The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 30, 2012

Homework help: Parents should get familiar with kids' assignments

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — If anything about homework has changed over the years, Kathy Spillman said that there’s simply more of it.

The assistant professor at Pittsburg State University, who teaches math and science to students in the school’s education department, remembers that when she was teaching children, she tried to provide enough time for homework to get done while school was still in session.

“It’s getting to be almost too much,” Spillman said. “By the time students are involved in activities, it’s sometimes difficult to get all that done. We used to have longer school days, too.”

That means students will likely have homework daily, Spillman said. Parents can help students with that load, but they should do it in a way where kids get the benefit of it.

The first step is keeping tabs on how much homework students can expect. Those expectations are usually set at the beginning of the school year, Spillman said.

Parents should stay involved with their kids and the amount of homework they have.

“They always need to ask if they have homework,” Spillman said. “If it becomes a problem, they can always contact the teacher so they can make sure they know if students have homework or not.”

From there, parents should develop a sense of whether they can best help their kids by getting involved or staying back. Some younger children who may be struggling with a subject will appreciate the help, while older students may rather do work on their own, Spillman said.

Whatever parents do, Spillman said, they should not do the work or give the answers.

“Some might say, ‘Here, let me do it,’ because they might be busy and not have the time to help,” Spillman said. “There is a balance there. As a parent, you want to look at it and make sure they are doing it OK.”

Tricky Subjects

Subjects have changed over the years. Math has become more advanced, science has progressed with updated theories and history keeps writing itself. Parents may be caught off guard by something their kids tackle, Spillman said.

But there are plenty of resources to help parents wade through the most difficult concepts.

“There is so much homework help on the Internet,” Spillman said. “You can go about anywhere for help.”

If a problem or question stumps all of you, Spillman said a brief note explaining the situation will usually satisfy even the toughest of teachers.

Other tips:

The U.S. Department of Education also offered the following tips for parents about helping students with homework: