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What to do when you don't understand your kid's homework
It’s bound to happen eventually. Your kid comes home from school with an assignment requiring knowledge you have never been taught. Sure, you took chemistry in high school, but this is not the chemistry you remember. If you remember it at all. Don’t panic. Just because you are not the intellectual authority doesn’t mean you can’t still help your child with their homework. With these six steps, you can help your child approach mastery of any subject and learn something yourself. 1. Remain Calm Children, even young children, can pick up on emotions and will respond in kind. A panicked reaction from you will likely induce a panicked reaction from them. This is especially unhelpful because of how our brains are wired. Our emotions color our thinking. Anxiety will interfere with your and your child’s ability to think clearly, making the homework that much harder. If you need to, calm your brain with a few deep breaths. This sends extra oxygen to your brain, refreshing your mind and helping you return to focus. 2. Be Honest It may feel embarrassing to admit to your child that you don’t know something. You’re supposed to be there to provide guidance, but in this instance, you can’t. That’s okay. Confessing your lack of expertise opens the door to different styles of learning and teaching. Admit your lack of knowledge in a calm, level manner to communicate that hope is not lost. Some ways to do this might be, “I didn’t learn this in school, but we can learn it together,” or, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen this, I don’t remember where to begin.” 3. Learn from Your Child Just because your child is asking for homework help doesn’t mean they know nothing. Ask your child to tell you what they know, so that you both can start from the same foundation. If your child has class notes, have them walk you through those. Teaching is one of the best ways to solidify your knowledge, so having your child teach you strengthens their understanding of the material. To enhance this approach, make sure you ask questions along the way when you don’t understand something. 4. Identify Gaps After assessing what knowledge you and your child have between you, now you need to assess what you don’t know. This may require the two of you to go through the homework and make an attempt at it. It may help to keep a list of problems you run into. 5. Research If your child’s textbook isn’t helpful (or if they don’t have a textbook), there is information on the internet about nearly any topic your child will learn in school. Here are a few resources to get you started: - Khan Academy - Khan Academy is one of the most comprehensive tutorial sites on the web. You will have to register to access all the free videos covering all subjects. - Math Planet - Math Planet is directed at older students, with lessons ranging from Pre-Algebra through Geometry. The site has both text and video instruction. - English Grammar Online - English Grammar Online has short lessons on individual rules of grammar, writing, and vocabulary. The site is directed at English language learners, so it is an especially useful resource if English isn’t your first language. - Zinn Education Project - The Zinn Education Project is an outgrowth of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Organized as a database, with lessons you can select by time period, topic, and type of resource. - CrashCourse - CrashCourse is a video series with lessons on a diversity of subjects. Scroll over to their playlists to see subjects they cover or use the search feature in their navigation bar to find the subject you’re looking for. - Annenberg Learner - Annenberg Learner has videos, interactives, and other resources for students and teachers alike. You can browse the site by grade or by topic, as well as search the site for your subject. - Wikipedia - Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia editable by anyone in the world. This has the advantage of giving up-to-date information. The disadvantage is that, in some cases, the information can be inaccurate. Take note of warnings about bias provided by the page and check the edit history to see if there are still details under review. Be sure to follow the citations on the site, and like with all encyclopedias, don’t end your research there. - Simple English Wikipedia - Simple Wikipedia is useful when the information on Wikipedia is too complicated or when English isn’t your first language. Simple Wikipedia uses easy-to-understand language to summarize a variety of topics. The best way to approach internet research is to search by using words or phrases in your search that you don’t understand and the name of the subject your child is studying. Although search engines are increasingly recognizing sentences, a keyword search will get you more precise results. A good keyword search could be the name of the subject followed by the lesson your child is studying followed by a word or phrase you don’t understand. An added benefit of researching with your child is that you can steer them away from cheat sheet websites that can often mislead your child with inadequate explanation and, in some instances, incorrect information. 6. Apply What You’ve Learned As you are able to answer questions based on your research, have your child come up with a way of explaining it. This is best done out loud first, so your child can organize their thoughts before writing them down. When you don’t understand your child’s homework, you have to change your role from teacher to facilitator. You are on a journey with your child to help them organize their thoughts and find answers to their questions. ---- It’s important to remember that just because you can’t teach your child everything doesn’t mean you are a failure as a caregiver. This situation just opens up new approaches to learning. In some instances, particular subjects may simply be beyond your level of comprehension without the same formal instruction your child is receiving in school. When this is the case, it may be a good idea to seek outside help. JEI’s supplemental education programs in math and English can help your child to understand difficult topics you may not be able to help them with. JEI not only provides Common Core-aligned instruction, but it also teaches students how to manage their own study time with our Self-Learning Method. To get started with JEI’s programs, find a center near you today!
