Parents' page.





Welcome, parents.  This site is mainly for my students, of course, but it exists to improve communication with parents, too.  Please visit your child's class' page to see what he or she is working on.  You will find an online Cahier de Textes to see what work needs to be done each week.

Contents of this page:

Helping your child with science homework

Have you ever had this conversation with your child?

- "What do you have for science homework this week?"
- "Nothing."  

This conversation illustrates that you are doing your job as a parent by taking an interest in your child's education - it also illustrates that the child is doing his or her job as someone growing up seeking a greater degree of independence.   

Is is true that I do not give written homework each week for the simple reason that I teach 250 students each week and there is no way I could find enough hours in the week to correct 250 papers.  This does not mean there is nothing for my students to do from week to week.  In an effort to keep them on their toes and to insure that they do not leave all their learning until 2 weeks before the compositions groupées exam week, I give surprise quizzes from time to time.  As a result, students should learn their lessons each week.  I suggest that they do the the following things each week. 

  1. read over any notes or photocopies from class
  2. read over the pages in the book we are working on
  3. learn the procedures of the laboratory experiments we have done - they should know the names of the pieces of equipment we used, the names of any chemicals we used and the step-by-step procedure of how we did the experiment
  4. make a list of scientific vocabulary words from the notes, photocopies, lab experiments, and pages in the book.  Each week there could easily be 10 to 20 new words to learn from any of these four sources.  I suggest making flash cards.

So next time you want to ask your child "What do you have for homework in science this week?", transform that one question into three questions:   "Have you read over your notes, photocopies from class or pages from your science book?", "Have you learned the procedures of the laboratory experiments you did?"  and "Have you made flash cards of the new scientific vocabulary words from this week?"  If the answer is "Yes, dear loving mother" or "Yes, my darling father" that's your cue for the next question:  "OK, then you are ready to let me quiz you on the vocabulary to see if you are ready for a surprise quiz this week?"  At that point, they may ask for a few minutes to study first.

Exam revision

If you are interested in helping your child study for exams, you can click here to visit the page which I have prepared for them about how to prepare for and take exams at EABJM, whether it be in science or any other subject.  Also, that page has a link to the Study Skills guide which gives some explanations, too, aimed at the 6ème level but valid all through school.  In any case, preparation for exams is a weekly process throughout the year.  

In 24 hours, the brain forgets 75% of what it acquired.  This is so the brain does not fill up with useless information.  It is only the important things which stay in there.  To get information to stay, the brain needs to be reminded frequently.  8 sessions of 15 minutes of revision periodically has a much more permanent effect on the brain than 2 hours of revision in one sitting.  Helping your child to organize his/her time is one of the best ways to improve work habits and grades.  Your child should make a homework timetable in order to plan out the hours that s/he will be working on school work.  You should supervise this but you should not make it for your child - students need to feel that it is something personal in which they made for themselves.  There are some suggestions how to make a homework timetable here in the Study Skills Guide.   

Guidelines for television, video games, and the Internet

First of all, let me say that these three high-tech inventions can be marvelous sources of information and entertainment.  Secondly, they are important parts of our culture and form an integral part of our social lives (talking about the latest episode of our favorite TV program, sending e-mail to friends, beating our best friend's highest score in our latest video game).  

On the other hand, when any one of these is misused or abused, serious damage can be done to a young person's academic progress, social integration or physical health (notably from lack of sleep staying up to the wee hours of the morning).

I personally see television, video games and the Internet in a young person's life the same way I see salt in our daily diet.  A minimum amount is necessary for survival, a moderate amount is enriching and enjoyable, too much is repulsive and destructive.  Just as you wouldn't allow your child to put 3 handfuls of salt on his or her dinner, you shouldn't allow your child to indulge in 3 hours of TV, video games or the Internet per day.

Limiting access

My first suggestion:  limit the total of these activities to 1 or 2 hours per day, depending on the child and on the nature of the activities.  Example:

30 minutes    1 show on TV
30 minutes    computer games
30 minutes    sending e-mail to friends, visiting favorite web sites 
1.5 hours        Total

My second suggestion:  more time could be "earned" by reading.  For example, your son's time for video games is up but if he reads for 30 minutes, he could "earn" a half-hour extra playing time.  By reading I mean something which is not school work and which has some sort of educational value:  a novel, a reputable magazine, etc.  

