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Every child encounters a difficult or confusing homework assignment once in a while. But you should meet with your child's teacher if you notice consistent problems such as misleading instructions, unreasonable amounts of work (most educators believe that more than half an hour every night is too much for a second grader), assignments that are too easy or too hard, or too much homework on some days, not enough on others.
While you may be tempted to blame the teacher for homework problems right off the bat, don't. If you're upset about a teacher's homework policy or you think she's handing out too much work, talk to her about your concerns first. It may be that your child is struggling in class and needs extra help.
Here's how to keep the lines of communication open:
Talk to your child about the homework problem. Is the work too difficult or too boring? Are some subjects easier than others are? Are this year's assignments much harder than last? Know what the specific problem is before you approach the teacher.
Call the teacher and set up a face-to-face meeting. If that's not possible, set up a time when you can talk on the phone in private.
Prepare questions and, if necessary, write them down. Know what you want to get out of the conference. Some sample questions: How much time to do you expect my child to work every night? How involved should I be in my child's homework? How much work does my child finish in class? Are the homework assignments difficult because my child isn't concentrating in class? What happens if homework isn't completed?
Discuss the teacher's homework philosophy. Teachers use homework for different purposes, says Gwynn Mettetal, an associate professor of education at Indiana University South Bend. Some teachers use homework to reinforce lessons already learned in class. If this is the case and your child finds the work too difficult, you might need to help your child at home. Some teachers use homework to introduce new material. If this is the teacher's policy and your child has been working alone on homework, the teacher might tell you she expects you to work more closely with your child on the assignments.
Make a plan together. Once you've identified the problem, discuss ways to solve it. Changes at home such as new siblings or a divorce can affect a child's homework, for example. The solution may be to spend some extra one-on-one time with your child to boost his sense of security. Or perhaps your child keeps losing assignments and needs you to create an assignment calendar at home to keep track of when work is due. Maybe your child needs more help at home with assignments, or maybe the teacher really should assign less work to finish each night. Many times homework problems are the result of simple misunderstandings. Once you and the teacher have a plan, talk about it with your child and get to work.
Follow up. Arrange to meet with the teacher in a few weeks or so to check on your child's progress. If the problem persists or you are having trouble working with the teacher, you may need to take your concerns to the principal or to a school counselor.