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You don't like to watch your child struggle with a math problem or continually misspell words, but it's important to let him learn from his mistakes. When it comes to homework, abide by this rule: Support your child and offer assistance, but never do the assignment yourself. First grade is probably your child's first experience with homework, so you'll be involved to some degree — at least going over the instructions. Here are a few ways to strike the right balance:
Talk to your child's teacher. Teachers handle homework in many different ways, and their strategies will determine how involved you should be in the work. "If the teacher is counting on an assignment to show if your child understands something, helping might not be the right thing," says Gwynn Mettetal, an associate professor of education at Indiana University South Bend. "On the other hand, if the teacher is expecting you to help and your child is the only one not getting assistance, your child will fall behind." Teachers who use homework to track progress and to place children in groups will want you to let your child work alone; otherwise, the teacher won't get an accurate read on your child's ability.
Let your child know you're interested in the work. Regardless of your involvement, talk about every assignment before your child begins working on it. Ask questions: "Do you understand the assignment?" "Have you done this kind of work before?" When your child is finished, ask to see the work. The teacher might not want you to make corrections, but you'll be able to see your child's strengths and weaknesses, and you'll learn which areas you should work on at home.
Help in other ways. Let your child do the assignment, but do what you can to make it easier. If your child works best with visual aids, draw pictures that refer back to the work. If your child works well with tactile aids, use things around the house to demonstrate math problems (cut a piece of fruit into sections to show fractions, for example). If your child is practicing certain words, use them in sentences, or write them on sticky notes and post them around the house.
Organize your child's homework routine. You can't overdo it in this department. Set up a comfortable work space at home. Schedule a time for homework every afternoon or night (try out different times to see what works best for your child). Put together a homework calendar for your child with specific assignments and due dates. Provide all the school supplies your child will need.
Praise good efforts. This form of homework help is always appropriate and will do wonders for your child's self-esteem. Display samples of well-done assignments on the refrigerator or in your child's room.