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.
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.