Homework can facilitate bonding between parents and kids

Stacey Jacobson-Francis of Berkeley, Calif., works on math homework with her 6-year-old daughter, Luci, in May. Local educators say that homework can build a lifelong bond between a parent and child. The Associated Press

Homework. Most kids probably hate it and it’s unlikely parents care much for it either. Actress Angelina Jolie recently joked that she is always willing to help her kids with homework — unless it’s math. “No, not math!” she tells them.

But local educators say homework can build a lifelong bond between a parent and child and help them better understand one another. The parent, if he and she sticks with helping through the high-school years, can stay abreast of what children are doing in school and better communicate with them as they mature. And the child may learn that, like it or not, homework never ends.

Nava Elementary School teacher William Rodriguez recently took some of his students to the Santa Fe Mazda Volvo dealership on Cerrillos Road on a career-oriented after-school visit. The kids were shocked to learn that the workers there — mechanics, officer manager, sales personnel and others — continue to study to be certified in their fields every six months, particularly as new car models are introduced.

“You mean it doesn’t end when I get out of the 12th grade?” one student asked them.

No, it doesn’t. Several Santa Fe teachers said parents can serve as role models in this regard by sitting down next to their children at the kitchen table and doing their own homework, be it paying bills or reviewing work-related material, or even just reading a favorite book. Thus the parent can be nearby should the child need help.

Teachers’ advice for helping with homework mirrors much of what you can find on the U.S. Department of Education’s “Helping Your Child With Homework” page: Set a regular time and place for homework; get rid of any distractions (iPhones, background music); and remain interested in what your child is doing. Read to them and with them. Don’t do the work for them, but guide them. Watch for homework overload — most elementary school teachers should be sending home 45-60 minutes of work per night with (ideally) weekends off.

Frances Carreon, who has a first-grader and fifth-grader at Carlos Gilbert Elementary School, said she lets her kids unwind for about an hour after school before she sits them down at the kitchen table to finish their homework together while she supervises. She said over the past month or so her older child is becoming more independent in this task and does not rely on her as much.

But how do you help if you don’t know how to do the homework yourself?

Nava Elementary School teacher Laura Mayo-Rodriguez, who teachers sixth grade, said, “Probably the biggest fear the parents of my sixth-graders have is, ‘I don’t remember the math skills.’ My suggestion is that you not try to figure out the answer yourself but ask your child to tell you what they learned in class that day. The kid should be able to give you an answer because they are doing this everyday in class. You don’t have to know everything in order to help.”

On the other hand, it doesn’t help your child if you do all the work yourself. One Santa Fe teacher spoke of a situation where a child came in with a beautiful-looking science project completed at home — by Mom and Dad. That attitude could hurt a child academically.

And even though a recent study by sociology professors Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris found that parent involvement in homework doesn’t correlate to higher grades or better academic achievement, that report stated that reading to and with your kids does make a difference — a point echoed by Santa Fe teachers as well. Parents, grandparents and guardians should spend at least 20 minutes with a child reading with them every night — even into the high-school years.

Carreon said her first-grader reads 15 to 20 minutes every night while her fifth-grader reads 30 to 45 minutes a night.

When it comes to homework duties, she urges parents to build a relationship with their children’s teachers and reach out to them for help. “Most parents are receptive to a parent’s frustration with the work load,” she said. William Rodriguez said he gives his cellphone number to parents and students so they can ask for guidance at home.

Santa Fe Public Schools’ Parent Academy offers a free class on supporting your child in school that includes a homework component. Visit www.sfps.info/parentacademy for more details.

The state’s Public Education Department has a number of tip sheets on its website, too. Visit ped.state.nm.us/parents and click on the “family/community tool kit” link.

Visit www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/homework/index. for the U.S. Department of Education’s “Helping Your Child With Homework” page.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.

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