How Parents Can (Successfully) Help Kids With Homework

There were two kinds of homework battles in my house (if you ask my younger sisters I think there still are). First, getting us to sit down and actually start working. Second, the frustration that set in when we were asking our parents for help and they either didn’t know the answer or we argued on the best way to do it. Parents often ask me how for tips on how to avoid homework time from devolving into huge arguments or undone assignments.

1. Know what the teacher wants.

Every teacher has a different homework policy. Some teachers ask that parents not help with homework so that they know when kids do not understand something. Others want homework to be a family activity. Make sure you are on the same page with the teacher.

2. Get clear on guidelines.

Can homework be written in both pen and pencil? How about red pen? How about crayons (in my brother’s case)? Also asking how homework should be turned in (is it supposed to be in a specific folder or signed by a parent when completed or submitted via email at a certain time) is very important and will avoid the small arguments later.

3. Have a policy with your child.

Does your child want you to ask him or her on a daily basis what the homework is? Every kid is different. For example I did not like when my parents asked me about homework. I felt it was nagging. So, we made a deal, they wouldn’t ask me and if I got low grades I had to pay the penalty. This was not the case for my brother or sister who wanted more of an active role with my parents.

4. Brainstorming is great, taking over is not.

I know some school projects look really cool, and you type a lot faster than your child. But it is really important to let them down the work. I think brainstorming and outlining a timelines for a project or homework is a great bonding activity but IF YOU DO YOUR CHILD’S WORK YOU HURT THEM IN THE LONGRUN. I know many, many students (and friends I had in college) who could simply not finish projects because they usually had their parents pushing them through or helping them finish.

Remember that if your child is struggling or taking too much time to do work, you should definitely email the teacher and ask for guidance. Often times this can be solved with your child getting a little more help after class, hiring a tutor or getting a study buddy.


Parents as Study Partners: 4 Steps to Helping Students become Independent Learners

This guest post is by Alexandra Mayzler is the founder and director of Thinking Caps Tutoring a comprehensive tutoring company dedicated to developing innovative and individualized approaches to teaching. In addition to Thinking Caps Tutoring, she frequently writes and speaks on topics in education and consults with New York schools regarding curriculum. Alexandra is the author of Tutor in a Book, a hands-on study manual for students, parents, and teachers. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Parenting, Forbes, and CBS News. Alexandra lives in New York and spends her free time thinking about how to make studying easier, more interesting, and above all, enjoyable for her students.

High school can be a stressful time for students.  Despite the intensity, it is also an exciting period of learning and the launching pad to college.  While many students are prepared because they have mastered the fundamental content, many students are unprepared in terms of the process: the how, when, and where to complete work and the understanding of the foundation skills of organization, time management, and study skills.  In order to help students become independent and confident learners, here are some strategies parents can put into practice:

  1. Communication and goal-setting.  Often times, students wait until the beginning of the school year to create personal and academic goals. However, after a summer of camp or internships it is sometimes difficult to set appropriate goals. Instead of waiting until the start of a new year, consider sitting down at the end of this school year. After the report card has arrived and the student had the necessary tools to evaluate his or her progress, have a conversation about what went well and where there is room for improvement for the next school year based on the data from the most recent performance.
  2. Making a plan. With the goals in mind, your child will be ready to start off the new school year.  However, many students don’t know what they must change and how to go about making changes in order to achieve goals.  For many students, there is little understanding of what to do beyond “doing better.” Help your child break up his or her goals into attainable pieces and discuss specific steps that will be taken to reach the goal. For example: “better in math” means meet with a teacher to go over the more difficult concepts.
  3. Time management. The area where many students struggle is managing their time and prioritizing. As students move up in grades, more responsibilities are expected to be performed independently. Help your child learn to manage time and to prioritize. Starting to think about time, extra curricular activities, and work will help your child learn to manage time. Implement paper calendars or computer calendars where your child can practice.  Encourage your child to budget time for various activities. Rather than creating scheduled, have your child plan and keep track of schedules and appointments.
  4. Understand when to get help.  In the process of learning to be an independent student, it is important to identify when and how to get help.  Students should be encouraged to set up personal check points: how things are going should be evaluated periodically. Before possible problems develop, areas where help can be attained should be identified. Students should learn where they can get help. For example, seek out a peer for review or a teacher. Students can then easily access the help for the problem areas.  As soon as an issue crops up, put the plan of action into practice.


