It's the beginning of the school year, so get your pencils sharpened. What do research studies say about how parents should help with homework?...
Studies of high achieving students show that their parents are often much more involved talking to their children about and helping or finding help for homework. 'School Preparation' correlates well with a high grade point average, college attendance, regardless of socioeconomic status.
- High, but realistic expectations of children correlated with high achievement. On the flipside, this meant that parents pessimistic about their children's futures were more likely to have low-achieving children.
- Best parent practices were parents who directly asked about homework, answered questions or helped checked work, or found a sibling or other family member to help.
- Parents of high achieving students were more likely to have structured time for homework and some variation of "grandma's rules" - finish your homework before playing or watching TV.
- Parent help with homework could be valuable for helping clarify understanding or setting a standard for completion. Some students are more likely to ask parents than teachers when they are lost in a topic or confused.
- Culturally, some ethnic groups are more 'hands-on' in terms of working with their children on homework. In a study below, Asian parents of high achievers were much more likely to be involved with student homework and academic decision-making. They also tended to see student performance as the direct result of effort, and were less likely to mention problems with poor teaching or boring subject matter taught at school.
- Help with homework also provides an opportunity to teach students intermediate-long term planning and organization. Supervision of these longer term activities or class requirements also promoted development of a regular work ethic and delayed gratification.
- Good parent helpers still tried to foster autonomy and independence. Helping with homework did not mean giving answers, it had more to do with checking work and clarifying understanding if necessary.
From Brooks-Gunn and Markman (bottom link) paper: "When researchers measuring school readiness gaps control for parenting differences, the racial and ethnic gaps narrow by 25-50%." Pretty impressive. Although parents of minority underachieving students tend to agree with statements about the importance of education, studies using in-home observers showed less active involvement in homework.
From William Sampson's work, Black and Brown:
"Average Student: The home of one of the average students of the study was described to not be an ordered environment where gratification was delayed or responsibility was taught. In one of the visits the student played video games the entire time while his family watched the television. The father asked him if he had finished his homework, and the student replied, “Si, papi” [Yes, daddy] although a look to the observer suggested that he had not finished his work, however, the student’s father asked no follow up questions.
Below Average Student : The home of a below average student was described as “welcoming and sweet” and “nice and warm”. On the other hand, on one of the visit the observer never saw the below average student doing homework. A situation at a different below average student home was described to be the following, “when a baby cried, no adult would come to the baby; rather the baby had to go to the kitchen to the adult. There was no discussion of school or schoolwork, and Adam did no homework or chores at all.”
Above Average Student: In one of the visits at an above average student home, upon arrival the mother asked her daughter if she had completed her homework. At that time the student began to do her homework with the help of her uncle. The student devoted a total of an hour to her homework."
Kid Source: Helping with Homework
Parent Involvement & Homework
School Preparation and Minority Achievement
Asian-American vs. Anglo High Achievers
Parenting Closing Ethnic and Racial Achievement Gaps