Children don't always know how to say they do not understand homework assignments or need extra help. They may be afraid their teachers will get angry or punish them. Parents should inform teachers of their children's struggles right away to identify problem areas and open communication. Your involvement teaches your child how to self-advocate. A letter is best because it documents communication and may be used as a reference point. The letter may be handwritten, typed or emailed. If you prefer email communication, make sure your child's teacher checks school-related emails.
Discuss, Identify, Write, Follow Up
Talk to your child about homework issues. This is best done when the child sits down to start homework. Ask what subjects are the most troubling and what you can do to help. Determine if your child needs additional resources to complete certain assignments, such as the Internet, graphic organizers or calculators, if permissible. Establish if your child is overwhelmed with the amount of time it takes to complete the work.
Time how long it takes your child to complete each assignment and write it down in the homework assignment book or on the actual assignment sheet. This will help you and the teacher identify struggle areas. Depending on grade level, elementary students should not spend more than 30 minutes to an hour total on all homework assignments. High school students may spend 30-45 minutes per subject.
Write a first draft letter to your child's teacher detailing the issues you identified and suggestions to solve them. Be specific. For example, if your child has trouble writing essays, you might explain that your child can't organize thoughts concisely. Offer concrete suggestions, such as asking the teacher to provide a sample outline or written steps to writing an essay, or ask for after-school help, if applicable. Keep the letter objective. Do not include personal emotions. Do include your contact information and ask the teacher to respond by a specific date.
Revise the letter for brevity. Teachers will appreciate a letter that is short and to the point.
Follow up with the teacher to make sure the letter was received. Schedule an appointment on the phone, via email chat or in person to brainstorm ideas to help your child overcome homework obstacles. Keep a record of your child's homework progress. Strategies may be modified as academic concepts are introduced or mastered.