I began teaching high school English in 2001 and I’ve noticed that the one thing that successful students have in common is that their parents are still involved in their education at home. While high school students are old enough that they can take on the responsibility of doing their work independently, they are still young enough to be helped by a little tutoring from their parents..
It is difficult for parents to check a high school student’s homework because they will, as a rule, rebel against feeling like they are being babied, so checking their homework the same way you did when they were in elementary school can often backfire. But even though they will never admit it, your kids love knowing that you are interested in what they are doing. The following habits are practiced by the parents of my most successful students.
1. Ask to see homework sporadically. Ask to see their homework twice a week at first, then once a week, then every other week. Don’t be predictable about the day of the week either. Your child should know that you will sometimes check homework, but never one. The overall level of work will be higher.
2. Ask to see homework even in subjects you have never studied. Casually mention that you didn’t have to take chemistry when you were in high school and scan the assignment. Ask your child to explain one or two concepts. If you notice that one answer seems incomplete or less thorough than the others suggest that your child calls his or her lab partner or a friend in the class so they can work out the answer together. You probably want to monitor the phone conversation so the conversation isn’t “What’d’ya get for number 8. OK, thanks. Later.” The end goal is for your child to understand the homework not just to get a good grade.
3. Check for the basics. Even if you don’t know what the Spanish-American War was fought over, make sure that punctuation, capital letters, and spelling is correct and that the paper is neatly written or typed. If your children protest that the teacher doesn’t grade on capitalization and spelling, remind them that you expect them to do their best and to always apply what they have learned-what’s the point of an education otherwise. Also, practice make perfect. Continually misspelling words and being lazy about punctuation will create a poor writer.
4. Ask your child’s teachers to suggest websites that you can use to help your child when there is a difficult homework question that neither of you can figure out the answer to.
5. Headings are important. I was always surprised at how many of my students titled their assignments “Homework” or “English.” It takes just a little time to write “Vocab. Ch. 3” or “Page 138: 1-8” but the time taken to organize homework or find an old assignment is dramatically decreased.