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What to do when you don't understand your kid's homework
It’s bound to happen eventually. Your kid comes home from school with an assignment requiring knowledge you have never been taught. Sure, you took chemistry in high school, but this is not the chemistry you remember. If you remember it at all. Don’t panic. Just because you are not the intellectual authority doesn’t mean you can’t still help your child with their homework. With these six steps, you can help your child approach mastery of any subject and learn something yourself. 1. Remain Calm Children, even young children, can pick up on emotions and will respond in kind. A panicked reaction from you will likely induce a panicked reaction from them. This is especially unhelpful because of how our brains are wired. Our emotions color our thinking. Anxiety will interfere with your and your child’s ability to think clearly, making the homework that much harder. If you need to, calm your brain with a few deep breaths. This sends extra oxygen to your brain, refreshing your mind and helping you return to focus. 2. Be Honest It may feel embarrassing to admit to your child that you don’t know something. You’re supposed to be there to provide guidance, but in this instance, you can’t. That’s okay. Confessing your lack of expertise opens the door to different styles of learning and teaching. Admit your lack of knowledge in a calm, level manner to communicate that hope is not lost. Some ways to do this might be, “I didn’t learn this in school, but we can learn it together,” or, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen this, I don’t remember where to begin.” 3. Learn from Your Child Just because your child is asking for homework help doesn’t mean they know nothing. Ask your child to tell you what they know, so that you both can start from the same foundation. If your child has class notes, have them walk you through those. Teaching is one of the best ways to solidify your knowledge, so having your child teach you strengthens their understanding of the material. To enhance this approach, make sure you ask questions along the way when you don’t understand something. 4. Identify Gaps After assessing what knowledge you and your child have between you, now you need to assess what you don’t know. This may require the two of you to go through the homework and make an attempt at it. It may help to keep a list of problems you run into. 5. Research If your child’s textbook isn’t helpful (or if they don’t have a textbook), there is information on the internet about nearly any topic your child will learn in school. Here are a few resources to get you started: - Math Planet - Math Planet is directed at older students, with lessons ranging from Pre-Algebra through Geometry. The site has both text and video instruction. - English Grammar Online - English Grammar Online has short lessons on individual rules of grammar, writing, and vocabulary. The site is directed at English language learners, so it is an especially useful resource if English isn’t your first language. - Zinn Education Project - The Zinn Education Project is an outgrowth of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Organized as a database, with lessons you can select by time period, topic, and type of resource. - CrashCourse - CrashCourse is a video series with lessons on a diversity of subjects. Scroll over to their playlists to see subjects they cover or use the search feature in their navigation bar to find the subject you’re looking for. - Annenberg Learner - Annenberg Learner has videos, interactives, and other resources for students and teachers alike. You can browse the site by grade or by topic, as well as search the site for your subject. - Wikipedia - Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia editable by anyone in the world. This has the advantage of giving up-to-date information. The disadvantage is that, in some cases, the information can be inaccurate. Take note of warnings about bias provided by the page and check the edit history to see if there are still details under review. Be sure to follow the citations on the site, and like with all encyclopedias, don’t end your research there. - Simple English Wikipedia - Simple Wikipedia is useful when the information on Wikipedia is too complicated or when English isn’t your first language. Simple Wikipedia uses easy-to-understand language to summarize a variety of topics. The best way to approach internet research is to search by using words or phrases in your search that you don’t understand and the name of the subject your child is studying. Although search engines are increasingly recognizing sentences, a keyword search will get you more precise results. A good keyword search could be the name of the subject followed by the lesson your child is studying followed by a word or phrase you don’t understand. An added benefit of researching with your child is that you can steer them away from cheat sheet websites that can often mislead your child with inadequate explanation and, in some instances, incorrect information. 6. Apply What You’ve Learned As you are able to answer questions based on your research, have your child come up with a way of explaining it. This is best done out loud first, so your child can organize their thoughts before writing them down. When you don’t understand your child’s homework, you have to change your role from teacher to facilitator. You are on a journey with your child to help them organize their thoughts and find answers to their questions. ---- It’s important to remember that just because you can’t teach your child everything doesn’t mean you are a failure as a caregiver. This situation just opens up new approaches to learning. In some instances, particular subjects may simply be beyond your level of comprehension without the same formal instruction your child is receiving in school. When this is the case, it may be a good idea to seek outside help. JEI’s supplemental education programs in math and English can help your child to understand difficult topics you may not be able to help them with. JEI not only provides Common Core-aligned instruction, but it also teaches students how to manage their own study time with our Self-Learning Method. To get started with JEI’s programs, find a center near you today!