By starting these conversations early, teens will be empowered to have ownership in the learning process. This creates a positive attitude early on so that students won’t have to learn motivational skills later in their academic careers.


Alexandra Mayzler is the founder and director of Thinking Caps Tutoring a comprehensive tutoring company dedicated to developing innovative and individualized approaches to teaching. In addition to Thinking Caps Tutoring, she frequently writes and speaks on topics in education and consults with New York schools regarding curriculum. Alexandra is the author of Tutor in a Book, a hands-on study manual for students, parents, and teachers. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Parenting, Forbes, and CBS News. Alexandra lives in New York and spends her free time thinking about how to make studying easier, more interesting, and above all, enjoyable for her students.



Five Ways To Get Your Children To Study Without Nagging


Lily is a 16-year-old from Placentia, CA. She enjoys playing guitar, writing, and watching movies. Her favorite subject is Language Arts.

Being a teen, I know how bothersome it is to constantly be lectured on the importance of studying. After a long school day filled with nothing but lectures, the last thing teens want to hear is another one from their parents. That’s why nagging is an ineffective method when dealing with teens and their study habits.

The one thing parents need to understand about student-parent communication when it comes to school, is that teens need more encouragement and less consequence. I’ve had many friends who have cracked under the pressure their parents place over getting perfect grades. Anything less than an “A” didn’t seem to be good enough for them. While I understand this comes out of a place of love, it can really be stressful and frustrating for the teenager who may be trying their best but whose grades don’t quite meet the 4.0 criteria.

Below are a few helpful alternatives that may lesson the pressures on your teen and encourage them to study.

1) Make a List

I know from experience that teens can be forgetful. What really helps me is writing things down. Encourage your teen to make a daily list of school subjects that need to be studied and make a check next to each one after they’re completed.

2) Encouragement

Constantly reminding your child of the negative aspects of their lack of studying can cause the opposite outcome to occur: less studying. Instead, try and focus on the positive. Remind them of a test they did well on as a result of studying. Above all else they need to know they have your support.

3) Help!

As teens grow older, they may feel the need to cut the metaphorical umbilical cord in more aspects of their life than one. This includes homework and studying. They may be afraid to ask for help or disturb your busy schedule. Let them know you’re here to lend a helping hand, but you will not study for them.

4) Create a Time Limit

Structure is very important in a teen’s life. Create a time limit of how long you feel your child should study by setting a timer. You might also want to try asking them how long they THINK they need for studying. They might want to shave off a few minutes here and there to avoid studying all together. But encourage them to set up realistic study times. This will allow them to gradually become more independent with their study habits.

5) Expectations

You’re the parent after all. While your child needs support and encouragement they must also be aware of your expectations. Make sure they aren’t too demanding. For example, if a child isn’t the greatest at math, let them know you’re more than happy with their best. Remember that B’s and C’s are passing grades too! Even with hard work the outcome isn’t always an A. It’s not the end of the world as long as they’re working and studying hard!

How to Stop Your Child from Procrastinating?

We got this question submitted to us and from a parent reader and I wanted to answer it on our digital column.


Also see:

Cyberslacking: When Procrastination Goes Digital

How to Stop Procrastinating

How to be More Efficient

Study Guide for Non-Studious Students: Tips & Tricks to Ensure Success

Born and bred a British, Shamima, 15, is all about creativity and self-expression. She wishes to pursue a career in Medicine and pursue her interests in poetry, fashion, writing and maybe in the distant future, property development.

It’s really difficult to get some decent advice/tips on tackling tough exams especially online. Here’s a friendly and definitely do-able guide to help you out. Enjoy.

Prior to Exam:

1. Concentrate In Lessons

No kidding! If you grasp a fairly good understanding first time round it gives you a firm foundation to build upon. After all, you can’t expect to excel if you don’t know the basics.

