A weekend interview about homework help with tutor Tracey Holloway of Club Z
Report cards come out in the next few weeks. Some parents might decide the time has come to help their kids with homework a bit more diligently. But what to do might elude them. Tracey Holloway, owner of Club Z In-Home Tutoring of St. Petersburg, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about some ways to help.
What advice do you have for them when they see their report cards to ensure that they do well in school from here on out?
Well, I think that in most situations if you are getting a report card back that is surprisingly less successful than you had thought, it's best not to panic. It's early enough in the school year and it's time to strategically make a plan about how you can get your student's grades up to where you want them to be. There's obviously a conversation with the teacher to find out where they think your student is struggling. ... So that you can work with the teacher, work with the student to bring up those grades by the time the next grading period comes around.
Obviously if this is a long-term pattern and you have a student who never does well or consistently has trouble getting up to speed at the beginning of the year, there might be some other issues to deal with, too. Club Z obviously does tutoring and I can always recommend getting a tutor if you cannot handle getting those students' grades up to speed on your own. ...
When the kids are coming home with their homework, a lot of times parents don't know what to do to help them. What do you advise parents to do to make sure the kids don't get frustrated and they stay focused?
Right. I think there are several things they can do. Time management is a really important thing, especially establishing it at a young age. If you have a middle schooler or a high schooler and you haven't done it, it's never too late to start trying. At least with the smaller kids, if you can try to establish a time of day - and you can give them some choices to make them feel like they're in control - but try to establish a particular time of day when you do homework. I kind of recommend letting them have some play time after school, but getting it in before dinner. If that doesn't work for your situation, if you can establish a time of day that's important so the child knows what's expected....
Make sure the environment where they're doing the homework, they have a special spot to do it, that it's lit properly, it's quiet, they have all the tools they need. ... And there's no television going on. Because I know that can be very distracting.
Do you think having a specific place every day, that you go to the same place?
In your home if you have a specific time every day to do the homework, and a specific spot ... that's pretty important for them to be able to concentrate.
Is there an amount of time where parents might say, Look this is taking too long. This is maybe not the right time to finish this.
I think that really depends on the student's age. Obviously in the elementary school they can't be spending two or three hours a night on homework because they'll get worn out. I do know some children in high school who are taking some pretty hefty subjects and it may take them several hours to do their homework. I'm not necessarily saying there's a certain amount of time each night. I'm saying to set aside the same time of day. But I agree with you. There could come a point where say your elementary school student is struggling for three hours on their homework. They're either, a) getting too much homework or b) not keeping up with it. That may be a signal to get much more involved with the teacher finding out what the issues are, or maybe even a signal that it's time to get some outside help.
How do you keep your children from being frustrated at that point?
Well, I think it's very important that if you can observe your child doing their homework ... you walk a fine line. On the one hand, you want to make sure the child is attempting to do the homework themselves and they have at least some failure before you try to interject. Otherwise what ends up happening is they give up too easy and they don't challenge themselves. On the other hand, if you can see they've been struggling with the same problem for quite some time, I think it's helpful if you have the ability ... to step in and say, Let's work another problem that's like this one. And let me show you an example. A lot of kids will respond to that example. So you've helped them, but you haven't done their homework for them.
How can you make sure you're helping without doing the homework?
(Laughs) Well, I think that, again, to try to give them enough time to work through it and determine that they cannot do it on their own. And then when you do help, do it by example, not necessarily doing the homework for them. ... Or try to relate what they're doing to your average daily life. .. I think it's never a good idea to watch problem by problem or every time they stammer over a problem or struggle with a work you work it for them. That's definitely not the way to go.
is it a good idea to talk through the question with them as they're doing it? Especially for younger kids.
I think that could be done well in either case. There are some kids who might respond better if you work through the problem and give them some hints to start with. But I caution against doing that too much and not letting them figure out some things for themselves. Especially for younger kids, it might be helpful to read through and say, Do you understand what you need to do here? And if they don't understand what they need to do, you can better explain what it is they need to do, again, without necessarily doing it for them. if they still don't understand, perhaps giving them examples.
And by the time they're in high school, hopefully they'll be doing this on their own.
Yeah. If you're establishing good study skills when they're younger, they'll grow up with them and they probably won't need all of this to be explained when they get into high school. ...
It sounds like it's a lot of work for the kids and the parents.
There's also a personality situation that comes into play with parents who are trying to help their kids. ... Sometimes the parent and the child can have some disagreement over homework. ... Sometimes it is necessary to have someone from the outside come in, and then the child acts a whole lot different with a stranger, a tutor or even a friend. ... That can also work through some of the personality conflicts that surprisingly can occur when the parent is trying to help the child with homework.
... Another big key is ... the attitude that you've got toward their homework, especially if they're little, is one that they're going to adopt themselves. I've also read suggestions that if you can work on something that you call your homework while they're working on theirs, they get an example of it. Like if you balance your checkbook and say, I'm going to work on my homework while you work on yours. ... Kids learn by example.