back to school
When helping your elementary-school student with homework, it’s important to be prepared. Keep reading to learn four ways you can help your child get the most out of this educational experience.
1. Show—don’t tell
It can be tempting, particularly with younger students who are struggling, to give away answers when helping with homework. You don’t have to be a teacher to know that, in the long run, your child isn’t learning the material with this approach. Think of creative ways to help her find the answer she is looking for. Discuss a scenario that may apply to the problem at hand, use a household object to illustrate how to reach the answer, or have your child describe how she thinks the problem should be solved.
2. Ask questions
Another important tip to help students find answers is to constantly ask them encouraging questions. There are many ways you can help children reach the correct answer without giving it away. Sometimes, simply hearing the problem phrased in another way can help a student refocus and reach the answer. Prompting questions such as “What does this problem remind you of?” or “Have you seen any other questions like this one?” can also help your child remember examples given to him in class.
3. Disconnect from electronics
In today’s society, electronics are becoming an increasingly present part of students’ lives. However, if it isn’t necessary to your student completing her homework, an electronic device should not be a part of homework time. Electronics can be an obvious distraction to your child’s homework, and this can prevent her from fully processing information. Your child might not be the biggest fan of the no-electronics rule, so best practices include limiting your own electronics use when working with her, and incentivizing time without electronics with rewards.
4. Take occasional breaks
The electronics ban doesn’t need to last from the moment your child gets home from school to when he finishes every last bit of homework. Set reasonable expectations by letting him take occasional breaks. For younger students, these breaks will occur naturally as they lose interest or motivation to keep working. When this happens, take a moment together to relax and reset. For older students, schedule break time together. Breaks can come after completing homework for one subject or on a time-based schedule—whichever makes the most sense for your child. During this time, let him eat a snack, play on his electronics, or spend some time outside.
While helping your child with homework can seem like an overwhelming task, it doesn’t need to be. Supporting him comes in many forms, and not all of them require you to be an incredible teacher. By acknowledging that the work he is doing is valuable, you can help validate the time and effort he puts into completing homework assignments. With plenty of prompting questions and an occasional break or two, you and your child will be on your way to success in no time at all!
Samhitha Krishnan is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
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As summer comes to a close, both you and your child are sure to experience a range of feelings about the start of school—a possible mixture of anxiety, excitement, relief, and stress. So how do you go about handling this change? Here are five tips for successfully tackling the back-to-school transition.
1. Get organized
One of the most entertaining (and practical!) back-to-school tasks is school-supply shopping. Reference the supply list provided by your student’s school, and check if you have any materials from previous years that still have some life in them. Then, involve your child in picking colorful folders, pencils, and so on that are required and fit in your budget. Don’t forget about a calendar—while your student will have a planner (often supplied by the school), choose a way to display family and school events to keep the entire family in the know. Lastly, check to see that your child’s student records and paperwork are up-to-date.
2. Ease back into a schedule
If you’re like most families, your child’s bedtime routine and daily schedule have relaxed over the summer. Several weeks or a week before school starts, have your student begin going to sleep and waking up earlier so he gets used to an early wake-up time. Try 10 minutes earlier at a time, for example, so the shift doesn’t feel too jarring. Plan a morning routine together so your child knows what to expect. (Who will get breakfast ready? Will an alarm wake him up? Who is responsible for lunch?)
3. Discuss and work through anxiety
Going back to school can be stressful for a number of reasons, whether your child is going to a new school or simply a new grade. Talk with her about any worries she might have, encouraging her to discuss with siblings, cousins, or friends if she’d rather talk to someone her own age. Discuss any new procedures or situations she might find herself in, like how to use a locker or what to do if she can’t find a classroom. This is a great time for role playing!
4. Prioritize healthy meals and snacks
Summer can be full of treats, like ice cream every night or snacks any time of day. Ease your family into a healthier eating pattern before the school year begins. You might try swapping out the ice cream, for example, with a healthier treat like a fruit Popsicle. You can also plan regular mealtimes in lieu of a relaxed schedule. Anticipate times when it’s easy to make an unhealthy choice, like during the before-school rush or after school when your child comes home hungry. Healthy eating will help your student be more alert, with the ability to perform better at school.
5. Visit your child’s school
Contact the school to see if you and your child might be able to visit before school is in session, as this can help relieve some anxiety about the transition. Familiarize yourselves with the school building (if it’s a new one), the classrooms, gym, and cafeteria. This is also a great way to get a bit of face time with a new teacher (and/or principal) and to map out any confusing routes if your student moves between classes.
Try the above tips while savoring the last moments of summer, whether that means going on family trips or hanging out at home with neighbors. As the season ends, don’t forget to prioritize staying active and spending time together before your child goes back to school.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
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“Some of the best memories are made in flip-flops,” says writer Kellie Elmore. But, sadly, all good things—even summer--must end. Fall is hinting at its arrival, and already it’s back to school.
As your kids swap their flip-flops for new school shoes and you begin to reinstate bedtimes, try putting daily reading back into your routine. These ideas will not only help beginning readers get their heads back in the game, but they’ll also help you continue to make great memories—with or without flip-flops.
- Everybody loves an audience—especially a furry one. Have your kids read aloud to pets, or even to a captive audience of stuffed animals.
- Let your child help you make a special reading spot—a cozy reading nook where he or she can settle in and read without distractions. Try draping a sheet over two chairs and adding some pillows to the floor.
- Declare it Laugh-a-Lot Day. Dig out the joke books and take turns reading jokes to each other. Use funny voices, or read while holding your nose. Bring out the comic books, and pore over the Sunday newspaper “funnies” together.
- Read aloud together. Take turns reading sentences, or pages.
- Create a reader’s theater. Assign yourself a character. Your child reads the narration, and you read the dialogue. Enlist the help of older siblings if other character voices are needed.
- Use technology to make reading fun. Record or video your child reading a story, encouraging the making of sound effects. Then watch him or her enjoy hearing it or watching it played back. For even more positive reinforcement, share the recording with an appreciative relative.
- Compose the beginning of a story, and let your child make up an ending for it. Add the child’s ending, your author bylines, and a title your child invents. Then sit back and let your child read the whole story back to you.
- For kids who find it hard to sit still, embed some reading practice into active games. Use sidewalk chalk to write sight words on a hopscotch board. Each time your child hops on a word, he or she reads it. Similarly, make a word version of Twister.
- Create a little suspense. Choose a few library books you think your child would like. Wrap each one in a brown paper bag, and write one sentence on each bag that hints at what the book’s about. At various times during the day or week, let your child choose a book. Have fun with the element of surprise.
- Instead of reading a bedtime story to your children when you tuck them in, let them tuck YOU in and read a story to you.
- Extend bedtime by 20–30 minutes—on the condition that your child use the time for reading. For added fun, darken the room and read by flashlight.
Christine French Cully is the editor in chief of Highlights for Children, Inc., where she is responsible for shaping the editorial direction of all the magazines, online content and products the company develops for children and their families. She plays a strategic, ongoing role in the development of the Highlights vision and brand across all markets and channels/around the globe. Cully, a mother of two, resides in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.