Homework—like yellow buses and lockers—is a hallmark of the American school system. On average, teachers assign third graders 30 minutes and seventh graders 70 minutes of homework every night. Parents who help their kids with their school assignments may save them some time and ensure they’re doing the work. But do moms and dads help or hinder their child’s progress at school if they offer too much help?
Parents—Put Those Pens Down!
Most parents want to do all they can to prime their kids for future success. Researchers from University of Texas at Austin and Duke University, however, discovered that once children start middle school, parental help with homework might lower test scores. The reason: parents might have forgotten about the topics their kids learn in school—or never really understood them in the first place.
“Parents tend to take the reins of how they’re going to help with homework without consulting the child,” says Keith Robinson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas and one of the researchers of the study. “So maybe parents could ask kids, ‘Is what I’m doing helping you?'”
On the other hand, some educators believe that children should complete their homework themselves. They say this will give children more independence, reduce homework-related arguments, and provide parents with more free time.
When Parental Help with Homework Is Helpful
There are still benefits for kids whose parents provide homework help. “It can, for example, provide opportunities for parents to see what their children are learning in school and help families communicate with their children and school staff,” according to The Department of Education. Parents can also set a regular time and place for assignments, limit distractions, take an interest in what their child is learning, and provide resources and supplies.
Other research suggests that kids spend more time on their homework when they receive help from their parents, particularly when it comes to math and social studies. Moreover, children consistently complete their homework when their parents are involved in their education.
How Much Help Is Too Much?
How parents help their children with homework is important. “Don’t complete your child’s assignments for them; ask them to think critically about how they can solve their problems,” says Project Appleseed, an organization that promotes public school improvement. “Feel free to re-explain concepts that they might have learned recently in school, but also encourage your children to look up information in their textbooks or solve a problem themselves.”
So, how involved should parents get? Should parents tell their kids the answer to a problem? Or let them work it out themselves? “Too much help can mean, in the short term, that the day’s lesson is not reinforced, which is the point of homework,” says Laureen Miles Brunelli, writing for The Spruce. “In the long term, if parents are overseeing homework too much, kids won’t learn the organizational skills they need. They can become disconnected from understanding their responsibilities when it comes to homework.” Still, a British study found that one in four parents actually do all of their child’s homework for them, believing that they simply have too much homework to handle.
Calling all parents! Do you help your child with their homework? Do you think parental help with homework influences test scores? Leave a comment below and share your views!