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Khan Academy Blog

Making Homework Easier: Tips and Tools for Parents 

posted on September 20, 2023

By Stephanie Yamkovenko , group manager of Khan Academy’s Digital Marketing Team.

Homework Helper Hand

Homework can present challenges for parents and children alike. You naturally want to provide support for your child’s learning journey and ensure they are reaching their full potential. In this blog post, we will delve into practical strategies to assist your child with their homework. From fostering understanding and offering encouragement to breaking down tasks and implementing rewards, we will explore a variety of effective approaches to help your child achieve academic success.

Step 1: Set Up Your Child for Success

Your child’s study environment can have a significant impact on their homework performance. Create a space that is free from distractions like the television, smartphones, or noisy siblings. The study space should be comfortable, well lit, and have all the necessary materials your child might need, such as pens, papers, and textbooks. If your child’s workspace is noisy or uncomfortable, they may have difficulty focusing on their homework, resulting in lower productivity. 

For example, if you live in a small apartment, consider setting up a designated corner with a small desk or table where your child can focus on their work. You can use dividers or screens to create a sense of privacy and minimize distractions.

If the only place to do homework is in the dining room or kitchen, try to establish a routine where the area is cleared and organized before study time. This can help signal to your child that it’s time to concentrate and be productive.

Remember, it’s important to adapt to your specific circumstances and make the best of the available space. The key is to create a dedicated study area that promotes focus and minimizes interruptions regardless of the size or location of your home.

Try Confidence Boosters for Your Child Here!

Step 2: make it fun.

It’s important to make homework fun and engaging for your child. Here are some examples of how you can do it:

  • Use games : Incorporate educational games like card games, board games, or puzzles that align with the subject your child is learning. For instance, use Scrabble to practice spelling or Sudoku to enhance problem-solving skills.
  • Turn it into a challenge : Create a friendly competition between siblings or friends by setting goals or time limits for completing assignments. Offer small rewards or incentives for accomplishing tasks.
  • Make it interactive : Use hands-on activities or experiments to reinforce concepts learned in class. For science or math, conduct simple experiments at home or use manipulatives like blocks or counters to visualize abstract concepts.
  • Use technology : Explore online educational platforms or apps that offer interactive learning experiences. There are various educational games, virtual simulations, and videos available that can make homework more enjoyable.
  • Incorporate creativity : Encourage your child to express their understanding through art, storytelling, or multimedia presentations. For example, they can create a comic strip to summarize a story or make a short video to explain a concept.

Remember, by making homework enjoyable, you can help your child develop a positive attitude towards learning.

Step 3: Use Rewards

Rewards can be a powerful motivational tool for children. Offering positive reinforcement can encourage them to complete their homework on time and to the best of their ability. 

Here are some examples of rewards our team has used with their children:

  • Extra screen time: “I use Apple parental controls to add screen time on their iPad.”
  • Access to a favorite toy: “My eight year old has a drum kit, which drives us all up the wall. (Thanks, Grandma!) But when they’ve been doing a lot of school work, we put on headphones and let him go nuts.”
  • Praise for a job well done: “Specific, measurable praise is what works best.” 
  • Trip to the park: “A trip to the park is good for everyone, especially for the kids to run around with the doggos.”
  • Movie night: “I know every word and song lyric in Moana ; we now reserve showings for good behavior.” 
  • Stickers or stamps: “Gold stars were such a thing growing up in the 80s; turns out they still work.”
  • Stay up a little later: “An extra 30 minutes feels like a whole day for my young ones; use this reward with caution as it can become the expectation!”

So, celebrate your child’s efforts and encourage them to continue doing their best.

Step 4: Break Down Difficult Tasks

When facing daunting homework assignments, follow these step-by-step instructions to break down the tasks into smaller, manageable chunks:

  • Understand the requirements and scope of the task.
  • Break down the assignment into individual tasks or sub-tasks.  
  • Splitting the middle term
  • Using formula
  • Using Quadratic formula
  • Using algebraic identities
  • Determine the order in which tasks should be completed based on importance or difficulty. 
  • Start with the easiest task. Begin with the task that seems the least challenging or time-consuming.
  • Progress to more challenging tasks: Once the easier tasks are completed, move on to more difficult ones.
  • Take breaks: Schedule short breaks between tasks to avoid burnout and maintain focus.
  • Check completed tasks for accuracy and make any necessary revisions.
  • Finish the remaining task(s) with the same approach.
  • Celebrate small achievements to boost confidence and keep motivation high.

By following these steps, you can make daunting homework assignments more manageable and less overwhelming for your child.

Step 5: Get Targeted Help

If your child is struggling with homework, it might be worth considering seeking personalized assistance. You have the option to search for professional tutors or explore online tutoring platforms, such as Khan Academy’s AI tutor, Khanmigo .

This AI tutor can offer personalized guidance and support tailored to your child’s specific needs, helping them grasp complex concepts and practice essential skills. Incorporating this approach can effectively complement your child’s learning and enhance their homework performance.

Enhance your child’s learning and boost homework performance!

Homework can be a challenge for both parents and children. But with the right approach, you can help your child overcome difficulties and support their learning. Encourage and understand your child, create a comfortable environment, break down difficult tasks, use rewards, get professional help when needed, and make it fun. With these tips and techniques, you can help your child achieve success, develop a love for learning, and achieve academic excellence. Remember that each child learns differently, so it’s essential to adjust your approach to meet their unique needs.

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The best way to learn and teach with AI is here. Ace the school year with our AI-powered guide, Khanmigo. 

For learners     For teachers     For parents

Homework Help for Reluctant Children

  • Posted October 15, 2018
  • By Heather Miller

mother and two daughters doing homework at kitchen table

It’s hard to fault the child who resists doing homework. After all, she has already put in a long day at school, probably been involved in afterschool activities, and, as the late afternoon spills into evening, now faces a pile of assignments. Parents feel it, too — it’s no one’s favorite time of day.

But despite its bad rap, homework plays an important role in ensuring that students can execute tasks independently. When it’s thoughtfully assigned, homework provides deeper engagement with material introduced in class. And even when it’s “just” worksheets, homework can build the automatic habits and the basic skills required to tackle more interesting endeavors. Finally, homework is a nightly test of grit. Adult life brings its share of tasks that are both compulsory and unenjoyable. Developing the discipline to fulfill our responsibilities, regardless of whether they thrill us, begins in middle childhood.

So how to help the avoidant child embrace the challenge, rather than resist it?

