One important component of a good education
for children ages 6-13 is homework. In the revised edition of her classic
work "How to Help Your Child With Homework," Dr. Jeanne Shay Schumm of the
University of Miami's School of Education describes how homework has changed
in American education and the role parents should play in helping their
children. Identifying parents as "homework helpers," Schumm explains what
they should understand about three fundamental changes in homework: (1) a
greater awareness of the role of parents in the educational progress of
their children; (2) the evolving emphasis on instruction in early reading,
word recognition and reading comprehension; and (3) the maturation of
technology -- specifically computers -- in the home.
Why is homework still considered to be so important to a child's
education? According to Schumm, homework encourages children to practice
skills they haven't fully learned; it gives children opportunities to review
skills they might otherwise forget; it enriches and broadens a child's
knowledge; it teaches responsibility; and it allows for tasks that are too
time-consuming during school hours.
By following her guidelines and recommendations, parents will be able to
create a homework plan specific to their child's needs, establish a study
area, cope with the problems that can occur and help instill in their child
a love of learning.
Getting started, troubleshooting, reading words
In understanding that homework represents a two-way street between home
and school, it is important for parents to strike a balance between the
amount of homework for a child and how much assistance the child should
receive. There are several ways that parents can address potential problems
in the school-homework relationship. By determining the particular type of
intelligence exhibited by their child, parents can help keep track of their
assignments and prepare them for classroom tests. Parents should also
maintain a dialogue with the teacher and not hesitate to voice their
concerns about the homework assignments.
Since reading and reading comprehension is a cornerstone of learning,
parents can help raise their child's reading levels through exercises in
phonological awareness, letter recognition, phonics, word patterns and sight
words. Never underestimate the importance of reading aloud to a child;
according to Schumm, "Reading aloud to your child is the best way to
help your child learn to read."
Fluency, vocabulary, reading, spelling, writing, math, science, social
studies and foreign languages
These chapters contain some of the most useful information to parents
since they give them the option of developing a broad approach to homework
assistance or customizing a plan to improve performance in a certain
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Helping children improve their writing is a good example. The
book explains how parents can help their child increase handwriting
skills, printing skills or cursive writing skills.
Mathematics is another good example. The author shares her
insights into encouraging improvement in skills related to math
concepts, word problems and computations. She even offers
suggestions for making math fun for children to learn. One of the
most effective methods is to teach these skills through meaningful,
real-life experiences. These can include role-playing experiences
such as making a purchase at a store and counting the change,
opening a savings account at a bank, or giving the child their
allowance in coins, for practice in counting skills.
Assignments, projects, reports, papers, technology and game
Strengthening a child's skills and abilities in the different
subjects within a school curriculum better prepares the child for
homework assignments. Those assignments can take other forms beyond
repetitive exercises and can include special projects, papers or
reports. Planning ahead and making the child feel comfortable with
the project are key elements that parents should consider.
It's also important to remember that these projects may be a
prelude to preparation for an upcoming test in the classroom. Test
anxiety is a common problem among school-age children. Parents can
discourage panic or indifference at test time by occasionally having
their child complete their homework with a timer and without any
assistance to simulate the test-taking experience. Other ways to
alleviate stress include teaching the child how to take a brief
"relaxation break" or plan a special bonding moment or event with
the child on test day.
"How to Help Your Child With Homework" is an essential tool for
any parent who wants to help their child improve their learning
abilities or performance in school. In addition to the
aforementioned information, the book contains a clear explanation of
the role of home computers in homework and how to make the best use
of new technologies. There's also a list of valuable reproducible
forms -- assignment sheets, story study guides, cursive writing
practice samples, book report outlines, etc. -- as well as a
comprehensive index. One especially appealing feature of the book is
the "Help!" section in each chapter. This feature represents
hypothetical questions a homework helper might ask related to that
chapter and contains advice from the author.
Parents wanting to improve their child's performance in school or
better integrate themselves into the child's education should read
this important book.
[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public