Got Any Homework?

    “Got Any Homework?” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 66–67

    “Got Any Homework?”

    “Hey, Mom/Dad, can you help me with my homework?” Sometimes these innocent words make parents around the world cringe inwardly. Too often they are completely bewildered about how they can best help their children study more, or better, or study at all.

    In my twenty-two years of teaching, I have discovered that children learn in many ways. Following are some suggestions of ways parents can help their children study more effectively.

    Senses. Children learn through their senses, so use as many as possible in getting a fact or two into Junior’s head. Have him write down what he has learned in big letters; have him say each letter and/or word as he writes it; then let him trace the writing with his finger. As he says the words, he is “tasting” them; when he writes them, he is using his sense of touch. His eyes look while his ears hear what he says.

    Repetition. Up to a point, repetition of a fact or concept will help your child learn. But the brain does tire, and subtle signs (restlessness, fidgeting and looking away, deciding she is hungry) will let you know when she needs to work on something else. Switch to some other activity, and then come back to the learning. Five two-minute learning activities may do more good than one ten-minute session.

    Role. Teachers who use older students to teach younger ones know who learns the most—the one teaching. So let your child teach you the lesson. Play the part of a fairly slow learner; let Junior work to get the facts to you. Ply him with a host of questions: “Why is that number there?” “How do you remember what that means?” “How do you decide which … ?” “How do you know what to … ?”

    Timing. If you can catch your child for some first-rate help while she’s poised between one activity and the next, it can pay off in productive learning. Give her a choice: “Would you rather help me clean up the kitchen, or shall we work on math for a while?” A reward for a difficult job well done might be in order, also, but use this only for special occasions: “Let’s learn to spell these words, and then we’ll get a cookie.”

    Bulletin Boards. Hang a bulletin board somewhere in your home and put your child’s best work—especially his afterhours work—up for all to see, with some parental compliments tacked on. Show everyone’s work in turn. If one child makes great progress, give him top billing.

    Enthusiasm. Your attitude toward learning is your child’s best friend—or worst enemy. If, to you, every fact and concept learned is a triumph to be savored, she will want to improve and share her victory with you. But if you have the feeling that her studying is useless, that you don’t really want to be bothered with helping her, your child will pick this up, too. Be sure that you are enthusiastic about her learning before you sit down with her.

    These principles may seem simple—but try them. You and your child may get some surprising results!—Elisabeth J. Hall, Pleasant Grove, Utah