2. Do Your Own Research

Familiarise yourself with the topic and related issues. I don’t know if you’ve realized, but exams (majority of the time) aren’t on what you’ve learnt but around it! Read articles and gather information from different sources other than your text books. A good website is Wikipedia – the online encyclopedia. It’s also a good idea to use revision guides such a CGP Books (UK). Always write notes to help you digest the new information. Beat the examiners at their game – be one step ahead.

3. Repetition

You have two types of memory – short-term and long-term. Learning something once round results in it being stored in you short-term memory where it may be discarded after some time. Repetition of it transfers the information into your long-term memory, and continuation strengthens it so you’ll never forget. Aim to have covered the whole topic at least 3 times way before the exam, just because you know it now does not mean you’ll know it then!

4. Exercises/Activities

Learning it is not enough, you have to get yourself used to manipulating, applying and adapting to different scenarios. You have to use your knowledge, put it into practice, that’s what the ‘real’ world is all about and that’s what examiners want to see from you.

5. Past Exam Board Papers

All exam papers of a board are consistent in style but can be a lot different to your normal exercises. Prepare yourself. Do as many past papers as you can, this will allow you to become familiar will the style of the papers and also give you the opportunity to assess yourself. After each paper, go over the question you got wrong or were unsure about and get it right. Be sure to get the papers off the correct examination board: you’ll find them on their websites, and don’t stop till you’ve done them all. Practice makes perfect.

6. The Tougher Ones

Things like lists and formulae that you find hard to learn and keep slipping from you mind – I’m afraid there’s only one way to keep it in there – memorise it! Everyday, for 15 minutes (or however long you need) say it to yourself till you’re ‘reciting’ it from the top if your head. You may find you’ve forgotten it the next day but it’s a matter of continuation, keep at it, refresh your memory everyday and especially on the morning of your exam. But don’t spend all your time on it and ONLY use this method in extreme cases as your last resort, when all else has failed.


Revision is a very general term for preparation; it can be anything from staring at your text book to playing games on Bitesize. It is important you utilize your time before exams without putting too much pressure on yourself.

1. Games

Educational games are an interesting form of revision, using the ‘apply-your-knowledge’ technique but don’t rely on them too much and be sure they really are educational!

2. Flash/Cue Cards

Make small notes on pocket sized cards of the more difficult things to jog your memory, take them out whenever you catch yourself sitting doing nothing.

3. Notes

After having thoroughly completed your ‘studying and research’ make a note form copy of all your information. Bullet points under headings really help. You don’t want to cloud your brain with too much info just before the exam. Small and concise bullet points will do, just to get you on the right track.

4. Diagrams

Where ever you can, draw diagrams to demonstrate points. The human brain finds it easier to recall pictures and colours over words. It’s a brilliant device if you’re a ‘visual’ personal like me!

Exam Day:

  1. Have a quick read over your cure cards and if need-be (hopefully not) re-memorize the ‘toughie’ so it’s on the tip of your tongue.
  2. As for the rest of the day R.E.L.A.X! Stressing will only make your head throb and wears you down. You need a fresh, clear and calm mind to tackle the paper(s).
  3. Have a good breakfast, a fruit of two and a swig of juice.
  4. You may feel panicky about forgetting everything you’ve learnt but chill-ax! It’s natural to feel like that. When the paper is in front of you, your long-memory will kick in and you’ll surprise yourself with the amount and depth you can recall, given that you’ve tried your best.

After Exam

  1. Avoid ‘discussion’ of papers; it’ll only get you tense.
  2. Be good to yourself, give yourself a breather, a night to unwind but don’t get too caught up.
  3. No-doubt you’ll have more exams yet to come, keep at it while you’re in the flow.

Don’t kick yourself if you think you’ve messed up, you gave it all you got and that’s the most important thing. Don’t dwell over ‘results day’ get on with your work, don’t let yourself even think about it, remember: what’s done is done.

And finally, I wish you the very best of luck!

7 Tips to Keep Your Cool at the End of the School Year [Teen Article]

Cathy is a 17 year-old from Seatac, WA. She spends her time watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reflecting, and listening to various types of music as she’s writing her thoughts away. She hopes to live through her passions.