Fun ways your child can practice lifelong learning at home
Your child can benefit greatly from lifelong learning, but it might not be the first thing on their mind right now. They’ve been eagerly waiting for summer when they can finally log off school. They’ve been home for weeks, becoming more restless by the minute. As the parent, you’re facing a bit of a dilemma. You want your child to enjoy themselves, but you also want them to keep their minds stimulated and engaged. That raises the question: how can you make lifelong learning interesting for your child at home? Luckily, learning does not always have to feel like learning! It can feel like playing, creating, or relaxing. There are many ways for your child to practice lifelong learning while enjoying themselves! By the time September rolls around, your child will go back to school refreshed from their summer and ready for a new school year. All they have to do is try out these activities. Play Games Games are sure to stay a part of your child’s life for many years to come. This is completely okay! It’s a way for them to destress, socialize, and have fun, but also build critical and creative thinking skills. Almost every game includes an educational element—you just need to know what to look for and set reasonable expectations. Here are a few to consider: Animal Crossing teaches community and world-building as well as survival basics. Minecraft sharpens basic coding skills in a fun, interactive way. Mario Kart asks your child to think about traction, acceleration, handling, and more when customizing a vehicle, which they can then test out on the racecourse. Classics such as chess, Battleship, Chinese checkers, and Connect 4 build strategy and logic skills. Modern digital games do this, as well, such as Fortnite and League of Legends. Mystery games, like Professor Layton or Nancy Drew by Her Interactive, involve complex puzzles and interesting facts about cultures, people, history, and careers. Mad Libs tests your child’s understanding of parts of speech. You can buy the books, find printables online, or play with your Alexa or Google device. Wordscapes and Words with Friends help with vocabulary 2048 helps with math. For more math activities, click here! With gamification, they may learn even faster than if they’d read a book on the subject. Of course, reading does have its own advantages, so your child should try to... Consume Information in Many Different Formats “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —Dr. Seuss Books are the best way to learn, but they don’t have to be tedious textbooks! There are many children’s series that serve to both entertain and educate, such as the science-based The Magic School Bus and history-based The Royal Diaries. Another example is The Series of Unfortunate Events, which often defines fun vocabulary words like “ersatz,” or “replacement.” All books improve comprehension and emotional intelligence. Encourage your child to read about new characters and situations they haven’t experienced themselves. If your child is less enthusiastic about reading, consider changing up the format; graphic novels can get even the most reluctant reader engaged and practicing their literacy skills. The pictures help readers who struggle to envision scenes, the sound effects are good lessons on onomatopoeia, and the heavy use of dialogue teaches them about voices and narration. If your child is more of an auditory learner, they can listen to audiobooks or learn new things through informational podcasts like “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids.” If your child prefers visuals, they can watch animated versions of books or educational videos. To minimize distractions, you may want to consider education-based platforms like National Geographic Kids or TedTalks rather than YouTube. Pick Up a New Skill Your child can also learn new skills that go beyond academics. They should see that learning isn’t only about facts or equations but also about personal interests and growth. Consider a new sport or activity, such as skateboarding, or a new language, such as American Sign Language (ASL). See if you can do this activity with them or encourage other members of the family. For example, children love to talk in “secret languages.” By having someone to learn a new language and socialize with, your child will feel motivated and improve faster. They can also turn to fun apps like Duolingo, which uses gamification in the form of daily check-ins, rewards, and rankings to encourage habitual use! Practicing something can be a great way to absorb information, so... Get Hands-on Some children prefer learning actively and using their hands to reading facts and taking notes. If this is the case, a fun way for your child to learn something new is to become physically involved. If they want to learn about a historical battle, they can recreate the battlefield with papier-mâché or reenact it in a stage performance. Learn a little physics by riding a roller coaster, understand gravity a little better by participating in an egg drop contest, get a deeper understanding of coding by building a robot, learn a little chemistry and math through cooking. Just like how your child might have a study space to really focus on their schoolwork, you can create a “makerspace” at home for their more creative DIY endeavors. Integrating lessons in creative ways can be more meaningful than absorbing information through books or videos. What’s more, they may come out of the summer with life skills that go beyond academics. What else can they do this summer? They can... Soak In the Fun In JEI's Summer Series Without even leaving the house, your child can participate in special summer programs including the JEI Summer Series at participating locations! Our learning centers are now offering various exciting activities for the summertime. Your child can participate in our reading, writing, and critical thinking events and workshops. This way, they can keep learning, socialize with others, and have a blast. — There are so many possibilities out there. Play some Mad Libs with your child—easily accessible with Alexa or Google Home! Challenge your child to a cook-off! Encourage your child to participate in the JEI Summer Series! Lifelong learning can become an everyday part of your child’s life through creative activities like these, so start today. For more information on the JEI Summer Series, contact your local JEI Learning Center.
