Helping Homework Help

Homework is a learning tool. Students may need to be guided through one, two, ten, or twenty practice problems before they understand that they are learning; but in my experience, once they can do two or three problems without guidance, they are ready to move on. When they are asked to continue doing the same few types of problems, over and over again, they often become bored. They may fail to recognize the distinction between being bored by something and being bad at something, and so decide they are bad at a subject they have become bored with.

Homework

Homework is not a teaching tool. Students need guidance before they are ready to work on their own. Giving them homework when they have not been taught how to do it, or without first leading them through similar problems, causes frustration when they are then told to do the problems on their own. If this scenario happens often, the student may become convinced that they are stupid, or bad at the subject.

Boredom and frustration are the two most common obstacles to learning I encounter as a tutor, and they often go hand-in-hand. Bored students may tune out the teacher, and then miss something important for future homework or classes; then, when they discover that they haven’t learned something, they become frustrated. If a student is already confused or frustrated, they might be unable to follow what the teacher is saying, and so become bored.

The problems around homework, then, are twofold. On the one hand, the amount of homework assigned generally far exceeds the amount needed to reinforce the topic, causing boredom. On the other hand, the student often does not have a full working understanding of part or all of the assignment, causing frustration. In both cases, the student often decides they are bad at the subject.

Homework2Once students have adopted the mindset that they are bad at a subject, it can form a mental block that is difficult to move past alone. Parents and tutors can help a student work past that mindset and set reasonable self-expectations. They can also fill the gaps, taking students through practice problems until they are ready to move on. The one-on-one support provided helps build positive relationships as well, giving the individual attention needed to keep a student on track and encouraging student success instead of tearing down self-esteem.

Once students have adopted the mindset that they are bad at a subject, it can form a mental block that is difficult to move past alone. Parents and tutors can help a student work past that mindset and set reasonable self-expectations. They can also fill the gaps, taking students through practice problems until they are ready to move on. The one-on-one support provided helps build positive relationships as well, giving the individual attention needed to keep a student on track and encouraging student success instead of tearing down self-esteem.

An important note: don’t blame the teacher for setting too much homework. They may not have a choice in the curriculum they use or the pace they set. If you’re concerned, talk to the teacher and see how you, the parent, can work with the teacher to support your student. Parents and teachers – and tutors – should be part of a team, and good team members work together.

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About EcoScienceGirl

Professionally, I am the Program Director for GHF Online, and a science instructor for the same. I also run a private tutoring business, Exceeds Expectations Learning. I received my Master's of Environmental Studies from Evergreen in 2016, after receiving my B.Sc. from Southern Oregon University in Environmental Studies & Biology. Eventually I would like to go back to school for either a PhD or JD, and focus my career on climate justice. Personally, I am a young adult who is fascinated with the environment, loves to read and write, and adores all animals (especially cats). In general, I do a lot of climate change activism, and I'm passionate about social and environmental justice. If possible, I would also like to save the world from humanity.
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