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By Karen Nemeth, EdM

Homework is a two-way street, especially in the early grades. It is meant to give children more opportunities to practice new knowledge and skills. It also keeps you informed about what your child is learning at school. It is always a good idea to show your interest in your child’s homework. There are several ways you can provide valuable support in whatever language is most comfortable for you.

Each child handles homework in their own way. You know your child best, so choose your own path for how to help with homework. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ask about homework every day to let your child know you think it is interesting and important for learning.
  • Support your child’s independence. They can do it! However, you’ll know when they really need help with an answer. When your child asks you a question, give it back to them at first. You might say, “That’s a good question. How do you think you should solve it?” and then offer some help if you think they really need it.
  • If your child really needs help, try giving a clue first. If your child asks, “How much is 4 times 8?” you might answer, “What is 8 plus 8, then 8 more, then 8 more?”
  • Teach memory tricks. When my grandson had the word “punctual” on his spelling list, I made a joke about how that word is never used to describe me. We laughed about that joke every day, and he remembered how to spell that difficult word on his test!
  • Don’t worry if you’re not an expert. Sometimes just being with your child is enough support. Let your child explain the homework to you. This helps them think about what they need to do. If necessary, ask the teacher for help. They often have examples to help families understand homework.
  • Many schools offer homework clinics – workshops for families about how to help with homework. If your school doesn’t offer this, your call might help them start one.
  • Talk to other families to get ideas about how they help their child.
  • Emphasise the importance of neatness and organisation. This reduces stress for the child and helps them learn good self-regulation habits for future success.

Homework should never bring tears… for children or for adults. Find the balance of support and independence that works for your child. Your child will learn plenty of English words at school. If you feel more comfortable talking about the homework in your first language, that is perfectly OK. Research shows that the skills and knowledge children learn in one language can easily be transferred to a new language. It’s not really confusing to the child’s brain. It is  most helpful is when families use the language they know best so they can really explain and give examples with confidence.

Family involvement is a proven component of school success!

Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.
Is an expert in first and second language development and early learning and she hosts a well-known resource website at She has written more than twelve books and many articles for teachers, leaders, and families, including her newest book -Families & Educators Together: Building Great Relationships that Support Young Children.She works with many programs, schools, and organizations as a consultant and presenter throughout the U.S. and other countries.