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Dear Teacher

Your Questions of Teachers — Answered

September 01, 2011
Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

How Much Homework Help Is too Much?

Question: Our 11-year-old daughter is starting sixth grade this year, her first year in middle school. She has always relied too much on our help to do her homework. Is there a rule of thumb on how much input a parent should have in a sixth-grader's homework? — Concerned

Answer: As a general rule of thumb, children should be able to handle their homework primarily by themselves by seventh grade. Start working toward that goal now, but don't pull your homework support right out from under your child.

Begin by having your daughter read her nightly assignments out loud to you. Then have her explain how she is going to complete the work. Help her learn to plan the order in which she will tackle her assignments. Next, she should read and explain the directions of the first assignment to you. Not knowing exactly what is expected can cause confusion. Ask her if she has any questions about the first assignment. After answering them, either encourage her to complete this assignment independently or watch how she completes the first item to see that she does understand the directions. Follow the same steps, if necessary, for all the assignments.

When your daughter runs into a roadblock on an assignment, ask her to study the textbook examples or her notes before asking for your aid. Your aid should never include doing the work for her. Instead, you should pose questions that will help her figure out what to do.

Your daughter will actually take pride in doing her homework by herself. Praise her efforts.

How to Teach Children to Use Facebook Appropriately

Question: We have just given our middle-school daughter permission to be on Facebook. How can we make sure that she uses Facebook appropriately and avoids being bullied online? — No Cybersurfers

Answer: Just about every high-school student in the country is on Facebook, and the number of elementary and middle-schoolers is rapidly increasing. The time to talk with your child about being on Facebook safely is before she actually is. A good place to start is by visiting the safety information site on Facebook (www.facebook.com/help/?safety). Read this information together. Be sure that your child understands the consequences of using Facebook inappropriately. It can be very dangerous. You may wish to ask her if you can visit her page at any time to evaluate the content she is putting up and receiving.

A very unfortunate aspect of the online experience is cyberbullying. The estimate of the number of children who have been ridiculed or threatened through computer messages ranges from 1 in 3 to 1 in 10. Whatever the true extent of cyberbullying is, it certainly means that you should talk to your daughter about it. Some children are able to shrug it off, while others have been completely unable to handle the bullying.

Teens are old enough and smart enough to carefully consider their online actions. Judge Thomas Jacobs has written a book – "Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?" – that you may want your older children to read. It spells out exactly when teens' actions cross the line or go as far as illegal activity and gives them a chance to think about ethical issues while reading actual cases.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have master's degrees in education and specialist degrees (Ed.S.) in reading. Peggy recently completed her doctorate in special education and educational leadership. Together, they have co-authored more than 70 books and in 2003, Peggy formed the not-for-profit foundation, Literacy Plus, to make literacy accessible to the homeless.

Tags: Education, In This Issue, Kids, Tweens & Teens

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