The first step, especially with kids 13 and under, is to have them do their homework at a communal space, like a dining room or kitchen table. If other children are in the home, they can all do their homework at the same table, and the parent can sit nearby to support the work effort. This alleviates some of the loneliness a reluctant child might associate with assignments. The alternative — doing homework at a bedroom desk — can result in the child guiltily avoiding the work for as long as possible. Like all forms of procrastination, this has the effect of making the entire process take much longer than it needs to.  

When parents turn the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they work better and more efficiently.

Many parents are under the impression that they shouldn’t have anything to do with their children's homework. This comes from schools emphasizing that homework is a child's responsibility, not the parents'. While it is absolutely true that parents should not do their children's homework, there is a role for parents — one that's perhaps best described as “homework project manager.” Parents can be monitoring, organizing, motivating, and praising the homework effort as it gets done. And yes, that means sitting with your child to help them stay focused and on task. Your presence sends the message that homework is important business, not to be taken lightly.

Once you’re sitting down with your child, ask him to unload his school bag and talk you through his various assignments. Maybe he has a school planner with all his homework listed, or a printout from school, or perhaps his work is listed on the classroom website. Many children attend an afterschool program where, in theory, they are doing homework. They’ll often claim that they’ve done all their homework, even though they’ve only done some. Together, make a quick and easy “Done/To Do” list. Writing down what she has finished will give her a sense of satisfaction. Identifying what she still needs to do will help her to focus on the remaining assignments. Over time, this practice will help your child build an understanding that large tasks are completed incrementally.

Next, ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking. Doing this helps a child feel in control of the evening’s tasks and prompts him to reflect on his work style. Discuss the first task of the night together. Ask your child to think about the supplies he is likely to need, and ensure they’re at the ready. This “pre-work” work helps a child think through a task, understand it, and prepare to execute it with gusto.

Last but not least, introduce a timer to the evening’s proceedings. Challenge your child to estimate how long the first assignment will take. Then ask, “Do you want me to set the timer for the full amount of time you think you’ll need, or a smaller amount?” Then, set the timer with the understanding that the child must work without interruption until the timer goes off. Even questions are verboten while the timer runs. The goal here is to enable the child to solve problems independently, through concentration. This not only builds concentration powers, it builds creativity, critical thinking, resilience, and resourcefulness. In my experience, the theatricality of being timed helps relax children who would otherwise feel daunted by a mountain of homework.

As each piece of work gets done, parents can add meaningful positive reinforcement. Exclaiming, “Another assignment done! And done well!” helps your child feel like what they are doing matters.

By turning the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they complete the work much more efficiently and at a higher standard than they might otherwise.

Helping the Homework Resisters

  • Have children do their work at a communal table. Stay nearby, to alleviate the loneliness that some kids feel — and to prevent procrastination.
  • Ask your child to unload her backpack and talk through assignments.
  • Help your child make a "Done/To Do" list.
  • Ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking — fostering a sense of control.
  • Use a timer. Challenge your child to estimate how long an assignment will take, and ask if she wants to set the timer for that full amount of time, or less. 
  • Your role: To monitor, organize, motivate, and praise the homework effort as each piece is done. 

Additional Resource

  • More about Heather Miller's work to help parents create healthy routines on weeknights

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Strategies to make homework go more smoothly.

Routines and incentive systems to help kids succeed

Writer: Peg Dawson, EdD, NCSP

Clinical Expert: Peg Dawson, EdD, NCSP

Here is the best guide to helping kids do homework successfully that we’ve seen, published by the National Association of School Psychologists on their website, NASPonline.org . Our thanks to NASP for sharing it with us.

There are two key strategies parents can draw on to reduce homework hassles. The first is to establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done and setting up daily schedules for homework. The second is to build in rewards or incentives to use with children for whom “good grades” is not a sufficient reward for doing homework.

Homework Routines

Tasks are easiest to accomplish when tied to specific routines. By establishing daily routines for homework completion, you will not only make homework go more smoothly, but you will also be fostering a sense of order your child can apply to later life, including college and work.

Step 1. Find a location in the house where homework will be done. The right location will depend on your child and the culture of your family. Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom. It is a quiet location, away from the hubbub of family noise. Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better at a place removed from those distractions, like the dining room table. Some children need to work by themselves. Others need to have parents nearby to help keep them on task and to answer questions when problems arise. Ask your child where the best place is to work. Both you and your child need to discuss pros and cons of different settings to arrive at a mutually agreed upon location.

Step 2. Set up a homework center. Once you and your child have identified a location, fix it up as a home office/homework center. Make sure there is a clear workspace large enough to set out all the materials necessary for completing assignments. Outfit the homework center with the kinds of supplies your child is most likely to need, such as pencils, pens, colored markers, rulers, scissors, a dictionary and thesaurus, graph paper, construction paper, glue and cellophane tape, lined paper, a calculator, spell checker, and, depending on the age and needs of your child, a computer or laptop. If the homework center is a place that will be used for other things (such as the dining room table), then your child can keep the supplies in a portable crate or bin. If possible, the homework center should include a bulletin board that can hold a monthly calendar on which your child can keep track of longterm assignments. Allowing children some leeway in decorating the homework center can help them feel at home there, but you should be careful that it does not become too cluttered with distracting materials.

Step 3. Establish a homework time. Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. The time may vary depending on the individual child. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework while they are still in a school mode (i.e., right after school when there is still some momentum left from getting through the day). In general, it may be best to get homework done either before dinner or as early in the evening as the child can tolerate. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the more slowly the homework gets done.

Step 4. Establish a daily homework schedule. In general, at least into middle school, the homework session should begin with your sitting down with your child and drawing up a homework schedule. You should review all the assignments and make sure your child understands them and has all the necessary materials. Ask your child to estimate how long it will take to complete each assignment. Then ask when each assignment will get started. If your child needs help with any assignment , then this should be determined at the beginning so that the start times can take into account parent availability. A Daily Homework Planner is included at the end of this handout and contains a place for identifying when breaks may be taken and what rewards may be earned.

Incentive Systems

Many children who are not motivated by the enjoyment of doing homework are motivated by the high grade they hope to earn as a result of doing a quality job. Thus, the grade is an incentive, motivating the child to do homework with care and in a timely manner. For children who are not motivated by grades, parents will need to look for other rewards to help them get through their nightly chores. Incentive systems fall into two categories: simple and elaborate.

Simple incentive systems. The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or instant messaging, or playing a game with a parent. This system of withholding fun things until the drudgery is over is sometimes called Grandma’s Law because grandmothers often use it quite effectively (“First take out the trash, then you can have chocolate chip cookies.”). Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. When parents remind children of this as they sit down at their desks they may be able to spark the engine that drives the child to stick with the work until it is done.

