Helping your grandchildren by guiding them through homework tasks

Grandparents who play a major part in the daily lives of their grandchildren will come across the stumbling block called homework at some stage in their grandchild’s school career. The amount of help and guidance grandparents can give will depend on the child’s age, the kind of homework being set, and how much the grandparent knows about the particular topic. However, grandparents may often have more time to help than stressed parents regularly have, and smoothing the homework path will not only help the kids and their parents, it will also give grandparents another way to interact with their grandchildren.

Primary school

First things first

If grandparents are around at homework time, it’s likely that they have either collected their grandchildren from school or waited for them at home to mind them until their parents finish work. So there are probably several hours to fill, and homework need not be started immediately. The kids will be tired and hungry after a hard day at school. Forget about homework for the first hour. Give them something to eat, and let them unwind and tell you about their day. Once the pace of chatter slows down you can gently ask what their teacher set for tonight’s homework.

Craft box

Primary school children often have craft-related activities to complete for homework, so it’s a good idea to keep a box or drawer full of things you have collected for this purpose. The list will include construction paper, cardboard, glue, string, crayons and paints, a stapler, adhesive tape, fabric scraps, old magazines, cardboard tubes saved from kitchen wrap rolls, egg cartons, and so on. With a bit of imagination from each generation it should be possible to create a Pilgrim village, a Bronze Age settlement or the Battle of Waterloo. Teachers’ expectations can be very high, but grandparents and grandchildren make a formidable team.

Grandfathers can help with woodwork-related projects involving hammers and nails. Grandmothers can help with sewing and knitting. However, let’s not be sexist about this. Grandparents of either gender can tackle anything the teacher throws at them. Just remember it’s not your project, it is in fact your grandkid’s task. Don’t take over, just provide the materials and help with ideas and the fiddly bits. Your grandchild needs to have a sense of achievement when the job is done.

Language tasks

For homework involving English language skills, once again suggest and guide, but don’t spoon-feed the answers. Talking about the question or task will often help the child to come up with the answer themselves, especially if it’s a creative writing task. Bring out books and magazines to look for the words needed for a vocabulary challenge. A visit to the local library will make a change from searching for answers and inspiration on the Internet, and will hopefully foster a love of books and reading.

Math assignments

Methods change regularly where learning arithmetic is concerned. Before wading in and teaching your grandchild to use the method you learned in school all those decades ago, it would be a good idea to consult your grandchild’s teacher. Many schools issue guidance booklets for parents, explaining current approaches to arithmetic and other math challenges.

High school

Technology

Polish up your computer skills while the grandkids are in primary school, because if you don’t you are going to be speaking a different language from your high school grandchildren. Don’t expect to keep pace with their computer skills, but you can learn to be a facilitator. Your local community college may have classes for brushing up on your computer knowledge. If high school grandchildren will be doing homework at your place, make sure you have high speed internet access available if at all possible.

Working space

As with primary school children, you can help by providing after-school sustenance to help them unwind and get the brain back into working order. High school kids also need a quiet place to work on their tasks, preferably a desk in a separate room such as your study or home office. The kitchen table is an excellent alternative if there is a good cleared space and the TV is turned off.

Guidance and discussion

High school subjects can be very complex, so don’t supply any facts or opinions unless you know the topic in depth. Your role is to discuss, suggest, and offer guidance with grammar and formatting. However, grandparents’ life experience can be a boon when it comes to creative writing topics. Help them to develop and express their ideas by talking about your life, and theirs, and what you have all learned.

When graduation day arrives and you are invited to attend as grandparents, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a significant contribution to your grandchild’s success at school just by being there when they needed help with their homework. Give yourselves straight A’s in grandparenting.