Helping with homework – a guide

Helping your child with homework can have long lasting positive effects for you and your child, beyond completing the homework task, but it we all know that it can also be a source of arguments and stress for everyone involved. 

Did you know that helping your child with maths, helps them to be better problem solvers, logical thinkers and communicators?

All children will need help with homework at some point. Your child might need help once in a while or much more often. If your child needs help it can be really hard to know, how to best help them and to keep you both happy in the process.

This guide tells you what to expect, as well as tips on how to keep the experience positive for you both. It is mostly aimed at helping younger children and those in primary school who are expected to be less independent with homework, but it is still very relevant for older children who can benefit from your support.

Helping with homework – a guide

Before you start

Be ready to learn by eating, drinking, being well rested and removing distractions. Remember, during the session to take a break or come back to it later when you both have more energy to deal with it. You might also find this guide useful – How to help your child to study.


Set high expectations for behaviour. Agree the rules on time, focus, breaks and rewards, before starting work. Expect good focus and engagement. Reward the effort when it is achieved, no matter what is learnt in the session.

Reduce your expectations

It may not be easy. If your child is struggling, it is either because, they don’t remember how to do something, they’ve misunderstood teaching or that they lack confidence because of a past struggles. It may even be because there is a learning difference that is getting in the way. In all these situations, don’t expect that just because you have explained an idea, they will understand it.

Be patient

You may have to explain something more than once. Maybe use different language to explain the idea the second time around. Check that your child is following you by going slowly, stopping often to check they are still with you and repeating often. Give them permission to interrupt you, when they don’t understand. 

Change what you are doing

Sometimes repeating is not the answer. You may say “ok, don’t worry, I’m probably not using the best method for you to understand this, let’s take a look at another way of learning this.” Think about your child and their learning styles. Could you use objects around you to bring the sum to life or draw the problem out on a piece of paper? It is important to remember that your child may be very different from you, both in how they learn and what they are good at. 

Be an example

Let your child see you work through a similar sum first, explaining why you did each step. Once they have seen how you worked through the problem, they may feel more confident to try themselves. This idea of learning to problem solve is called metacognition and you can read the importance of it here.

Settle for less

Stop when your child has learnt one thing that they didn’t know before the session. Praise the effort and come back to the work later. 

Keep your cool

It can be frustrating if you have spent time with your child and there doesn’t seem to be any improvement. It is not their fault. If you feel yourself becoming impatient get up and leave for a drink and remember there are no bad students only bad teachers. 

Expect mistakes

It is perfectly natural to take missteps when learning something new. Your child will better understand an idea if they are making mistakes and going back to correct them. Do not make them feel bad for the mistake. It is a normal part of learning. 

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know how to do this, either. Let’s look for some help.” This shows your child that it’s OK to not know the answer and to ask for help. Show your child how to find the resources and examples you need, whether in their class materials or on the internet. You are showing your child how to be a good learner, rather than knowing it all, which is a bigger lesson. Speak to your child’s teacher for more resources or support

Don’t compare

Your child’s homework should give you an idea of what level your child is working at. Comparisons are unhelpful. Your child should always be working towards their own goals.

Will I confuse my child, if I teach them a different way to do a sum?

If you find that your child is struggling with a way to work out a sum, it is best to find a different way to do it rather than pushing them to understand a particular method. Because we learn in different ways, not every method make sense to us all. 

It is important to know that you will not be holding your child back or confusing them if you teach them a way to do a sum that they do understand. If they are then taught a new or different way to approach a sum, they will be increasing their fluency, which is the aim of the curriculum.

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