Elaborate incentive systems. These involve more planning and more work on the part of parents but in some cases are necessary to address more significant homework problems. More complex incentives systems might include a structure for earning points that could be used to “purchase” privileges or rewards or a system that provides greater reward for accomplishing more difficult homework tasks. These systems work best when parents and children together develop them. Giving children input gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. We have found that children are generally realistic in setting goals and deciding on rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process.

Building in breaks. These are good for the child who cannot quite make it to the end without a small reward en route. When creating the daily homework schedule, it may be useful with these children to identify when they will take their breaks. Some children prefer to take breaks at specific time intervals (every 15 minutes), while others do better when the breaks occur after they finish an activity. If you use this approach, you should discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks (get a snack, call a friend, play one level on a video game). The Daily Homework Planner includes sections where breaks and end-of-homework rewards can be identified.

Building in choice. This can be an effective strategy for parents to use with children who resist homework. Choice can be incorporated into both the order in which the child agrees to complete assignments and the schedule they will follow to get the work done. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.

Developing Incentive Systems

Step 1. Describe the problem behaviors. Parents and children decide which behaviors are causing problems at homework time. For some children putting homework off to the last minute is the problem; for others, it is forgetting materials or neglecting to write down assignments. Still others rush through their work and make careless mistakes, while others dawdle over assignments, taking hours to complete what should take only a few minutes. It is important to be as specific as possible when describing the problem behaviors. The problem behavior should be described as behaviors that can be seen or heard; for instance, complains about h omework or rushes through homework, making many mistakes are better descriptors than has a bad attitude or is lazy.

Step 2. Set a goal. Usually the goal relates directly to the problem behavior. For instance, if not writing down assignments is the problem, the goal might be: “Joe will write down his assignments in his assignment book for every class.”

Step 3. Decide on possible rewards and penalties. Homework incentive systems work best when children have a menu of rewards to choose from, since no single reward will be attractive for long. We recommend a point system in which points can be earned for the goal behaviors and traded in for the reward the child wants to earn. The bigger the reward, the more points the child will need to earn it. The menu should include both larger, more expensive rewards that may take a week or a month to earn and smaller, inexpensive rewards that can be earned daily. It may also be necessary to build penalties into the system. This is usually the loss of a privilege (such as the chance to watch a favorite TV show or the chance to talk on the telephone to a friend).

Once the system is up and running, and if you find your child is earning more penalties than rewards, then the program needs to be revised so that your child can be more successful. Usually when this kind of system fails, we think of it as a design failure rather than the failure of the child to respond to rewards. It may be a good idea if you are having difficulty designing a system that works to consult a specialist, such as a school psychologist or counselor, for assistance.

Step 4. Write a homework contract. The contract should say exactly what the child agrees to do and exactly what the parents’ roles and responsibilities will be. When the contract is in place, it should reduce some of the tension parents and kids often experience around homework. For instance, if part of the contract is that the child will earn a point for not complaining about homework, then if the child does complain, this should not be cause for a battle between parent and child: the child simply does not earn that point. Parents should also be sure to praise their children for following the contract. It will be important for parents to agree to a contract they can live with; that is, avoiding penalties they are either unable or unwilling to impose (e.g., if both parents work and are not at home, they cannot monitor whether a child is beginning homework right after school, so an alternative contract may need to be written).

We have found that it is a rare incentive system that works the first time. Parents should expect to try it out and redesign it to work the kinks out. Eventually, once the child is used to doing the behaviors specified in the contract, the contract can be rewritten to work on another problem behavior. Your child over time may be willing to drop the use of an incentive system altogether. This is often a long-term goal, however, and you should be ready to write a new contract if your child slips back to bad habits once a system is dropped.

Click here to download the homework planner and incentive sheet .

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children's homework help

How to help your kids with homework (without doing it for them)

children's homework help

Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Monash University

children's homework help

Lecturer, Monash University

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The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers . Parent involvement in their child’s learning can help improve how well they do in school. However, when it comes to helping kids with homework, it’s not so simple.

While it’s important to show support and model learning behaviour, there is a limit to how much help you can give without robbing your child of the opportunity to learn for themselves.

Be involved and interested

An analysis of more than 400 research studies found parent involvement, both at school and at home, could improve students’ academic achievement, engagement and motivation.

School involvement includes parents participating in events such as parent-teacher conferences and volunteering in the classroom. Home involvement includes parents talking with children about school, providing encouragement, creating stimulating environments for learning and finally – helping them with homework.

Read more: What to do at home so your kids do well at school

The paper found overall, it was consistently beneficial for parents to be involved in their child’s education, regardless of the child’s age or socioeconomic status. However, this same analysis also suggested parents should be cautious with how they approach helping with homework.

Parents helping kids with homework was linked to higher levels of motivation and engagement, but lower levels of academic achievement. This suggests too much help may take away from the child’s responsibility for their own learning.

Help them take responsibility

Most children don’t like homework. Many parents agonise over helping their children with homework. Not surprisingly, this creates a negative emotional atmosphere that often results in questioning the value of homework.

children's homework help

Homework has often been linked to student achievement, promoting the idea children who complete it will do better in school. The most comprehensive analysis on homework and achievement to date suggests it can influence academic achievement (like test scores), particularly for children in years seven to 12.

But more research is needed to find out about how much homework is appropriate for particular ages and what types are best to maximise home learning.

Read more: Too much help with homework can hinder your child's learning progress

When it comes to parent involvement, research suggests parents should help their child see their homework as an opportunity to learn rather than perform. For example, if a child needs to create a poster, it is more valuable the child notes the skills they develop while creating the poster rather than making the best looking poster in the class.

Instead of ensuring their child completes their homework, it’s more effective for parents to support their child to increase confidence in completing homework tasks on their own.

Here are four ways they can do this.

1. Praise and encourage your child

Your positivity will make a difference to your child’s approach to homework and learning in general. Simply, your presence and support creates a positive learning environment.

Our study involved working with recently arrived Afghani mothers who were uncertain how to help their children with school. This was because they said they could not understand the Australian education system or speak or write in English.

However, they committed to sit next to their children as they completed their homework tasks in English, asking them questions and encouraging them to discuss what they were learning in their first language.

In this way, the parents still played a role in supporting their child even without understanding the content and the children were actively engaged in their learning.

2. Model learning behaviour

Many teachers model what they would like their students to do. So, if a child has a problem they can’t work out, you can sit down and model how you would do it, then complete the next one together and then have the child do it on their own.

children's homework help

3. Create a homework plan

When your child becomes overly frustrated with their homework, do not force them. Instead, together create a plan to best tackle it:

read and understand the homework task

break the homework task into smaller logical chunks

discuss how much time is required to complete each chunk

work backwards from the deadline and create a timeline

put the timeline where the child can see it

encourage your child to mark completed chunks to see the progress made on the task

4. Make space for homework

Life is busy. Parents can create positive study habits by allocating family time for this. This could mean carving out one hour after dinner for your child to do homework while you engage in a study activity such as reading, rather than watching television and relaxing. You can also create a comfortable and inviting reading space for the child to learn in.

