Between them , my two daughters have logged a total of 11 years in elementary school-and I've spent what feels like 100 years helping them with their homework. Sure, it starts off easy: trace a few letters, call Grandpa to find out about the old days. But before you know it, you've got a sixth-grader asking you to help her make a...vector graph? What the huh?
Your assignment through it all: To be the most supportive, resourceful parent you possibly can. That doesn't mean simply taking over and doing your child's homework for her-tempting as it may be at times-or leaving her to sink or swim (remember: she'll choose your nursing home someday). It means giving her all the tools she needs and knowing how best to help her over the inevitable humps, even if you don't have every solution right at your fingertips. Luckily, we've done our homework, too, and come up with the ultimate grade-by-grade survival guide! Read on for brilliant tips, tricks, and insider info from some of the country's most sought-after tutors, plus insights from the real-life teachers who hand out the assignments.
Kindergarten: H Is for Homework!
Don't be surprised if what happens in kindergarten doesn't stay in kindergarten. "We have a lot of activities going home. We're trying to show the children that what they're doing in class applies to life," explains Erin Reid, a kindergarten teacher at Horizon Community Learning Center, in Phoenix. Your child will need your help to finish his work, which will typically consist of a worksheet that's more like a game, and reading aloud. Set up a homework station with paper, scissors, glue, colored pencils, and washable markers. Using them will help improve his hand-eye coordination, and you'll keep the mess contained to a single area.
Barbara Walters Wannabe: You'll probably have to do all the reading-but pose questions to get your kid to read between the lines. "‘What do you think will happen?' or ‘Does Joey seem happy or scared?'" Reid recommends. Have him look closely at the illustrations and preceding sentences for clues.
Field-Trip Facilitator: Find tie-ins to what the class is studying. During a unit on birds, for example, take a walk to your nearest park, and try to spot cool ones.
Play Maker: At playtime, choose activities that informally reinforce things your child is doing in the classroom. Play a board game like Scrabble Jr. or Chutes and Ladders. "They teach kids how to take turns and can help them learn simple reading and math," Reid explains. If you're making a grocery list, ask your child to "write" one, too. "It doesn't matter if he can spell words or not-just have him pretend," Reid says. "It's more about getting practice holding a pencil."
•A TYPICAL NIGHT'S HOMEWORK: 0 TO 15 MINUTES
•BIG-PICTURE GOAL: ESTABLISHING GOOD STUDY HABITS
•SECRET-WEAPON WEBSITE: STARFALL.COM LETS KIDS PLAY FREE GAMES THAT TEACH PHONICS, SPELLING, AND MATH.
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