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Is your kid struggling in school? Here are some tips for parents
Experts offer advice on helping children learn at home
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It’s not easy for parents to watch their children struggle with school work.

Some parents may not know the best way to help, but local teachers have tips to make homework go smoothly after school.

“If parents really model organization and provide their children with the necessary supplies, it makes a difference,” said Amy Chosewood, sixth-grade math teacher at North Hall Middle School’s Earhart Edison Exploration Academy. “If students know their parents are checking their agendas or keeping them accountable, they would be more apt to write in it and stay on top of their school work.”

Reading

At the elementary level, reading and writing can be among the biggest difficulties, and are important for families to do together at home.

“Reading is a huge one,” said Jessica McClain, first-grade teacher at New Holland Knowledge Academy in Gainesville. “We suggest about 20 minutes a day, every day. We can really tell a difference when parents take the time to read to their kids.”

Chosewood said if a middle-school student is overwhelmed by a reading assignment, parents should give the child a certain number of pages to read in one sitting before taking a break. Smaller, achievable goals can make the assignment seem easier.

Cynthia Kinsey, second-grade teacher at New Holland, encourages parents to have their children read and reread to improve reading ability and help them retain information. She said the best way for a child to memorize information is by writing and saying it together.

“Memorization is really about writing,” she said. “For them to look at a word and write it, or look at a word and say it is important. Writing is the best thing they can do.”

Math

Kinsey said there are resources online for students and parents, per grade level and subject. She recommended www.readworks.org, www.math-aids.com and www.starfall.com for students who may want an interactive way to practice lessons at home.

Math-Aids offers hundreds of interactive math worksheets and states, “Parents use the math worksheets on this website to give their children extra practice with essential math skills. Using the math worksheets over breaks and during the summer will allow children to stay sharp.”

McClain said it is good for parents to know what their child has to be “fluent” in per grade.

“In first grade, we have to be fluent in adding and subtracting to 10, and we really want them to be able to do to 20,” she said. “So math facts at home and making sure your child really understands the difference.”

She said, at the elementary level, mathematics is about simple skills.

“We see that a lot of the parents are able to help with the math homework at home,” she said.

Chosewood recommended the Hall County School District Parent Toolbox, which has math resources for sixth through 12th grade.

 Organization

Teachers agree parents can be the biggest asset to their children by helping them stay on top of their assignments.

“With middle school, especially teaching sixth grade, sometimes this is their first encounter with having multiple classrooms and teachers,” Chosewood said. “It seems to me one of the biggest things parents can do is help these students stay organized.”

Ashley Durham, sixth- and seventh-grade advanced social studies in the Earhart Edison Exploration Academy, said it is beneficial for parents to set aside a “homework time.”

“Many experts suggest that homework should equal about 10 minutes daily per grade level,” Durham said. “So sixth-graders have roughly an hour of homework a night — this would be the total amount for all subjects — though some nights may have none or more.”

Chosewood said time management cannot easily be taught in the classroom, so it’s something that is often up to the parents.

“They can really help so much with organizing assignments and managing their time,” Chosewood said. “Often, the reason an assignment is due two weeks from now is because it will take two weeks to do it. So those that wait to the night before find themselves in a bind.”

Kinsey and Chosewood said paying attention to children while they discuss their school work is important because parents might pick up on an area in which they are struggling.

Chosewood encourages parents to probe for information about school. She said when a parent asks, “What did you learn today?” ask for more of an answer than the generic, “Nothing.”

She said her students agree parents can help with assignments at home.

“I asked one of my classes, ‘Guys, what is the No. 1 thing your parents could do to help you with homework?’” Chosewood said. “And they all said, ‘Help me not procrastinate.’”

Durham said the “most important” thing for parents to remember is homework is the students’ responsibility. If a student is regularly struggling with work at home, parents should consider speaking to the teacher about developing a plan, she said.

It is good for parents to be supportive, Durham said, but, “if a parent is stressed out by their child’s homework, the parent is doing too much for the child.”

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