Parents’ ability to support their child’s learning goes beyond homework. Parents can engage their child in discussions, read with them, and provide them with other ongoing learning opportunities (such as going to a museum, watching a documentary or spending time online together).

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How to Help Your Child Study

Regardless of a child’s age or challenges, parents can encourage sound homework routines for a successful start to the school year.

By Brian Platzer and Abby Freireich

Every cartful of new school supplies is loaded with promise: binders organized by subject, crisp homework folders and pristine notebooks. But for many parents it can feel like it’s just a short hop from those freshly sharpened pencils to a child in full meltdown over a barely started English essay.

You don’t have to let go of the optimism. As parents, teachers and tutors, we have some concrete advice for staving off the tears — for both parents and children.

Regardless of a child’s age or challenges, parents can encourage sound homework routines for a successful start to the school year. First, students should consider how to create organized work spaces, backpacks and lockers cleared of clutter and systematized for easy retrieval of important assignments. Second, nightly to-do checklists are a must to help prioritize and plan ahead.

But many students still struggle when it comes to homework. Their stress tends to be exacerbated by three primary challenges: procrastinating , feeling overwhelmed and struggling to retain information . Ideally, parents can help elementary school children develop effective homework habits so they will not need as much guidance as they get older. Parents who are not home during their kids’ prime homework hours can try out some of these ideas on the weekends and pass along the best practices to their caregivers.

children's homework help

For Procrastination

Reduce potential distractions..

Many students finish reading a sentence, and then refresh their Instagram feed. Ideally, their phones should be nowhere near them during homework time. Or they should disable or mute apps and texting functions on the phone and computer while they work. We know this will mean a grumpy adolescent. But it’s a battle worth fighting. Establish a family tech-space where phones and laptops go when not in use. And model these boundaries by leaving your devices there, too!

Remember that consistency is key.

Kids ultimately thrive in the comfort and reliability of a structured approach to homework, so each afternoon they should follow the same steps in roughly the same order.

For Students Overwhelmed by Workload

Plan ahead..

It might be helpful for you to model the planning process, so your kids can see how you schedule a series of tasks. Try to make a point of letting them in on the process when you’re running errands, preparing for a trip or completing a project for work. Then take advantage of some set time (Sunday tends to work best) to plan the coming week.

Students should break down large assignments into more manageable chunks and then backplan from the due date, recording on a calendar what they’ll need to do when in order to complete each major task and its components.

In the early grades, this could mean reading a book by Tuesday in order to write a book report on Wednesday. By middle school, it could translate to finishing the research for a science project with enough time to make a compelling poster to display at the science fair. The more practice students get with planning, the sooner they’ll become self-sufficient.

Use time estimates.

Students should estimate how long each assignment will take and develop a schedule accordingly. Even if the estimate is wrong, the process of thinking through timing will allow them to internalize how best to proceed when juggling multiple tasks. It will give them a better gauge of how long future assignments will take and make the evening ahead less intimidating.

Begin with the most difficult task.

Most kids’ instinct will be to complete the fun or easy to-dos first. But they should start with the hardest work. Otherwise it will be later when, energy depleted, they begin trying to outline their term paper. Encouraging them to do the most challenging work first will allow them to devote attention and energy to the demanding assignments — then they can coast through the easy tasks.

For Students Who Struggle to Retain Information

Use a cumulative approach..

Memorize information in stages that build upon one another. When students are confronted with vast swaths of material, it can be overwhelming and difficult to recall. Suggest that they break it up into a series of discrete parts based on the number of topics and the number of days they have to study for the test. For example, students might divide a history test study sheet into sections 1 to 3. The first day should be for studying section 1. The second day, section 2. The third day, reviewing sections 1 and 2, before moving to section 3 the following day. This way, by the time students get to section 3, they haven’t forgotten what they learned in the first section. This cumulative approach reinforces retention of content through review and repetition.

S ummarize with concise lists, identify keywords and use mnemonics.

A big block of text on a study sheet can be difficult for students to absorb and memorize. Instead, they should break the sentence or paragraph up into a series of points, highlighting the keywords and then creating their own mnemonic device to remember it. Sometimes the silliest mnemonics stick the best, and remembering the first letters of words will help trigger ideas that they might otherwise forget. (Remember the DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP verbs from French class, or Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge when learning musical notes?)

Employ visual aids and narratives.

Some students can best synthesize information by creating charts or other graphic organizers. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by writing several paragraphs with important information about how a cell works, for example, students might present the same data in streamlined form with a chart. Charts distill and organize numerous sources (parts of a cell) according to the same set of criteria (form, function, location), creating a categorized snapshot that’s easier to memorize.

Other students prefer narratives that link ideas to their context. Instead of trying to memorize various inventors, students could recall how they built on one another’s accomplishments. Most students thrive when both these approaches are used simultaneously.

Make study materials.

We know it’s old-fashioned, but writing out information helps commit content to memory far better than typing it. If writing out the material longhand is too onerous, kids should still create their own study sheet digitally, rather than borrowing one from a friend. The work of creating the study sheet is a crucial step in internalizing its content. Active is always better than passive studying. Most students benefit from being orally quizzed on the material so they can determine both the information they know inside-out, and what they still need to review. Online resources like Quizlet can work well to prepare for straightforward vocabulary quizzes, but is less helpful when it comes to tests covering more complex information. Most importantly, students should generate their own study material to make the most of using Quizlet, rather than relying on pre-existing content that others have posted.

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How Much Studying Is Enough?

Some kids believe they’ll never be prepared, even after hours of studying. Others barely crack a book open and declare they’re done.

Use practice tests.

The best way to know that study time is over is when students are able to perform the task that will be asked of them on the in-class test, quiz or essay. Initially, children can review the material orally. They should write down any material they missed to help commit it to memory. Then, they can take a sample test from a textbook, or create a mock test with class notes, homework and study guides. When students demonstrate a verbal and written command of the information, studying should be complete.

Talk through these study habits now, so that on the first day of school, your child will not only have the requisite sharpened pencils, but also a plan of action.

Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer are the founders of Teachers Who Tutor | NYC and the authors of a book about homework to be published next summer.

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Homework for Kids

Advice on how to make your children feel happy about doing homework..

