Help for homework

Tips to lessen homework anxiety

Back to school is a big adjustment for students and parents and often creates a lot of stress and anxiety. Kids are faced with adjusting to new teachers, classrooms, and courses (not to mention the entire social structure of school relationships) — and while parents are spared much of the drama of the day to day experience, they are right in the mix when it comes to homework, and homework anxiety.

Whether you are trying to review progress or give assistance, you may often feel the same type of homework anxiety that your child experiences. You want your child to succeed and feel confident, and when they don’t — wow, it can really take a bite out of a good evening.

Minnesota Parent recently spoke with Leo Shmuylovich, expert tutor and co-founder of online interactive tutoring service, who had some helpful suggestions for parents based on his experience working with hundreds of students. So, to start the school year off on the right foot —and stay on proper footing throughout the year — you might try a few of these tips.

Remove distractions. Remove all distractions during designated study time. You can provide your child with a disturbance-free workspace by eliminating potential diversions such as mobile phones, TVs and extraneous conversations from the designated study area (including yours!). If the computer is being used, make sure it’s for homework.

Be your child’s champion. If you can’t directly help your child, make sure that those who can — do. Communicate directly with his or her teacher or tutor, and review homework and quizzes. Don’t wait for a mid-term grade as an indication of progress. If your child’s school has online grade and progress assessment portals such as Edline or Parent Portal, make use of it only as a way to check in and also see what’s coming up. A common complaint with many teachers and students alike is that parents “helicopter” too much in these systems, checking them far too frequently and putting pressure on their children unnecessarily.

Don’t wait, start now! Start this week by working on current homework problems every night with your child. This will help you determine if there are issues and you can begin to address them before they become overwhelming for you and your child.

Reduce test-taking anxiety. If your child gets good grades on homework, but scores poorly on tests, it may be anxiety related. Simulate the high-stakes test environment by asking them to solve problems in a defined period of time without the help of their book or computer.

Make your child the teacher. Ask your child to explain the concept to you. If they can explain it to you, then they can work through the problem.

Practice makes perfect.
Ask the teacher for extra worksheets and check your local bookstore for workbooks by course if your child needs more practice problems.

Tap online resources for assistance. If your child doesn’t know a rule or concept within a larger concept, use online resources to review or teach a concept. Sometimes hearing something explained in a different way can make a difference.

Use mnemonic memory tricks.
If your child needs to memorize a sequence, such as the planets in order, or one of my favorites, “Never Eat Soggy Waffles” (North-East-South-West), make up sentences that are fun — and unforgettable. Truly? The crazier the better.  

Subtlety is sublime

Says Shmuylovich, “It can be challenging for parents to intervene when their child is struggling with homework. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is to offer help indirectly, which minimizes the chance for conflict between the parent and child.” The last thing you want to do after a long day at work (and school) is to end the day with a homework conflict. When it appears you and your child are about to butt heads, step back, and take the subtle approach. Deliver a snack to keep them fueled and then pause a moment to see if they will ask you for assistance. Sit quietly nearby and read a book. Proximity is key. Sometimes even your presence will be enough to keep your child motivated. Good luck!

For help with homework, check out a few of these helpful products
An interactive website with math and science tutorials for high school students studying Algebra and Physics

Old Dogs, New Math by Rob Estaway and Mike Askew
A straightforward guide to the new math taught in today’s elementary schools. Visit

Never Eat Soggy Waffles: Fun Mnemonic Tricks by Patricia J. Murphy
Offers fun memory tricks to remember difficult facts, with colorful illustrations. Visit for more information

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