me to write a note. The teacher did not believe the note. Why does she want to stop parents from helping their kids?

A: The question always is: How much parental help with homework is appropriate? Apparently, this teacher thinks none — definitely not a typical answer. The teacher also seems to think that you are providing too much help. You, on the other hand, think your son needs the help you are giving.

Before you go talk to the teacher about exactly what your role should be in helping your child, you need to be aware that there is such a thing as too much parental help with homework. It can rob children of learning how to learn on their own. It can make children feel stupid — incapable of doing the work. It can make children too dependent on parental help.

An active teaching role for parents is most appropriate in the early grades for students experiencing difficulty. On the other hand, we fully realize that some help from you might be absolutely essential in helping your son succeed in school.

Right now, your son is caught in the middle between you and the teacher. This is a bad place for him to be. You need to explain to the teacher why your son needs some explanation in order to do homework assignments. And she needs to explain why she doesn’t want you or other parents to help their children with homework.

Unfortunately, you might not have an easy meeting with this teacher, as the teacher did not believe your note. You might wish to have another person present at this meeting so both you and the teacher can have a successful exchange of views and reach the best decision for your son. It is important to establish if your son needs extra help and who will provide it.