Does it feel like that school assignment is going to take FOREVER to complete? Looking for some inspiration? Here's a list of quick tips to give you the extra push you need to finish that pesky paper . . . and put a smile on your face!

  • Make a List, Check It Twice: If you have assignments flying at you from all different subjects, create a priority list that starts with what's due soonest as number one. Chances are the due dates will be spread out over time, so what you thought was a gigantic load of work won't actually be that overwhelming. Rate all the assignments based on how long you think they'll take, which ones seem like the hardest, or by subject. No matter how you rank them, you can start methodically working through them, and once you finish an assignment, go ahead and check it off your list!  
  • Homework for kids: Get It Over With: If you only have one project to complete, JUST DO IT. Imagine how it's going to feel when that one essay is complete. You're free! You can play basketball! You can ride your bike! You can hang out with friends (assuming all their homework for kids is done too)!  
  • Work With Study Buddies:  Bond over textbooks with your friends. As long as you guys keep focused on studying, working in a group may indeed increase your productivity. You're all working towards a common goal of completing your homework for kids and when it's time for a break, you're already together!  
  • Homework for kids: Take a Break:  There's nothing wrong with taking a 15-minute break if you feel like you need to rejuvenate yourself. Get up, stretch, make a snack, IM friends, hop in the shower, call your grandma, write a letter — do something completely unrelated to homework for kids. Once you're refreshed, you'll be ready to concentrate again.  
  • Reward Yourself:  Make a deal with yourself before you begin to make a sizable dent in your workload. It can be anything from "If I finish this paper a day early, I'll buy that new DVD I've wanted," to "When I finish 20 math problems, I get to watch the game on TV tonight."  
  • Homework for kids: Tap Your Feet:  Understandably, some people can't concentrate with music playing. But if putting tunes on helps you plow through assignments, slip your favorite CD in the stereo or turn the radio on, and do your work to the flow of the melody. And consider this: studies have shown that the part of the brain that is used to solve mathematical problems is stimulated by classical music. So crank up the Mozart when you're multiplying fractions!  
  • Homework for kids: Show the Teacher What You Can Do:  Maybe you're not looking forward to doing a paper because you got a bad grade on the last one. Well, take this as an opportunity to show the teacher what you've got! If you feel like the situation is hopeless, just imagine the look on your teacher's face when you blow him away with your brilliance.  
  • Homework for kids: Pump Yourself Up:  Sometimes it's hard to settle down and do homework for kids because you've been sitting in class all day and need to burn off some excess energy. Do some jumping jacks or sit-ups, run a mile, or just dance around like crazy in your room. It'll get the adrenaline going, and you'll feel like homework is just a little hurdle to jump over. So get to it!

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Don’t Help Your Kids With Homework

Focus on prioritization and process, not the assignment itself.

A stressed-out person with a pencil

So much of the homework advice parents are given is theory-based, and therefore not entirely helpful in the chaos of day-to-day life. People are told that students should have “ grit .” They should “ learn from failure .” But it’s hard to know how to implement these ideas when what you really need is to support a kid who has a chemistry test and two papers due in the next 48 hours but seems to be focused only on Instagram.

Some parents manage to guide their kids through these moments with relative ease. Others hire tutors. The large majority of us, however, are stuck at home alone, trying to stave off our own breakdowns in the face of our children’s.

While reprimanding your child for not having started her homework earlier may be your natural instinct, in the midst of stress, it will only make her shut down or lash out. In our experience as teachers, tutors, and parents, the students who feel terrible about procrastinating are more likely to have anxiety and negative feelings that will only fuel their continued procrastination. So instead of admonishing your procrastinator, take a deep breath and try to figure out how she’s going to manage the tasks at hand. Help her make a realistic plan to manage her time. Try to model understanding, even when you’re upset.

Having tolerance for challenges will allow her to approach future frustrations from a more positive perspective. Easier said than done, to be sure, but try to work with your child to identify not only how but why her homework habits are suffering. This understanding will be crucial to helping her transform these habits into more effective ones.

Read: The cult of homework

The cover of Freireich and Platzer's new book

Because most of us are programmed to focus on present rather than future fulfillment, it’s easy to put off something we dread. Kids who procrastinate almost always do so because they have negative associations with or feelings about a particular task. Unfortunately, avoiding assignments usually lowers students’ self-esteem and makes them dislike the topic that much more, resulting in a vicious cycle of procrastination. Therefore, it’s important both to address why students are procrastinating—what’s upsetting them about the work at hand—and to give them practical tools to manage their time and set priorities.

If you’re worried that your child is the only one in her class who takes ages to get started on her homework, fear not. Students in our classes—and our own kids too, just like many of us adults—have found every which way to put off sitting down to tackle the one thing they know they need to get done. There are all kinds of reasons kids avoid doing their homework. Maybe they’re concerned about what a teacher will think, or that their work won’t measure up to a friend’s. Maybe they’re distracted by something that happened in school that day.

Whatever the case may be, the first step here is determining out what’s stressing your child out in the first place.

If your child fears what her teacher will think if she makes mistakes: She should start off by independently reviewing the material that she feels unsure of, and then reach out to her teacher for further help if she needs it. Assure her that asking questions and making an effort are important to her teacher. Take it from us: Teachers see questions as a sign of an engaged, conscientious, and curious student. No matter the teacher’s temperament or reputation, she will respond positively to your child coming to her with sincere questions and hard work.

If your child fears parental judgment due to bad grades: Remember that although high marks may be important to you, focusing on process and effort is key to your child’s success, not to mention that putting too much pressure on her can lead to resentment. Help your child create a process she can rely on for her work. Better effort will help your child engage with the material and yield better results in the long run.

If your child fears her best friend’s judgment: Start by encouraging your child not to discuss grades with her friends. Middle schoolers in particular tend to share their marks with one another, and it usually just makes kids feel lousy. The “What did you get?” question is tough for all students, especially in the middle grades, when they are looking for affirmation from their peers. Your child’s grades are no one else’s business. While her best friend may do well in history, he may have more trouble with math than your child does. Or maybe he seems great at everything now, but he actually struggles in art class, and in the future he’ll be a terrible driver or have an awkward first date. In other words, we all have subjects—or areas of our lives—that come more or less easily than others. Challenges are inevitable. What matters most is how we approach them.

If your child fears she isn’t capable: First acknowledge how painful this feeling must be. Then reassure her that she is capable and give concrete anecdotes so she doesn’t roll her eyes. Share with her a moment when you thought you couldn’t do something, but you learned to conquer the task. And be honest! Your kid will know that you didn’t really wrestle that champion alligator. Emphasize the importance of determination, effort, and persistence in whichever example of your successes you choose to share.