Must-Have Skill #5: Starting Conversations (Connecting with Peers)
Social skills are a must-have to be a part of society. There are many benefits to communicating well, which is why parents need to set examples, create opportunities, and encourage their child to interact with others (However, take care not to push them too hard as they will grow an aversion to socializing). Open communication enables a community to work harmoniously and can keep the recent epidemic of loneliness at bay. Whether getting the family together for game night, or networking with at a business event, good communication can accomplish so many amazing things, such as bringing people together and enacting change--but they all start with initiating a conversation. You want to lay down the basic foundation for your child at an early age so they can excel in the future through communication and expression. The benefits are immediate--even now, they can benefit from good conversation skills to make friends at school and discover mentors. But how can we help our children do this? Recognize the opportunity Your child has to be good at reading the room. Leaning over to another student during an exam in class is probably not the right time to say, “Hey, we’ve been sitting next to each other for a while but I don’t know your name.” Better times would be when they are waiting on the lunch line or sitting in the bleachers for a football game. One way for parents to help them recognize opportunities is to start enrolling them when they are young in certain clubs where they can learn to work as a team, like Boy/Girl Scouts, or classes where they can find like-minded peers, like arts & craft. Additionally, events or programs with chances for mentorships can gently nudge them out into society at a young age while training them to independently seek such opportunities for themselves in the future. Practicing how to network and forge deep connections early on will set your child on the path to success. The same goes for creating change. Encourage your child, if they feel passionate about a cause, to go somewhere and start conversations with people who can make an impact. For example, they can go to an event at the town borough to talk one-on-one with other attendants regarding the neighborhood’s recycling policy. There are many different ways to use conversation to reach certain goals, whether it is making friends or helping the environment. Read the opposite party Besides reading the room, does your child have the proper emotional quotient (EQ) to gauge another person’s mood? Can they read the cues to tell whether the person is in the mood to be approached for conversation? Sometimes, someone can be in a bad mood and not want to speak to anybody, especially a stranger. A person can also make it obvious they just want time to themselves if they are in a corner with a book. To make the right first impression, it is important to be able to judge when it is the right time to make the approach. This helps maintain harmony in society and leaves a better impression if your approach is to befriend or to persuade the other party. Being open to your child about how you or others are feeling and giving them books to read, particularly in first-person narrative, could help develop their EQ. Otherwise, with all things, it comes with practice. Set the right tone and body language Body language will be very important throughout the conversation, especially from the beginning. There are two ways you can act as an example. First, be an example in your posture and behavior. Be friendly and engaging. When talking to your child or others, make eye contact without being too intense and off-putting. Smile in an open and easygoing way. Turn towards your audience and lean forward slightly to show that your full attention is on them and what they are saying. Adjust accordingly. Your child is likely to mimic your behavior. Observation skills will be important here--and you can only get such skills through practice. Second, show how to start with a friendly greeting and perhaps a question or comment about the situation they and the opposite party are both sharing. Make sure your body language is relaxed and non-threatening, so the person feels more open to conversation and comfortable. Establish common ground When starting a conversation with somebody new, your child should establish common ground. The easiest way to do this is over a shared situation. For example, if they are both waiting on the lunch line, they can strike up a conversation about how hungry they are and what they want to eat; if they are in the same class, your child can ask questions about the assignment or bring up a mutual friend. Establishing such connections with others can make people feel less lonely, which can subsequently prevent or decrease depression and anxiety. Give a reminder not to get too personal, so topics such as entertainment or classes are always a safe bet. Avoid controversial subjects, such as politics or religion, and avoid gossip. There is always time for deeper conversations in the future. For now... Create a feeling of familiarity One way to create a sense of familiarity is to use light humor, maybe even about the common ground established at the start of the conversation. Your child is probably not a stand-up comedian, and