7 Tips to Keep Your Cool at the end of the School YearSo its that time of the year. When we start to freak out with all the end of school craze. It can get super hectic so here are a few tips for getting through it all.

1.      Prioritize- There are probably a few dozen final tests/projects etc. to finish before you are set free. Organize them by deadline and importance. If you are really cutting it close on time then decide which projects you can skip out on without them really effecting your grade much. This is only a last resort of course.
2.      Utilize relaxing techniques- Do simple easy ones. You will be surprised by how much they actually help. Try breathing in deeply and slowly while imagining your happy place. Tap both feet and hands to make this visually stronger in your mind. Just try it!

3.   Be a self advocate-It’s okay to ask for help. A math teacher once said that if one person raises their hand to ask a question there are at least six other people in the class breathing a sigh of relief that it was asked. Do not be afraid that you might look stupid. You are being active in your learning and it will work to your advantage. Who cares, as long as you are getting your questions answered. This will help you produce quality work and you will have clarity.

4.  Seek help- Take advantage of the after school study help that is offered, if any. I practically lived in my school’s library last year. I was always getting help from the after school study help program. They are there for you!

5.   Take breaks- It is understandable that you might think that you will get caught up in the fun and not work, but you can’t be all work and no play. Everyone should be rewarded every now and then. Break up your study sessions with tiny breaks where you can practice your relaxing techniques. Or watch some TV. It is okay as long as you make sure you get right back to work.

6.      Tell your friends- Letting your friends know that you need to get serious with your work will help. Hopefully they won’t try and distract you as much. And they might even be able to help, either by tutoring or maybe to just help you keep on track.

7.      Say no to procrastination- So I know no one wants to do homework on a Friday but it is better to do some the day you get the work then leaving it to the last minute. By doing some as soon as it is assigned, you lighten the load and get a head start. Plus you won’t have those guilty feelings that nag at you until you finally decide to do it Sunday night. Not procrastinating is the best way to reduce the stress load.

Some of this might already be common knowledge but it is always good to be reminded. So next time you are panicking, just use some of these quick tips to help you out.

Improving Your Score: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Test Takers [Teen Article]

Becca is a 16 year-old from West Palm Beach, FL. She loves to cook and travel, and she would like to study International Business in the future.7 Habits of Highly Effective Test Takers
May is the month of AP and IB testing and is consequently many students’ least favorite time of year. We all want to maximize our results, so here are the

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Test Takers:

1. Start studying BEFORE the night before

For some students, cramming is both helpful and essential, but you shouldn’t depend on it as your only study habit. If you start reviewing earlier, you’ll increase your chances of remembering a larger amount of information for the exam.

2. Repeat

Creating a studying routine will get you in the habit of preparing well. To retain data in your long term memory, you have to practice what psychologists call “memory maintenance and rehearsal.” Repetition and routine will make it easier for your brain to recall information when you see a question on the test.

3. Study with friends

If you know that you’ll be able to stay focused, group studying can be extremely helpful. You should try to engage as many senses as possible when you study, and group settings will help you use senses such as sound more often than individual study will.

4. Sleep

Getting sleep the night before the big exam is a balancing act. Obviously, you want to be well rested for the test. However, many students will try to go to sleep significantly earlier than they normally do on school nights. Their bodies are simply not used to this and, consequently, will actually keep them up long past when they first climb into bed. Try to go to sleep a little earlier than your normal bedtime, but also keep in mind that a normal REM sleep cycle lasts about eight hours and is essential for finalizing memories.

5. Come prepared on test day

You never know if your test room is going to be boiling or freezing, whether they’ll have pens and pencils, or if you’ll be able to see the clock. Wear layers so that you can be comfortable during the test regardless of the temperature; bring at least three sharpened pencils and three pens with black or blue ink; and wear a watch.

6. Gum or mints

Chewing gum or mints during the exam can actually help increase concentration and focus. This is especially true for kinesthetic learners (types of people that “learn by doing”).

7. Make plans

Having plans for after the test is actually a helpful way to relieve test anxiety. Ask your friends if they want to go to the mall or a movie or catch a bite to eat after you finally finish the test. This will allow your brain and body to de-stress after the exam. Remember- there’s nothing you can do once the test is over!