If your child is exhausted: Prioritize only what’s really essential. Try to help your child go to bed earlier. She can always wake up early to complete smaller assignments if need be. Getting major work done while exhausted is a losing battle for everyone. Help her plan ahead. Create a schedule for completing small portions of a larger assignment over the course of several days or weeks to make overwhelming work seem more manageable.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Once you figure out what’s driving your child’s procrastination, you can strategize with her about logistics. Start by removing temptation when possible. Of course she’d rather see where her friends went this afternoon than stare at a blinking cursor, and if all it takes is a simple click or swipe for your child to access social media, it’s going to take her eons to finish an assignment. It will be almost impossible for her to develop an argument that flows if she’s tempted by her phone. So all possible impediments to success should be removed. Disabling social-media and messaging apps and having a conversation about the purpose of setting technology limits is an important first step. Putting her phone aside will also help her compartmentalize time so that she can get her work done more thoroughly and then have free time afterward. Technological boundaries may lead to major pushback—especially now, when kids rely on technology for most forms of socializing—but this temporary misery is undoubtedly worth it in the long run.

And emphasize that short-term pleasure equals long-term pain. Empathize with children who do not want to do something that’s hard. Then remind them that the immediate instinct to procrastinate and play video games will make life miserable later. While they may resist and grumble, helping establish rules will ultimately prevent suffering tonight, tomorrow, and next week. Kids thrive in the comfort, reliability, and safety of a structured, focused work environment. It’s never easy, but on evenings when you want to tear your hair out because your child won’t sit down to work, reinforce the message that short-term gratification will only get in the way of long-term goals.

Finally, explain the relevance of the assignment. If kids don’t understand why they’re doing the work, they’re more likely to be frustrated. For example, your child might ask, “Why do I need to know algebra? I’ll never use it when I’m older.” You can tell the truth: “You probably won’t need to know about variables in everyday life, but learning algebra will give you a framework for understanding how to break down and solve complex tasks down the road.”

Learning to work independently, without a teacher’s direct counsel, is key to building academic and personal autonomy. So when your child is overwhelmed, help her figure out why, and then model strategies that foster independence, confidence, and well-being.

This piece is adapted from Freireich and Platzer’s new book, Taking the Stress out of Homework . Every Tuesday, they answer education-related questions . Have one? Email them at [email protected].

children's homework help

An Age-By-Age Guide to Helping Kids Manage Homework

D o you ever wonder whether homework is gauging the child’s ability to complete assignments or the parent’s? On one end of the spectrum, a parent might never mention homework and assume it gets done independently; on the other end are the parents who micromanage to be sure every worksheet is absolutely perfect.

Being too laissez faire about homework might deny a child the support they need to develop executive functioning skills, but being too involved could stifle their independence. So how much parent participation in homework is actually appropriate throughout a child’s education?

Basic homework tips

According to Scholastic , you should follow these rules of thumb to support your child during homework (without going overboard):

  • Stay nearby and available for questions without getting right in the middle of homework.
  • Avoid the urge to correct mistakes unless your child asks for help.
  • Instead of nagging, set up a homework routine with a dedicated time and place.
  • Teach time management for a larger project by helping them break it into chunks.

Child psychologist Dr. Emily W. King recently wrote about rethinking homework in her newsletter. King explains at what ages kids are typically able to do homework independently, but she writes that each child’s ability to concentrate at the end of the day and use executive functioning skills for completing tasks is very individual. I talked to her for more information on how much parental involvement in homework completion is needed, according to a child’s age and grade level.

Kindergarten to second grade

Whether children even need homework this early is a hot debate. Little ones are still developing fine motor skills and their ability to sit still and pay attention at this age.

“If a child is given homework before their brain and body are able to sit and focus independently, then we are relying on the parent or other caregivers to sit with the child to help them focus,” King said. “Think about when the child is able to sit and focus on non-academic tasks like dinner, art, or music lessons. This will help you tease out executive functioning skills from academic understanding.”

Elementary-age children need time for unstructured play and structured play like music, arts, and sports. They need outside time, free time, and quiet time, King said. For children who are not ready for independent work, nightly reading with another family member is enough “homework,” she said.

Third to fifth grades

Many children will be able to do homework independently in grades 3-5. Even then, their ability to focus and follow through may vary from day to day.

“Most children are ready for practicing independent work between third and fifth grade, but maybe not yet in the after-school hours when they are tired and want to rest or play. We need to begin exposing children to organization and structure independently in late elementary school to prepare them for more independence in middle school,” King said.

Neurodivergent kids may need more parental support for several years before they work independently.

“Neurodivergent children, many of whom have executive functioning weaknesses, are not ready to work independently in elementary school. Children without executive functioning weaknesses (e.g., the ability to remain seated and attend to a task independently) are able to do this somewhere between third and fifth grade, but it’s very possible they can work independently at school but be too tired to do it later in the afternoon,” King said. “We need to follow the child’s skills and give them practice to work independently when they seem ready. Of course, if a child wants to do extra work after school due to an interest, go for it.”

For students who are not ready to work independently in middle school, it is better to reduce the amount of homework they are expected to complete so they can practice independence and feel successful.

Middle school

In sixth grade and later, kids are really developing executive functioning skills like planning, organizing, paying attention, initiating, shifting focus, and execution. They will still need your encouragement to keep track of assignments, plan their time, and stick to a homework routine.

“Middle school students need lots of organization support and putting systems in place to help them keep track of assignments, due dates, and materials,” King said.

High school

By this point, congratulations: You can probably be pretty hands-off with homework. Remain open and available if your teen needs help negotiating a problem, but executing plans should be up to them now.

“In high school, parents are working to put themselves out of a job and begin stepping back as children take the lead on homework. Parents of high schoolers are ‘homework consultants,’” King said. “We are there to help solve problems, talk through what to say in an email to a teacher, but we are not writing the emails or talking to the teachers for our kids.”

What if homework is not working for them (or you)

There are a number of reasons a child might not be managing homework at the same level as their peers, including academic anxiety and learning disabilities.

If your child is showing emotional distress at homework time, it might be a sign that they have run out of gas from the structure, socialization, and stimulation they have already been through at school that day. One way to support kids is to teach them how to have a healthy balance of work and play time.

“When we ask students to keep working after school when their tank is on empty, we likely damage their love of learning and fill them with dread for tomorrow,” King wrote in her newsletter.

King said in her experience as a child psychologist, the amount of homework support a child needs is determined by their individual abilities and skills more than their age or grade level.

