08/25/14 8:00am

Many parents found themselves struggling as they tried to help their children with homework last school year. The Common Core curriculum was rolled out and children now do schoolwork a lot differently. Parents discovered that trying to understand homework questions or help with math problems is now quite challenging — if it hadn’t been already.

Helping children with homework does not have to be all about figuring out the right answers. Education researchers such as Stanford University’s Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania, and others are proving that character traits such as perseverance and grit matter more than IQ when it comes to predicting one’s ability to succeed.

Homework presents an opportunity for parents to teach children to face obstacles confidently, solve problems and persevere when the work is difficult.

Parents want to raise smart children, but raising children who are smart learners will help them be prepared for a lifetime of learning.

This coming school year, take a close look at how your child does his or her homework — and keep the responsibility for learning with your child. Children will need your encouragement but help them know when to come to an adult for help and when they should think things through on their own. Provide support by making sure they have what they need to do the job.

You’ll enjoy seeing how proud they are when they achieve on their own.

Here are five steps to take before homework time arrives again.

1. Set up your child’s ‘office.’

Is there a place that works best for your child to do homework? Children learn differently. Some need a quiet, low-traffic area with minimal distractions, while others function very well in the midst of all the household action: at the kitchen counter. Sitting in a chair at a desk works for some, but others need to sprawl out on a rug. I’ve heard that sitting on a large exercise ball helps kids who struggle with sitting still in one place for long periods of time. Be creative with your child and have fun finding ways to make the place for homework feel like their “office.” Buying school supplies may mean buying items to create a temporary or permanent homework/study space; consider temporary partitions/space dividers. The investment will be worth it.

2. Set guidelines for iPods, tablets and phones.

Manage the things that compete for their attention. All electronic devices should be kept in a designated location during homework. If children need to call a friend about an assignment or do some research online, they should let you know when they use their devices and when they are finished. Your child needs to show you that they can manage using devices without having them become a distraction. Creating guidelines together with your child will help them become invested in following them and keeps the responsibility for doing their homework with them.

3. Prepare for failure.

Failed attempts, wrong answers and poor grades happen. When they do, many children feel they are being judged as not smart enough. Some avoid failure by avoiding the work, and through very inventive ways. Be straightforward when mistakes are made — “You gave the wrong answer” — and emphasize the recovery: “So let’s figure out what to do about it.” Your child is less likely to feel judged. Learning from mistakes means trying different tactics before declaring, “I’m not good at this!” That’s when perseverance begins.

4. Encourage problem-solving.

Help your child feel capable of meeting the challenges that come with schoolwork and homework. Look for opportunities to have them take part in some family decisions, for example, planning tomorrow evening’s dinner. You will agree sometimes and disagree other times, but the message to send is that their opinion matters and that you trust they are capable of coming up with a solution. Compliment them when they think things through and offer a plan. The ability to problem-solve will carry over to homework. They will learn to think before sending the default message: “I need help.”

5. Gather supportive resources.

A parent mentioned to me that she attended a Parent University presentation in her child’s school district. It offered online resources that children and parents can refer to for support with various subjects. When the school year begins, ask your child’s teacher to recommend online resources that provide support. Let the teacher know that you are open to suggestions for making homework time productive. Be sure that spouses and caregivers are all on the same page with homework strategies. Have a place to save specific details and information you want others to know when you are not available.
Change takes time. When you see your child do homework without any prompting, work through frustrations independently and feel proud of what they accomplish, you’ll know your efforts were worthwhile. Cut and save this article; it’s a back-to-school coupon that may provide lifelong savings.

Angelo A. Truglio is an education consultant who lives in Southold.

09/08/13 3:00pm
Riley Avenue School, Calverton, North Shore University Hospital

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Nurse practitioner Sheila Davies shows Riley Avenue first-grader William de Lauzon and his classmates a plastic model of a human heart in 2012.

There has been a great deal of press about the Common Core curriculum, testing and what schools will and won’t be doing to improve the education system. News-Review editor Michael White’s column raised some excellent points and concerns about whether these efforts will actually help all children.

Angelo Truglio

Angelo Truglio

As a retired teacher and grandparent, I am concerned. What can teachers, parents and caregivers do while the decision makers plan their next move? We must preserve the curiosity and love for learning that our children have at birth and not lose or stifle these traits in the scuffle.

I have spent the last seven years, reading, tutoring, meeting with teachers and creating I Can Do That! Kids, a web and printed resource that helps children stay motivated and excited about learning. I have found that there are some simple, proven ways to help children stay energized, persevere and achieve their “personal best” — even as schools raise the bar.

We read “The Little Engine That Could” to a child when they are very young to inspire them to say, “I think I can, I think I can” when faced with a challenge. As they grow up they need to learn, “How I can! How I can!” strategies and actions to work at something difficult.

There are some easy ways parents and caregivers can help children know what to think, say or do when faced with a challenge. Put aside the back-to-school ads. Here’s a different way to get your child “ready for school” with these five tips.

1. Talk about “hard stuff” — challenges. Ask your child to tell you about something difficult that they recently accomplished. Explain that kids have to do lots of “hard stuff,” called challenges. Obstacle courses are a challenge, but are fun. Video games are challenging and that’s why kids love playing them. Make the connection that doing “hard stuff” is really like an obstacle course or a video game and rather than think, “Oh no, this is too hard!” think, or say, “This is a challenge that I can’t do … yet!”

2. Break it down. “There’s too much to do.” Help a child work at a challenge by starting with a small, doable piece. Think of it as a large puzzle with pieces that need to be assembled. When they have a page of math problems to solve that seems overwhelming, get a blank sheet of paper. Say, “Find the one that you think is the easiest to begin with”, and then cover the others. Help them focus on just one piece of an assignment at a time.

3. Increase ‘think time.’ Don’t jump in too quickly when you hear, “I don’t remember what to do.” Provide them with time to stop and think. Suggest that they look for clues or ask them to explain what they are unsure about. Delay giving them hints or information until you are certain that they have exhausted their resources. You will be providing an opportunity for them to think for themselves and to realize what they are capable of achieving.

4. Making mistakes is good! The surest way to succeeding is by working through mistakes. We tend to make a very big deal about achievements and not enough emphasis is put on the fact that mistakes will happen. It’s normal; everyone makes mistakes and they actually help us get very good at something! Mention the most recent mistake you have made, how it felt and what you did to eventually succeed.

5. Use ‘process praise.’ Acknowledge how your child is achieving, rather than just the achievement. For example, say, “That was a lot of work. I really like the way you stuck to it and didn’t give up!” Or, “You finished your homework and I’m impressed that you didn’t let anything distract you from getting it done!” Research has proven that children who are praised for how they accomplish a task build confidence quicker and are more willing to take on difficult tasks that come their way.

These are a few ways to build a child’s feeling of “I am capable!” Post this column on the fridge. Remember and use these tips. When a child comes home from school, you may find yourself on automatic pilot, saying or doing what you have in the past to help motivate them. These tips will provide you with an opportunity to do something different and perhaps challenging. It means you will experience what your child is experiencing.

Southold resident Angelo Truglio is an education consultant, music educator and founder of www.icandothatkids.com. Follow Mr. Truglio’s postings at www.angelotruglio.com. He can be reached at angelotruglio@icandothatkids.com or 631-765-8033.