These are strange times and even if you’re not accustomed to helping with homework (including different types of homework), it may help a lot if you can help.
Even pre-pandemic, when parents were surveyed about their helping with homework and trouble lending help, about 50% said they had difficulty… so you’re not alone.
There are healthy debates about whether you as a parent should help with homework…and that doesn’t even consider whether a child might be dyslexic, dysgraphic, or dyscalculic, or all three.
Helping with homework is not a good idea if the student doesn’t learn how to do the work. Now if a student is drowning, and no one is around to help, then a little help might not seem to be a terrible idea.
If you’re a dyslexic parent, your student may be encouraged by your offer to help. The way you solve it may also even make more sense to her or him than a non-dyslexic’s approach. Sometimes, though the job does have to be passed to someone else.
IF YOU HELP ARE YOU HELPING THEM CHEAT? ARE YOU BEING A HELICOPTER PARENT?
Parents and teachers worry about this much more than they should… especially if their student is dyslexic. The challenges facing dyslexic student can be pretty much overwhelming in the early years. Any little bit that you do to encourage them and help them will repay itself in self-esteem and classroom achievement. Because of the particular perceptual challenges associated with dyslexia, there will be information missed and information that can’t be written down. There are all the social and internal pressures that students place on themselves.
School is exhausting and then far too many are assigned homework that they can’t possibly complete.
When they come home it serves little purpose to put them at a dining table with a mound of work that they may not be able to grasp. In some cases, they may have to try to learn what might have been presented too quickly to follow in class.
The worry that any help parents or other family members give is helicoptering is misplaced. The goal is to help them to understand the work – and it may require more repetitions or presentation of information another way.
If you would like to help your students even though you may not fully understand the subject and aren’t a ‘wiz’ yourself some tips:
1. Admit you’re not sure you’ll be able to help, but model giving it a good try.
2. Read through the questions with your students and try to put the problem into other words.
3. Identify what you know and don’t know and work with the correct answer if it’s available (see the preceding article in this issue) to figure out how the problem was solved.
4. Find ways to offload your student’s working memory – do calculations with a calculator or summarize what you’ve already done or are in the process of doing.
5. Use a highlighter or circle or underline important parts of the problem.
6. Work with a correctly solved problem in view and color code steps so it’s easier to follow. If your student correctly follows the logic of a problem, then give them the exact same problem to solve without hints and see if they can solve it. If they can’t solve it without hints, then let them see the correctly solved problem again.
7. If you are genuinely baffled by how a problem is being solved either because you never learned the method or the process is long forgotten, then see if you can find a video on YouTube that can provide more explanation.
8. Encourage your student to reach out to other classmates and the teacher for additional explanations…as long as it wouldn’t result in more frustrations. Are lectures recorded or is recording permitted? Our son used a livescribe pen in class and another student took notes for him. If any information was unclear, he contacted the student.
9. If your student is dysgraphic or has significant working memory problems, it may help to help scribe or repeat back information. It’s better for students to get more supports and work through problems correctly than to work completely independently and get most of the problems wrong. Approaching homework that way can cause them to learn incorrect steps that may be very difficult to unlearn later.
10. Finally, if possible, encourage little breaks. Most young dyslexic students can experience working memory overload when performing many challenging tasks at once. When you are working with your student at home, take plenty of breaks. Consider performing error checking work in a different setting when a student is rested.
11. Hang in there! If you haven’t had anyone tell you how wonderful you are for helping your students, let me do that now. You don’t have to have all the answers. Whatever you are doing is helping in some way.
Far too many dyslexic kids continue to feel as if they are all alone as they face these challenges, but you may be saving a life one student at a time.
This is a free 6 week course for students (6-8th grade) that aims to give students a positive view of math. It’s run by Jo Boaler who gave one of first webinars here at Dyslexic Advantage!
Zearn is a fantastic (and FREE!) resource. It also includes grade recovery videobased lessons and downloadable worksheets and manipulatives.
Mashup Math is a free visual math channel on YouTube. Middle Grade Math.
Oldie no-frills free video-based learning for math and more through the Khan Academy.
Finally, a nice to-the-point, this math teacher shares her favorite only math manipulatives.