“All of these steps vary for a neurodivergent child and we are not following these guidelines by age or grade but rather by their level of skills development to become more independent,” she said. “In order to independently complete homework, a child must be able to have attended to the directions in class, brought the materials home, remember to get the materials out at home, remember to begin the task, understand the task, remain seated and attention long enough to complete the task, be able to complete the task, return the work to their backpack, and return the work to the teacher. If any of these skills are weak or the child is not able to do these independently, there will be a breakdown in the system of homework. You can see why young students and neurodivergent students would struggle with this process.”

If you and your child have trouble meeting homework expectations, talk to their teacher about what could be contributing to the problem and how to modify expectations for them.

“Get curious about your child’s skill level at that time of day,” King said. “Are they able to work independently at school but not at home? Are they not able to work independently any time of day? Are they struggling with this concept at school, too? When are they successful?”

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mother helping young child complete their homework

Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

Mother helping son with homework at home

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

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Tags: K-12 education , students , elementary school , children

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Alexa, can you help me with my child’s homework?

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What did you do when you couldn’t solve a tricky maths equation?

Did you search for the answer on Google, skip doing the homework altogether and tell your teacher dog ate it, or watch as your parents asked Alexa for the answer?

As bizarre as it may sound, the latter scenario is happening at an alarming rate, as parents and grandparents struggle to help kids complete their homework – particularly mathematics. 

There comes a time when homework becomes a little too advanced for parents to help with, especially as many forget how to do tricky long divisions, algebra or the names of all the triangles once they finish school . With over 500 million Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide, people are using technology to their advantage when it comes to maths.

New data commissioned by the Department for Education ’s Skills for Life campaign and Kindred found that 54% of parents would say they ‘would struggle to know where to start’ if left to their own decisions when helping children with their maths homework.

The Skills for Life campaign is encouraging adults of all ages to up their skills and learn something new, and to boost their confidence when helping their children at home and potentially improve their own career prospects. 

Of the 2,250 adults surveyed, 69% said they use the internet to help solve schoolwork problems and 20% reported using virtual assistants, like Alexa and Google Assistant, to help tutor their kids at home. Maths was revealed to cause the most angst and was voted the least favourite homework subject among parents and grandparents.

Rear view of girl writing homework on table while sitting at home

The data comes as education groups raise concerns about the growing use of AI in students’ work. Asking a virtual assistant for help on a task you plan to finish yourself is quite different to asking ChatGPT to come up with the answers for you, it raises questions about how much we rely on technology. 

A 16-year-old student identified only as Fiore previously told Metro.co.uk that he turned to ChatGPT when he realised an English essay was due the next day. It’s 2024 after all, and his story serves as a stark reminder that the days of cramming the assignment into an all-nighter or turning to SparkNotes for help are long gone.

Although many people would fear plagiarism detectors or eagle-eyed lecturers spotting AI-generated essays , the student wasn’t afraid about being caught. 

However, not all students are using AI to cheat and not all are using ChatGPT, with some turning to Gemini, which was developed by Google. Chatbots have also been found to be helpful for students with dyslexia when it comes to comprehending in-depth academic texts. 

Jane Basnett, director of digital learning at Downe House School in Berkshire admits that homework can be tricky for parents. ‘In the old days, parents turned to the Encyclopaedia Britannica to find responses, visited the library with their child or they asked a more informed friend,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘They had conversations and made discoveries about different topics that perhaps they had not known about before.’ 

This practice, however, has changed drastically now that technology is just one tap, swipe or voice command away. ‘Finding the knowledge is one thing, understanding it and engaging with it properly is another.

‘Parents need to encourage their child to understand the GenAI output and to put their own responses together.

‘These are just the sort of conversations that teachers are having with their students in classrooms across the country. Gen AI (generative artificial intelligence) is a tool that can very quickly do your homework for you but in doing so, it takes away the key important elements of education: learning, discovering and critical thinking.’

One dad, Paul Duggan, 68, from London made a huge life change after realising he couldn’t help his daughter with her homework. He completed a Skills for Life Numeracy course in 2020, when his daughter Rebecca was 10, after she inspired him to sign up.

He has since gone on to achieve a Functional Skills qualification in maths, which is equivalent to a Maths GCSE. 

‘I always had a difficult relationship with maths,’ he said. ‘I think a lot of people do. When my daughter, Rebecca, started needing more help with her homework I realised that if I didn’t tackle my fear of numbers now, not only would I be unable to help, but I’d also risk passing on my negative relationship with maths, which I certainly didn’t want to do.’

Not all parents will be able to find the time to brush up on their maths skills, as they often have to balance full-time jobs, the needs of other children, the cost of living and general life stuff. But for those like Paul who could, it has proven to be invaluable.

‘Signing up to the Skills for Life course was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s helped boost my confidence with everyday sums, and I’ve also grown a lot closer to my daughter, Rebecca, in the process, helping her solve equations and more complex problems as she studies for her maths GSCE.’

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Family Life

children's homework help

How Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Affect Children?

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By: Tiffany Munzer, MD, FAAP

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the way we work, play and communicate. While AI has potential to help solve complex problems, you've likely also heard serious concerns about it—and especially, the ways AI might change the lives of children and teens.

With so many viewpoints out there, how can you make sense of AI and its possible impact on your family? Let's start by looking at how AI works and what issues that parents and families may need to consider as the technology evolves.

What exactly is artificial intelligence? How does AI work?

AI is modeled on the human brain —how we gather facts, descriptions, comments, images and much more and make sense of it all to complete a specific task. The difference is that AI draws the input together, sorting it and making it immediately accessible to us. However, unlike human knowledge, it doesn’t have the ability to connect new information to all of our other life experiences.

AI technology has been in development since the mid-1950s. Thanks to recent breakthroughs, though, AI-driven tools are quickly becoming part of our everyday lives. For example, when you contact customer service, AI may help answer your questions. When you explore international news, the words you hear or read may be translated into your preferred language by AI. In your doctor's office, an AI speech recognition program may help the medical team take notes and update your chart.

On a larger scale, AI is used to study traffic safety and flow, for example, and analyze health risks in large populations.

What about the AI that some kids use to do their homework?

Generative AI is technology that creates content that in the past could come only from humans. For example, instead of sitting down to draft a report, a writer might use ChatGPT to come up with relevant facts and suggested wording. An artist might create what looks like an original photo or drawing by entering a short description into an AI-driven program.

It's easy to see why some kids use AI to help them with school assignments. They can find facts and search among millions of charts and images to learn more about a subject. AI also powers grammar programs that can check their work to fix writing errors. Schools have rules about how AI can be used for homework and writing, though, so it’s important to check with teachers. Teens also need to learn to be honest about when they used AI with assignments.

