Parents Helping Children
A Vital Step in Their Development!!

Questions about parents helping children learn, is one that I'm very frequently asked.

I'm sure you have experienced times when a parent has asked you "How can I help my child ... be a better reader, be better in math, be a better friend...? and so on.

My heart goes out to them, wanting their child to be the best they can be. (I'm not talking about over-achieving parents who stress out their children by making very difficult and sometimes unreasonable demands).

Sometimes these "parents helping children" conversations occur in September - during "Curriculum Night" or "Meet the Teacher Night" or the "School BBQ". But, more often, they take place during a parent teacher conference.

Getting to know your students well is very important in being able to answer those "parents helping children" type questions. To that end, here are some questions you should ask when you speak to the parent(s):

1. Ask the parents what their expectations are of you.

2. Find out what the parents' goals are for their child, both personal and academic ones.

3. Inquire what their child is like at home. Does their child do their homework independently or does he/she continually ask for help or even just give up frequently, saying they can't do it?

4. Find out where their child does his/her homework? Is it in a quiet place with no distractions or in front of the TV, listening to music, or while on the phone talking to friends or on the computer.

5. Ask if the child feels comfortable asking for help or feels ashamed, embarrassed or "stupid".

Once you have a good understanding of your student's home habits, you'll be in a much better position to offer some suggestions when parents ask how they can help with math homework, give their child reading homework help or ask other "parents helping children" related questions.

Here are some general tips:

1. You need to be diplomatic and really watch your wording when you speak to parents. You don't want to put them on the defensive. You want to exhibit a sincere and caring concern and of course be professional.

2. I always insist that the child have some "down" time when they get home. They have been at school for 5 hours, concentrating on their work. Make sure they have a snack, watch TV, play outside, etc., before starting their homework. (There are exceptions of course - perhaps the child is involved in an activity, - hockey, piano lessons,etc. and needs to complete their work before taking part in the activity).

3. All students need a good night's sleep. Make sure the parents enforce that.

4. If financially possible, their child should have some essential school supplies at home to complete homework, projects and the like; for instance, have pencils, pens, eraser, ruler, scissors, markers, highlighters, coloured pencils, 8 1/2 x 11 blank construction paper and tape,etc., available at home.

All these supplies can be bought anywhere. The dollar stores have great deals. (Depending on the area where I taught, I sometimes gave out certain supplies if the parents couldn't afford to buy them.

5. Always let the parents know that you are there for them and their child. It's a partnership - both you and the parents are working towards a wonderful and successful year for their child, your student.

As I've mentioned before, parent teacher communication is vital! When teacher and parents work together helping students learn, then students are on their way to becoming confident, assertive and successful individuals.

Be sure to read my page on homework help for kids and you'll get more of my strategies on helping parents help their children with their homework.

As I always tell both parents and students, just "follow the yellow brick road" (and you will find your pot of gold).

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