Activities for children who love (or hate) math
There are some children who love everything about math and numbers! Look at Katherine Johnson, former NASA mathematician, who earned the title The Girl Who Loved to Count because she counted everything she could since she was little. Whether your child is another Katherine Johnson or not as big of a numbers lover, there are a couple activities every child is sure to enjoy. These games ask for your child to exercise their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but in such a way as to make it enjoyable for everyone! After trying these activities, they might stop saying, “I’m not good at math,” and start saying, “Math is fun!” Sudoku A popular numbers game, Sudoku asks that each box, vertical line, and horizontal line of 9 squares each consists of the numbers 1 to 9 in any order. Each number will be used once, and there are a variety of levels so this task can go from relaxing to challenging based on your child’s mood and level of critical thinking. Sudoku asks your child to use their logic skills to see how this number puzzle fits together. What strategies will they discover? You can find printables here! Nonograms Also known as Paint by Numbers, Nonograms provide you with a grid. Each row and column has numbers that tell you how many boxes in a row should be shaded. For example, if one row has the numbers 2 and 8, that would mean that anywhere in that row, there should be 2 shaded boxes in a row followed later by 8 shaded boxes in a row. It is the same for columns, usually resulting in one complete picture like pixel art. Your child will have to think of strategies to get to that end result! You can find printables here! Hidato Another logic puzzle, Hidato asks your child to connect consecutive numbers from 1 to however many spaces are provided. The board can take any shape or form, but fills in a few of the boxes with numbers. Then, much like connecting the dots, your child fills in the empty spaces with consecutive numbers to get to the next one. For example, Hidato may start with 1 and the next number given in another space is 5, so your child has to fill in the boxes from 2 to 4 until they reach that 5. Your child has to make sure they fill in the right boxes, and this could involve some trial and error. You can play Hidato here! 2048 2048 is a popular game online! It requires your child to slide around boxes that, upon collision, will add up if they are the same number. For example, if you collide an 8 with another 8, that will add up to 16, which has to collide with another 16 to get to 32, and so on. The end game is to get to the number 2048 without filling up the space with unusable boxes. There is limited room for movement for sliding and colliding, so your child has to test out the best way to get to 2048! You can play 2048 here! Kakuro A little more complex, Kakuro can test out your child’s adding skills! The purpose is to fill in the grids so two numbers in a row or column add up to whatever the number outside of the grids dictates. For example, if the row wants the sum of 24, that means the two numbers in the row have to add up to 24, and if the column wants the sum of 12, the two numbers in that column need to add up to 12. This means that one of those numbers will have to add up to both 24 and 12. This one will be a bit more math heavy! You can play Kakuro here! Whether your child loves or hates numbers, these logic puzzles are so fun and engaging that everyone will put on their thinking caps and have a great time! If your child struggles with some levels or wants to keep advancing, they should continue working on their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. JEI Learning Center can help! We have a program, Brain Safari, that specializes specifically in this area. It uses word problems, math, and puzzles to engage your child’s creative mind and logical thinking, so they can excel at whatever they set their mind on. Contact a center near you today to ask them about our Brain Safari program and JEI Remote Learning opportunities!