AI is all around us—and all about us

Even if your kids aren't using AI for portions of their schoolwork, they (and you) are coming in contact with AI every day. Your children, and your family as a whole, have a digital footprint . This may be made up of every online search, purchase, download or viewing and listening session you engage in. If you use an AI-driven smart speaker to answer questions about the weather, sports scores and more, you're feeding even more data into this collective footprint.

How are kids tapping into AI?

As child health experts at UNICEF have pointed out, kids around the world use AI almost daily. Most interactive toys, games and internet platforms made for children depend on AI technology. Even though AI is advancing faster than anyone expected, most nations have not considered how AI will affect the social and emotional well-being of children.

Much more research is needed, but early studies on AI and kids point to several concerns:

  • Young children may share personal information with AI platforms . Studies show that little ones often chat with smart speakers , telling personal stories and disclosing details that grownups might consider private.
  • They may assume AI platforms are a lot like people. One study found that kids between 3 and 6 years old believed that smart speakers had thoughts, feelings and social abilities. Only a few kids assumed the speakers were actually human. This could affect how kids learn to interact with others.
  • They may trust AI more than they trust humans. Another study found that young children thought smart speakers were more reliable than people when it came to answering fact-based questions such as, "Who was the first U.S. president to drive a car?"
  • Many teens use AI daily. Adolescents are big fans of generative AI that helps them write essays and reports and create images and video for social sharing (among hundreds of other possible uses). However, only 1 in 4 parents whose teens use AI are aware they're doing it, a recent poll shows.

What are the benefits of AI for kids and families?

There are many ways AI technology can help kids learn and grow.

  • It's a valuable tool for learning. AI can be used to tailor lessons and learning experiences to the individual needs of young children and teens. It can help educators and parents find ways to enrich learning for kids of all abilities at different stages of growth and development. And while it's not a good substitute for live conversation, it can help children improve their language skills and even learn new languages.
  • It can foster creativity. We live in a visual world, so kids need ways to express their ideas through photos, images, graphs and more. AI is not only valuable to budding artists, but also kids who want to create data displays, charts, simple cartoons and other visuals.
  • It may motivate and engage kids in new ways . AI can be interactive and fun for kids, offering new ways to enjoy and explore their world. For some, this may be a life-changing experience that opens new doors, enhances school performance and helps prepare them for the challenges of adult life.

What are potential dangers of AI for our kids?

For all the promise they hold, AI platforms can also harm children and families.

  • They can spread hate, bias and stereotypes . Because AI "learns" from everything it finds on the internet, AI platforms reflect the same prejudices that threaten to divide and alienate us. Extensive studies show that AI-generated content advances stereotypes and falsehoods. Adults must be ready to talk with kids about what they see online and how it might reinforce negative beliefs and actions.
  • They can erode privacy. AI collects a huge amount of data about us, often without us knowing it. For example, one toy was found to record conversations among parents, kids and anyone else nearby, with the ability to transmit data from these conversations to third parties. It's hard to keep up with reports on toys and devices that could violate your family's privacy, but parents may want to avoid interactive toys that promise to "talk" with kids.
  • They can flood kids with selling messages. AI follows us on the internet, making note of what we like and serving us more of the same. Your child's search history may make them the target of relentless ad campaigns you would prefer they not see.

They can be used for bullying and fraud. Generative AI can be used to create false or distorted images of your child or teen, or someone they know. One example: the fake nudes that have been used to attack and shame many teens. Deepfakes and voice cloning can be used to threaten kids into taking actions they ordinarily would never consider, like giving private information or sending money. (See " What Do Teens Need to Know About Sextortion and Online Predators .")

Are lawmakers taking action to protect us?

It's clear that AI is here to stay. But in the U.S., legislation hasn't kept pace with technological growth.

  • The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) protects kids 13 years and younger by restricting access and usage of personal information about them that can be found online. However, since its passage in the late 1990s, COPPA has been routinely violated by media companies, manufacturers and others. Further, it isn't clear whether ChatGPT and other generative platforms comply with COPPA regulations.
  • The Kids Online Safety Act , first introduced in 2021 and still moving through Congress, would require social media platforms to protect the data of minor-aged children. However, this legislation doesn't address the data that web service providers, email services and educational institutions can gather about our kids.
  • An executive order on AI may serve as a guideline for future laws, but regulations that spell out what organizations can and can't do with AI technology do not exist yet.

What can I do to safeguard my child from the risks of AI?

AI is a moving target, so you may find it hard to set healthy guidelines for your child or teen. Here are a few common-sense suggestions for you to consider. You can also share them with teachers, coaches, neighbors and community leaders who work with your child.

  • Talk to your kids about AI. Tailor what you say to your child's age and level of understanding.
  • You don't want to frighten a young child, but you can make them aware that the smart speaker in your kitchen is not the same as a trusted friend. Talk about the differences between people and digital assistants—or between live conversations with friends and family and chatting on social media. Draw examples from your own life so your child gains a sense of how you practice online safety.
  • With teens, aim for an open discussion about privacy, bias, bullying and other online safety issues. Don't preach—and don't try to cover every aspect of AI all at once. Ask them for their opinions and keep an open mind. This can prompt discussions that will help you learn together.
  • Teach older kids how to manage online privacy . Explain how they can manage cookies, clear browsing histories and block social media users or marketers whose messages they choose not to see. Emphasize that this is something all online users should know—and offer a few examples of how you protect your own privacy.
  • Try AI together. Consider testing out an AI-driven app like ChatGPT or Facetune together with your kids. This can give you the chance to discuss how it works and point out any issues that concern you. Common Sense Media offers reviews that help you choose platforms to test-drive as a family.
  • Encourage curiosity and critical thinking. Challenge your kids to look for signs of bias in online content. For example, you can make a game out of spotting things that seem real vs. those that appear to be fake. Ask kids where they think the information or images are coming from. Does the person, company or group sharing them have a goal in mind? What reasons do we have to trust (or distrust) the sender?
  • Talk about plagiarism. In a time when anyone can cut and paste content and pass it off as their own, kids need to understand the concept of original work. Explain how they can use online information as a jumping-off point for their own thinking. Make sure they understand that copying or presenting the words, images and ideas of others without giving them credit is wrong (and often illegal). Continue the conversation as you kids grow.

The future of AI & protecting kids

We have a long way to go in realizing the benefits of AI while also protecting our kids from the risks it might pose. The guardrails we need should reflect the tremendous power of AI to shape our everyday lives.

Ongoing dialogue should bring families together with schools, health care providers, sports and arts organizations and other community organizations, so we can help kids benefit from AI while minimizing its potential harms.

More information

AAP Family Media Plan

Video: 5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids about Generative AI (Common Sense Media)

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