How Can I Help My Child with Homework That I Don't Understand?

How Can I Help My Child with Homework That I Don't Understand?
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In this world of evolving education standards such as Common Core, parents and teachers are scrambling to keep up the pace. Schools are required to have the technology for online testing, coordinate with the national standards and prepare kids to make achievement gains on tests. This is a tall order, and one that presents new challenges for school districts. Parents feel challenged, as well.

Some adults have taken the common core practice tests and scored in the low 40 to 45 percent range, much to the alarm of parents and school patrons who hoped that parents could help their kids at home to prepare them for the new standards and tests.

Reinventing the Wheel

The new standards require knowledge of new math and literacy methods that are foreign to many parents. New math involves often “rethinking” the way math problems are worked and solved, introducing a new way of figuring traditional basic math problems.

This has opened a debate on whether too much change in method confuses children. However, kids seem to take to the new methods faster than adults do, which makes sense. We are pre-wired to learn tasks such as math calculations, reading and language skills at an early age. Adults, on the other hand, have already learned their skills and their brains may not be as likely to pick up on the new methods as easily.

Despite this, you can help your kids prepare for the new skills and tests, even with skills you don’t know.

  • Get copies of the national common core frameworks and standards from your local district. This will serve as a guideline for working with your kids.
  • Ask teachers for practice guides or scope and sequence charts of the skills that they will be covering, which align with the standards. The closer you can get to the time sequence that your child will be working on these skills, the more you will be able to help them prepare.
  • Practice basic skills. Some have the mistaken idea that the common core standards do not address basic skills, but rather only application level problems. This is actually not true, although more emphasis is on applying skills that you learn rather than only learning the basics. It is still highly beneficial to work on basic skills and practice these well with your kids, so that they will be able to accomplish the more difficult task of applying the skills to higher-level problems.
  • Teach thinking skills. Even if you do not understand all of the nuances of the new standards and skills, you can help your child master a great deal that will help them on the tests by learning analytical thinking that they can apply to all areas of their subject matter at school.
  • Some example exercises include analyzing, comparing, evaluating and reasoning skills. One example of analyzing could be to talk about the parts of a story separately as components, such as the plot, characters, setting and other story elements, and then discussing how each contributes to the story as a whole.
  • Reward kids for good homework and test grades. Schools today are supposed to prepare kids for the tests through alignment of the school standards with the homework assignments and tests they give on a regular basis. By reinforcing good work at home, you will set a pattern of expectation that may help them learn the skills they need to be successful on the tests.

Hang in There!

With the new Common Core standards come new challenges and frustrations for parents. Do not despair; school districts are often willing to help guide you in terms of how you can help teach thinking skills, review basics and apply common core standards in ways you may not have thought of. Contact your local school district to see how you can help your child succeed in the new common core era.