therefore should not start roasting people or go into a full-blown routine. Just show they have a sense of humor. Saying the other person’s name occasionally in a conversation can also benefit both parties. Since they just met or are not yet familiar with each other, repeating the name will allow your child to remember it more easily. This will also create a feeling of familiarity for the opposite party as names are often said among acquaintances, friends, and family. They will feel closer to your child when they hear their name often. However, try to sound as natural as possible. As in, advise against this: Your Child: So, Rebecca, what have you been interested in lately? Rebecca: I’ve really been into tennis these days! Your Child: Rebecca, that is so interesting. Wow, Rebecca. I love tennis, too, Rebecca! Oh my gosh, Rebecca! Rebecca, we should totally play together someday, Rebecca. Practice active listening Contrary to belief, listening, while important, should not be a passive performance of maintaining eye contact and nodding to everything the other person is saying with occasional utterances of “Uh-huh” and “No way!” Active listening involves asking appropriate questions at the right time to further the conversation and show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. People want to feel heard. It also leaves your child with an open mind to take in new information and perspectives. This can be difficult at first, but help your child practice it. Advise them to let the other person finish talking, respond to what was said, and ask engaging questions. Patience and empathy are key here. --- With these steps and tips, your child will be ready in no time to initiate a conversation with anybody! Remember, encourage this by being open to conversation so they can practice their social skills. Do not feel guilty, however, if you are not able to engage all the time; simply let your child know you are preoccupied or not in the right headspace, and they will note this for future reference. This goes with the very first point and will help them recognize when is the right time to approach others. Conversation and communication can be difficult for both children and adults, but they are important and should be approached head-on! Good luck with your future endeavors to make lasting friendships and relationships for a brighter future and happier life! For more tips and must-have skills for your child, head to JEI’s news section.
What Is the JEI Self Learning MethodⓇ?
We get a lot of questions about our Self-Learning MethodⓇ. Most of them are skeptical and sound something like, “Why should I enroll my child in your program if they’re just going to be learning by themselves?” However, this is an inaccurate understanding of what JEI offers. We want your children to learn but, more than that, we want them to learn how to learn. Self-learning does not mean watching your child as they complete endless drills. At JEI, we teach our students how to be independent learners–a skillset that will last them a lifetime. This sets us apart from other learning centers or private tutors in that they become crutches for children, who often start to rely on being told what to know or how to do things. The drills and constant problem solving also allow children to find answers through muscle memory rather than deep conceptual understanding. JEI is there to guide them so they do not need to rely on anyone but themselves. Our structure enables children to grow independent and, consequently, more confident, so they look less toward others for help and all the answers. Our Self-Learning MethodⓇ further raises the bar by training our students to build strong study habits. Ask yourself this: Does your child have basic study skills like managing a schedule, creating an environment for heightened focus, and setting study goals? Study skills are often assumed to come naturally, but they are skills that must be learned. Many children often find themselves overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. Like most things, it’s far easier for children to learn this from guidance rather than by only experimenting on their own. It is also unhelpful to manage the schedule, create the environment, and set the goals for them. Students at our centers are given weekly homework with a recommended number of minutes to devote to study each night. This trains them to set aside regular study time not only for JEI work but also for their school work. This will save them the headache of frantically trying to complete work they put off to the last minute and will teach them responsibility. It is important to adopt our Self-Learning MethodⓇ before unhealthy habits are set in stone. This is why we recommend our programs to children from kindergarten to ninth grade; these are very important years in learning and development. Once children form the right habits and foundation in this period, they will be set for the rest of their lives. They will perform at their best throughout high school, college, and career with confidence in their abilities and an eagerness for growth. Remember that JEI does not offer quick fixes but a lifelong enrichment from our belief that a better life is found through better education. To get your child started with our Self-Learning MethodⓇ, find a center near you!