Nate Balstad: Parents can offer homework help

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Has homework become a point of dissension in your home? Although parents should not be the "Homework Gestapo," there are ways to encourage students to make study time a priority.

Parents can help motivate a child to do his or her homework in a number of ways. Most important is to be a good role model. Show your child your enthusiasm about learning new skills and information and encourage your child's efforts to learn more about the things he or she is interested in.

When it comes time to do homework, parents can help by:

n Providing a clean, quiet area for studying away from the television.

n Establishing a specific time for doing homework.

n Setting boundaries about interruptions, such as phone calls.

n Being available to help by asking questions that lead to a solution rather than providing the answer.

n And by praising the child's efforts, even when the child is having difficulty.

Regularly doing homework is harder for boys than girls, according to the Minneapolis-based Search Institute. Studies conducted by the institute on 100,000 sixth- through 12th-graders across the country show that only 45 percent of boys say they do at least one hour of homework each school day.

Doing homework is one of the 40 "developmental assets" Search Institute has identified as key in healthy youth development. Homework is among five "Commitment to Learning" assets, and youths who have these are more likely to succeed in their school lives, as well as in their home lives and personal lives.

Some other resources for parents to help young people build the Commitment to Learning assets include:

n "Studying: A Key to Success," a free brochure (send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: International Reading Association, P.O. Box 8139, Newark, DE 19714-8139)

n "Your Child's Growing Mind," a book with tips for guiding your child's learning through the years. Look for it at the library, or order from Doubleday: (800) 223-6834

n Your child's teacher -- one of your best resources

n Looking on the Internet; try the Web site www.asktheteacher.com

For a list of the 40 assets, or information on how to become involved with youths, contact your local Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office.

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