The Science Behind Homework Difficulties + Achieving Success

Kenneth Goldberg, author of The Homework Trap.
Topic: How to save the sanity of parents, students, and teachers.
Issues: The science behind homework difficulties; what homework looks like from the student’s perspective; understanding the reasons behind children’s homework problems; why the suggestions and solutions you’ve been offering may be doing more harm than good.


Neil McNerney, author of Home Work.
Topic: How to help your child without freaking out.
Issues: Recognizing your personal strengths (and weaknesses) and using harnessing them; identifying the individual ways your child deals with homework and other stressors; learning to use three powerful leadership techniques to help your child achieve success.

Homework + The Homework Trap + Employment for Military Spouses

Kenneth Goldberg, author of The Homework Trap.
Topic: How to save the sanity of parents, students, and teachers.
Issues: The science behind homework difficulties; what homework looks like from the student’s perspective; understanding the reasons behind children’s homework problems; why the suggestions and solutions you’ve been offering may be doing more harm than good.


Neil McNerney, author of Home Work.
Topic: How to help your child without freaking out.
Issues: Recognizing your personal strengths (and weaknesses) and using harnessing them; identifying the individual ways your child deals with homework and other stressors; learning to use three powerful leadership techniques to help your child achieve success.


CAPT Brad Cooper, Executive Director of Joining Forces.
Topic: Employment programs for military spouses and veterans.
Issues: Ensuring the professional licenses will be accepted nationwide; job training for returning veterans; ensuring that high school AP coursework will be accepted even if the student transfers mid-year; and much more.

Starting Middle School: Time for the Kids to Be Responsible

middle school desksDear Mr. Dad: I enjoy reading your columns every week. You recently wrote about kids making the transition from elementary to middle school. Your suggestion of keeping the communication lines open with teens is excellent.  More listening than talking is very good indeed. But I think you focused too much on the parents and how they should stay in touch with the teachers. What about the kids themselves? Don’t you think they should be taking more responsibility for their own education?

A: You’re absolutely right (and so are the other readers who wrote in with similar comments). Middle school isn’t just about the parents; kids should definitely be learning how to be more responsible and self-sufficient. However, early on, they may need a little help. Here’s are a few suggestions (including some from readers)

  • Be Interested: Ask what she’s learning or doing in the classroom, with friends, or on the sports field. Insist on answers that are longer than one word. When I pick my 7th grader up after school, she’s not allowed to fire up her phone until she’s talked to me for five minutes about her day. Knowing you’re interested in her education will help your child stay (or get) motivated to stay on top of things on her own. Other ways to do this include volunteering at the school and attending as many school events (including teacher conferences) as you can.
  • Organization: Many—but not all—schools require kids to have a calendar or planner for keeping track of their homework, projects, and due dates. But having a planner doesn’t mean your child will actually use it, or that completed assignment will make the arduous trip from his desk, into his backpack, and into the classroom. Keeping a checklist by your front door can help eliminate a lot of problems. (Lunch? Check. Soccer cleats? Check. Homework? Check. Are you sure? Yes. Really? Oh, wait, it’s on my desk….) Help your child find a system that works for him, whether it’s lists, separate binders, directories on the computer, or whatever.
  • Prioritizing: Talk with your child about how to identify tasks that need to be done right now vs. those that are due tomorrow or next week. If your middle-schooler tends to get frustrated or overwhelmed, help her break larger projects down into smaller, less-daunting chunks. Instead of doing 100 math problems in one sitting, divide them up and intersperse them with other assignments. Help her come up with a system that works for her and her individual learning style.
  • Routines: Having a set schedule for homework can keep your child on track. A short decompression period before diving in is good, as are regular breaks. If possible, stay nearby. That’s so you can help your child stay focused and be there in case she needs help with an assignment.
  • Praise: Grades offer pretty good feedback on how a child is doing in school, but not everyone gets good ones. It’s especially important that you acknowledge the time and effort your child put into a particular project or homework assignment even if the grades were less than ideal.
  • Trust but Verify: For the first part of the year, it’s okay to make frequent reminders and require your child to show you her progress every day. But don’t turn into a crutch—or a helicopter. Over time, make fewer and fewer reminders.
  • Consequences: As your active involvement and reminders decrease, your child’s freedom to make decisions will increase. Gradually, he’ll also learn to deal with consequences, which could range from winning an award to failing a class. It’s up to him.

Transitioning to Middle School: From Big Fish to Small

back to school

Credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is starting middle school next week. His previous school was K-5 so this is a new one for him. He’s nervous and, honestly so am I. He’s a smart kid but has always had trouble finishing assignments and turning work in on time. I’m worried that if he does the same in middle school, he’ll be setting himself up for even more trouble in high school and beyond. What can I do to help him (and myself) get ready for this big transition?

The transition from elementary- to middle school is kind of like the transition from half-day preschool or kindergarten to full-day first grade: it’s going to be a huge change in your son’s—and your—life. Until now, he’s probably spent each school year in a single classroom with a single teacher and the schedule was largely the same every day. But now, that comfort and security is being replaced by different teachers in different classrooms—each with different rules, binders, homework policies, and learning environments. Middle school is also a lot more tech-heavy than elementary school. My daughter’s school, for example, has the kids use Google docs, which are accessible from anywhere, for all assignments. The old “the-dog-ate-my-homework” or “Oops-I-left-it­-at-home” excuses won’t fly anymore.
[Read more…]

Homework — Is It Your Child’s or Yours?

parent doing child's homeworkDear Mr. Dad: I’m an involved dad and I often help my kids with their homework. Sometimes, in the interests of speeding things along, I give them the answers. Over the past year, both kids (11 and 9) are coming to me more and more often, asking for help even when I know they don’t need it. I tell them to figure it out, they whine, and eventually I give in to the pressure. How can I get them to start doing their work by themselves?

A: It’s great that you’re an involved dad—and it’s great that you’re taking an active role in your kids’ education. But by doing their homework for them (let’s be honest—that’s exactly what happening), you’re undermining their ability to learn good study habits. What’s far worse is that you’re sending them the very clear message that you don’t think they’re smart enough to do their own work. From what you say, they’re starting to believe you, and that’s tragic.

So the question you asked: How can you get the kids to start doing their work by themselves—is the wrong one. The real issue is: How (and when) are you going to stop caving when they ask for help that you acknowledge they don’t really need?

The answer is pretty simple: You need to stop cold turkey and you need to do it now.
[Read more…]

The Learning Habit + Hyper


Rebecca Jackson, co-author of The Learning Habit.
Topic:
A groundbreaking approach to homework that helps kids succeed in school and life.
Issues: Recent research on learning—what works and what doesn’t; managing our kids’ media use; supporting academic homework and reading; mastering time management; communicating effectively; learning to focus; developing self-reliance.



Timothy Denevi, author of Hyper.
Topic:
A personal history of ADHD.
Issues: What it’s like to be a boy who can’t stop screaming or fighting or fidgeting; startling stats about ADHD (1/5 of high-school-age boys and 11 percent of all school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD; the evolution of drug treatments; understanding this complex and controversial diagnosis.