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Is your elementary school student fighting you over homework?

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Mother and daughter working on homework

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How much time to expect?
2. Does the county offer help?
3. Who can assist our family with English?

Is your child struggling to get their homework done?  Maybe you’re wondering whether to help, or wondering how much is too much work?

Well, rest easy. Several local experts offer guidance for harried parents on the go.

1. HOW MUCH TIME TO EXPECT?

While there isn’t a district-wide rule to determine how much homework is too much, Diana Fedderman, Palm Beach County School District’s director of secondary education (middle and high school) says a general rule of thumb is that students build on 10 minutes per grade level. For example, 10 minutes for kindergarten, 20 minutes for first grade, 30 minutes for second grade, etc.

Elementary school children thrive with order and structure at home or wherever they do their homework, according Debbie Battles, the district’s former director of elementary education and a local principal.

“Setting up a schedule and a routine is most important,” Battles says. “They shouldn’t be in front of the TV or somewhere where they are constantly interrupted.”

But the best advice, each agrees, is for children to do the heavy lifting while parents offer backup support in the form of suggestions and feedback. And look for signs your child is struggling with the assignments and needs help.

Finally, they encourage constant contact with your child’s teacher.

“Communicating with the teacher is really important,” Fedderman says. “If a parent is unsure about anything, the easiest thing to do is to contact the teacher. That’s true of elementary or secondary students.”

2. DOES THE COUNTY OFFER HELP?

The school district offers several links and resources to help on its website. Click on the Students link or the Parents link to select Learning Tools for Parents in the box on the right.

The Palm Beach County Library System offers several programs to help with homework, research or other schoolwork, says Matt Selby, a youth engagement librarian. They include two online initiatives, Live Homework Help and Ask a Librarian, and two databases, World Almanac for Kids and Kids InfoBits. 

These programs require a library card, Selby says, but a student or parent can get one within minutes of applying.

The most popular is Live Homework Help, in which 10,000 people participated in one-on-one sessions between February 2015 and January 2016, Selby says. The program started in 2003, and calculus, algebra and chemistry are the most sought-after subjects for help,

“Live Homework Help is a great tool for students where they can get help from a certified tutor with any subject,” Selby says. “It’s for students in grades K-12 and even some college introduction classes.”

3. WHO CAN ASSIST OUR FAMILY WITH ENGLISH?

In addition, the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County offers homework-assistance programs, mostly for non-English speakers. One of them is Village Readers Family Education Program, says Megan Richards, director of education and family literacy for the Literacy Coalition.

Parents attend evening classes to improve their English skills while their children participate in educational enrichment activities.  It’s during the afternoon and evening enrichment time that community volunteers provide homework help, she says.

“A lot of society’s problems can be traced to low literacy skills,” Richards says. “People drop out of school, can’t get a good job, and it spirals downward. We want to improve the quality of life in our community by promoting and achieving literacy for every child and every adult.”

Students whose parents participate in the Village Readers program say it has been a huge help.

“Help with my homework helps me with my grades because when I get an A on my homework, I understand it," says Rodensky, a Boynton Beach sixth-grader who attends Village Academy in Delray Beach. 

SOURCES:

• Diana Fedderman, director of Secondary Education, School District of Palm Beach County 
• Debbie Battles, former director of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County
• Matt Selby, youth engagement librarian, Palm Beach County Library System 
• Megan Richards, director of Education and Family, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County

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