Homework Tips

How to Help Your High School Student Get it All Done!

Homework for students in high school can be an intellectual and emotional challenge for both parents and kids.

With advances in technology, science and math, some homework can intellectually overwhelm even baby-boomer college graduates. And what about the student who simply won't do homework and doesn't care about grades? How can parents motivate their children to succeed in high school and develop the organizational skills necessary for the challenging work of college and employment?

The foundation for good study skills should be set during your child's elementary school years. Together, parents and teachers should have taught children the value of completing homework as assigned and the importance of prioritizing homework over extracurricular activities. By age 12, students have the potential of knowing the value of organizing their work and being self-motivated to earn the highest grades possible for their individual ability.

But sometimes kids hit a wall in middle or high school. Socializing, kids say, is more important than schoolwork - and usually a lot more fun. It's not too late for parent intervention. Using assertive communication and specific motivation techniques, parents can help teens get their homework done and still have time for fun.

Communicating positively with teens is essential if they are to hear your message. Parents should be listeners first - and not do all the talking! Learn to ask open-ended questions and never set your child up for lying.

If you already know that she didn't turn in homework, tell her you know that her homework wasn't turned in and say, "I just want to know what is going on." You have probably given Parenting Lecture 101 on homework a million times already. Instead of giving it again, tell her you are concerned and ask how you can help her. Don't place blame or criticize your child for failing to complete a homework assignment.

Students should have a homework routine - including a quiet, well-lit, distraction-free place to study, usually near the computer (if you have one) and well supplied with paper, pencils, calculators and dictionaries. In addition, you should be sure that the chair, desk and computer are ergonomically correct to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Many teens like to study with music but parents should have some say as to volume. The TV should never be on when your teenager is studying. And, many experts say, phone privileges should be rescinded during homework time. Students in grades 7 through 12 should determine their own daily homework time slot; however, educators advise that studying should be a high priority and should not be scheduled late every night. According to the U.S. Department of Education, students in grades 7 through 9 can expect to spend up to two hours on homework each day; high school students often need to study more than two hours each day.

Parents should assist their teens with homework whenever possible by reviewing work, but parents should not actually do the work. The best way to help is by stimulating additional thought and understanding and by discussing the teen's questions.

Parents should check in daily with kids to discuss their day at school. Allow at least 10 minutes to talk, focusing on the positive and asking about school projects, grades and activities. But be reasonable - never try to talk about grades or homework five minutes before your teen's soccer game!

Homework issues between parent and child can cause much conflict. Generally, kids need help with organization. Parents should try to problem-solve with their child and assess if there might be any learning problems going on.

If your teenager is struggling with her homework, you should talk with teachers to develop a homework checklist. Phone calls and progress reports from the teacher can keep both parents and students aware of expectations and achievement. If a conference with teachers is necessary, arrange it after school hours, when all your child's friends are not around.

There are several strategies that may help your child with homework. Parental praise for effort - not just correctness - is important. Letting your child know that you respect the time and effort put forth is powerful motivation for kids to continue doing their best work. Parents can also help their children be aware of the kinds of projects they enjoy, encouraging them to choose those assignments, such as a written report or a multimedia project, when they are given a choice.

Encourage your child to participate in study groups with friends. Research shows that children who form study groups achieve at a much higher level than children who always study alone.

For students who consistently hand in homework late or not at all, privileges should be denied. Parents often don't realize how much power they have. Look around at your "power" - the keys to the car, phone privileges, even the TV. Consequences should be immediate and for short periods of time. Don't strip your child of all privileges until the next report card; that destroys all motivation. Terminating involvement in sports or after-school clubs, though, is not always a good idea, because those activities can teach self-discipline and social skills.

Most teens will play hooky at least once. But cutting individual classes or entire days is becoming a serious educational issue; some 150,000 New York teens are absent every school day, for example. School officials have a difficult time determining whether these absences are legal, but the estimate is that 10 percent of those absences is due to cutting.

If your child is cutting school repeatedly, you need to talk to her immediately and without anger. Students who have never before had unexcused absences may be in emotional crisis or may be in the initial stages of drug and alcohol use. You should contact student services personnel to discuss your child's performance and any changes in behavior. The school will make every effort to work collaboratively with you and your student to assess the situation and promote positive communication as well as recommendations for formal intervention. If this behavior continues, student services can provide referrals for outside professional counseling to address problem behaviors.

Working in partnership with teachers is vital but difficult during the intermediate and secondary school years. Most kids don't want their parents anywhere near school, let alone having conferences with teachers on a regular basis.

Implementation of the Parent Portal will make it simple to keep tabs on your student's academic performance in all classes; however if you need to contact a teacher directly you should not hesitate to do so.  Parents should utilize the school website to get in touch with teachers. If you cannot connect with teachers via the website, contact your student's school counselor for assistance. Early intervention when your child needs help is essential to getting him back on track.

The majority of teachers are available for extra help before or after school. But it is up to the student and/or parent to request and schedule that help. If the school counselor and teachers continue to be concerned with your child's progress, it may be helpful if you team - often with your teenager - to plan support strategies, work to improve organizational skills and discuss whether a tutor is necessary.