My third suggestion:  to enforce this policy, nothing can replace human presence.  If you cannot be present to enforce them, someone else should be.  If your child is home alone, decide that the time alone will be counted in the time limit.  When you get home, everything gets turned off.  The problem with this is that you have no idea of the content of the television shows, the Internet sites or the video games.  (See next section).  One mother told me of a high-tech solution to this high-tech problem.  She has a key on the fuse box which controls the circuits for the television and the computer.  When her son is left alone, she locks access to these appliances.

Monitoring content

Another concern is the violence or adult-nature of some TV shows, video games, and certain sites on the Internet.   To monitor the content, again, nothing can replace human presence.  The best thing to do is keep televisions and computers in common rooms of your home such as the living room or kitchen.  TV's or computers which are hooked up to Internet should not be in your child's bedroom.  This leads to unmonitored use and late-night sessions when he or she should be sleeping.  In a survey of my students in July 2001, 45% of 4ème students had access to Internet in their bedrooms. 

How to get better academic results from your child

The best thing you can do is to be interested in everything your child is doing in school.  Ask your child about what he or she is doing and listen earnestly.  And do not just ask about their grades!  The next best thing you can do is to help your child manage his or her time so that all the work and revision gets done, leaving enough time for leisure activities.  In collège, plan about 9 hours of homework time a week.  That's 1.5 to 2 hours a night, leaving one weekend day completely homework-free.  In lycée, it's more like 12 or 13 hours of work per week.  This will vary from student to student because some work faster than others and some are more comfortable with bilingual work than others. 

The worst thing you can do is do the child's homework yourself or hire someone to do the homework for your child.  Such practices might give the child good grades on homework but the exams will be unpleasant surprises.  Teachers know, by the way, that when there is a systematic discrepancy between homework and exams, it is clear that the child is not doing the homework alone.  Help your child, yes.  Check their work and explain mistakes, yes.  Proof read and help them with their spelling, yes.  Tell them the answer without letting them think it over themselves, no.  Even if your child asks a friend to help them at home, check and see if there is any learning going on.  Although the short-term objective of education seems to be to get good grades, the long term goal is to get young people to learn how to think and how to work independently.

Rewards and punishments

If your child is improving his or her grades at school, a well-earned reward might be to increase the time limit for TV, video games or the Internet by 30 minutes (see section above).  On the other hand, if grades are slipping, a powerful bargaining tool would be to threaten to take away a certain amount of time or 1 or more categories of activities.  You should set the goals and rewards with your child.  Be realistic and reasonable.  Make a bargain with your child that you both agree on.  "If I get such-and-such a grade, I will be allowed to have X amount of minutes of video games."  If the child is involved in the planning process, he or she will be more likely to follow the consequences.  Ask your child "What are we going to do?  What kind of a solution do you suggest for this problem?" and say "I'm worried about your results" rather than "You are slacking off!"

There are other things which could enter into the discussion when making a bargain.  For some young people, a parent's most powerful bargaining tool is to threaten to take away (or limit the use of) what is most valuable for them.  If it is not computer, TV or video game time, it might be one of the following:

  • use of the home phone

  • use of their mobile phone

  • use of their bicycle or scooter

  • use of their skateboard or roller blades

  • going out with their friends

  • playing on their favorite sports team

Again, sit down with your child and decide what needs to happen (a certain grade average, a certain comment from a teacher, etc.) and what the consequences will be if it doesn't happen.  It's much more effective than screaming "That's it! You're grounded for a week!",  in which case the child feels that a great injustice has been done and will only lash out against your authority.  

And remember, rather than negotiating just the bad consequences, talk about the good, too.  If the child's academic results are above a certain level, what reward will there be?  Again, this needs to be decided together so that it is realistic and reasonable.  Telling a kid "If you don't shape up, you will never be allowed to watch TV again - ever!" is not realistic.  Asking a child to go from a C- average to an A+ in one term is just not reasonable. 


What do you think about these ideas?  Have you tried any of them and gotten any success?  Is there something which works for you?  Are there things which are impossible?

If you have suggestions or personal experiences you would like to share, please do not hesitate to contact me at *.  I am very interested in hearing your comments.  Thank you.



© A.W. Damon 2011


Last modification:  2011-03-01

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