Raising Independent Learners
As parents, we all want our kids to succeed. Sometimes that means helping with their homework – but too much help may do more harm than good.
It can be a nightly struggle to get our kids to buckle down and complete their homework, so helping them get it done seems only reasonable. If they are in Immersion and are finding French homework especially challenging you may find their motivation and confidence are particularly low. However, offering too much help can backfire: kids who cannot complete their homework independently will only suffer as schoolwork gets tougher. So how can we help them become independent learners without a fight?
Help Them Help Themselves
As a parent, you might have an idea of the best way to get things done. After all, you’re used to managing multiple projects and deadlines at work. But as tempting as it may be to dictate the homework schedule, instead let them create their own plan. Sit down with them, and ask them how they want to tackle their assignments. Creating a plan helps kids take ownership of their responsibilities – and a plan set on their terms is far more likely to be followed. You might consider making suggestions if you think your child’s plan is way off base, but try to let them work that out on their own.
Create a Homework Space
Not all kids thrive in the same environment. Some kids need a quiet study spot away from the hustle and bustle, and some much prefer to be right in the middle of the action. Resist the temptation to impose your own work preferences on your child – let them choose their study space.
Make it Fun
Concentrating intensely for hours on end is tough. But it’s all too easy to “take a break” that turns into hours of mindless web surfing. Instead, schedule in fifteen-minute “game breaks” every forty-five minutes. Set a timer, and as long as your child has been diligently focusing on their work for the allotted time, do something fun when the timer goes off! Toss a ball around, play a quick game: whatever activity you chose, try to make sure it gets your child moving. You can also use this time to gently ask how they are progressing with their French, if that’s a challenge for them. You don’t have to be fluent in the language yourself. Ask them to summarise a story they’ve been reading, a fact they’ve learnt or to translate something into French for you to copy out loud. Be prepared for them to laugh at your accent!
Make Yourself Scarce
If your child has a habit of asking you for help the nano-second they have a question, try making yourself scarce. Move to a different section of the house during homework time, and insist that your child come to you with any questions. Climbing a flight of stairs just to ask a question might inspire your child to work it out on their own. If you do speak French it can be tempting to be their own living & breathing dictionary. However, encourage them to learn to use a dictionary independently You could offer to sit with them the first few times they need one, then challenge them to consult it themselves the next time.
Answer Questions with Questions
If your child comes to you with a question, ask a question in return. Asking something as simple as “What do YOU think you have to do to figure this out?” can often motivate children to think out loud. Talking things through helps clarify their existing knowledge, and it is likely that your child will come to the answer on their own! This is also an effective strategy with French reading comprehension. Ask them to give you the gist of a story they’ve been reading or to tell you how that story made them feel.
Using these techniques to help your child do their homework independently can ease the homework struggle, and set your child up for future success in school.
What tricks do you employ at homework time?
By Marie-Claire Thauvette
Marie-Claire is the founder and owner of Fast Forward French, one of Ottawa’s largest French tutoring centres. She has nearly 30 years’ experience teaching French. Visit fastforwardfrench.com to sign up for tutoring classes.