School is in full swing, and with that comes the dreaded homework.

Even though homework is assigned to the student, I don’t think there is a single parent who, at one time or another, hasn’t anxiously waited to see what mark ‘they’ got for their child’s school project.

But sitting beside our children helping them along could have serious repercussions. If they need too much of our help, we could be missing an important sign that they are actually struggling with their learning.

Ciaran Smyth from Your Tutor shared his thoughts on how we should be helping our kids with their homework.

What are some of the signs your child is struggling with school? What can parents look out for?

That’s a good question. You’ll find out at home, parents are the best judges of this because they are the integral part of their child’s support network and learning. You’ll find that they are getting frustrated when they are doing the homework at the kitchen table, they will be stressed, and really turned off by homework. Homework should not be a chore; it’s there to reinforce what you’ve learned that in class that day. By doing it a couple of times and doing repetition it gets stuck in your head and helps you going forward.

But if you find that they really dread homework, or when it comes to homework they always make excuses not to do it, they could be struggling. Some students might just not want to do homework out of laziness or other interests, but a lot of the time it comes from finding it really difficult, or because they don’t feel they have the support or the ability to get through the questions.

At what age should children be doing homework?

Studies show that homework isn’t effective at a primary school age. The homework they should be doing at that age isn’t sitting down with a textbook and going through countless exercises like you do in high school. What they should be learning are life skills and practical applications. So the best homework for primary school kids, and I’ve seen this many times, is simply baking scones and cakes. They have to measure out 100 grams of flour and a bit of butter, that’s applicable math. Try that in their day to day and they will learn that way and they aren’t as stressed with all the academic pressure.

But when kids get to high school, homework is important. It does identify areas of struggle because the amount of content that children absorb going through high school on a daily basis is immense. They are jumping from new stuff, English to Math to Science to Agriculture to IT. It’s a lot to take in in six hours and that’s where homework is vital to reinforce what they have learned.

I was terrible at Math and ended up having to have tutors. I remember my teacher scolding my dad. He tried to help, but my teacher said, ‘Stop doing her Math homework because you are doing 1960s Math and I’m trying to teach her 1980s Math!’ It’s different now, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s completely different. Educational theories advance very quickly. For example, when we went through school Pluto was a planet, but now kids going through school know it’s not a planet anymore. You would think the planets wouldn’t change, but they did. So that’s the reason why parents should be there to support and help children get access to services and resources.

Go to the local library. I can’t stress that enough — your local library and your library card is the best tool in your child’s educational toolbox. Those are the resources and help the parent should be providing instead of doing the work for the child. It ensures that the child is able to learn the content and then it clicks in their head, and that’s the whole point of homework. If you step in and you do it for them they are never going to learn.

How can we tell our kids need help?

Every single child should be encouraged to put their hand up if they are struggling. Teachers love to help and there are great resources available. Parents are the best support networks for children, not to do their homework, which the parent has to be careful about, but taking the kid to the library to use the resources there. If the child is old enough, you can help them organise a study group, or encourage them to have their friends over to go over an assignment.

Services like ours at yourtutor.com.au can help, too, where they can talk to qualified teachers and experts from Australia from Sunday to Friday 3pm to midnight within a minute. They can just connect online and talk to them… you just have to sit down and make sure our learning style is right for you, because every child is different.

That’s the most important thing to remember — there is no one silver bullet for every child.

How do you help your kids with their homework? Share your tips and stories in the comments below!