It can be a daily struggle for some parents when it comes to their children’s homework: How do I find time to help? How much help is too much? What if I don’t understand the assignment? Is my child getting too much homework or not enough?
Well, rest easy. Several local experts offer guidance for harried parents on the go.
“Parental help is critical to a child’s success,” says Diana Fedderman, Palm Beach County School District’s director of secondary education (middle and high school). “Any kind of support at home – whether it’s parents, grandparents or anyone – is helpful.”
While there isn’t a district-wide rule to determine how much homework is too much, Fedderman says a general rule of thumb is that students get 10 minutes per grade level.
“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.”
The 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.”
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.
“My mom can help me with math but not really any other subjects since she doesn't really speak [English]," says Marcus, a Boynton Beach sixth-grader who attends Village Academy.
• Diana Fedderman, director of Secondary 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