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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Family Fundamentals: Guidelines aid parents to help child with homework (for Aug. 2009)

August 20, 2009

Every school year, we wonder how much we should be helping our children with their homework. Are there standard guidelines, especially as children grow older?

There's always a role for parents being involved with their children's studies, but many parents aren't certain when to step in and when to back off.

Parental involvement tends to decline as students move through middle and high school. As far back as 1995, a Search Institute study recognized this, finding a significant decline between grades 6 and 12 in parents' discussions with their children about homework, discussions about school and school work, assistance with homework, and attendance at school meetings and events. At the same time, study after study shows that effective parental involvement with their children's schooling help their children succeed in life.

The question is, what is an "effective" way to help? Obviously, you need to steer clear of doing the homework yourself. And experts also say to be cautious about using methods to help your children that are different than what the child learns in the classroom. Rather than being helpful, that can cause confusion.

However, parental involvement can speed up a child's learning, as well as foster positive feelings about school and improve communication between parents, teachers and children. Family and consumer sciences professionals with Ohio State University Extension offers some tips in "Eat, Save, and Be Healthy," their weblog online at Among the guidelines:

  • Set aside a designated "homework space" that is uncluttered and stocked with school supplies and is away from the television or other distractions.
  • Have a designated time for homework, and be consistent about it. Make sure children use the whole time; otherwise they may try to rush to get through the work. If they do have extra time, they can use it to review their homework or to read a book.


In addition, the U.S. Department of Education has developed "Homework Tips for Parents," available for free at It offers general guidance as well as tips specific for reading and math. Some of the guidelines include:

  • Do your own "homework" when your child is working on schoolwork. If your child is reading, open a book. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook.
  • When your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers. Offering too much help teaches your child that when the going gets rough, someone else will do the work.
  • Encourage your child to do "hard" homework first, when they're still fresh. Easier material will seem to go fast even if they're tired.


Family Fundamentals is a monthly column on family issues. It is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or

Dear Subscriber: This column was reviewed by Kara Newby, program coordinator in Human Development and Family Science for Ohio State University Extension.


Martha Filipic
Kara Newby