Ask the Teacher

My fourth grade daughter insists that I sit with her while she does her homework. I have so much going on getting dinner ready and meeting the other demands of my family that I find this time to be very frustrating. That leads to me feeling guilty. How can I better handle this situation? 

Your daughter may be craving time with you after a long school day. Perhaps she thinks that asking you to sit with her while she does her homework is a legitimate way to get your one-on-one attention.

Try sitting down with your daughter for five to ten minutes when you both first get home to go over the highlights of her day. Then look over that evening’s homework and estimate together how much time each assignment will take to complete. Write down a quick plan for the evening on a sheet of paper with rough time frames, including her commitments on the left and yours on the right. Factor in checkpoints where you can quickly look over her work.

When she sees that you will be prepping dinner while she is doing her assignments, she will begin to understand that you have work that must be completed just as she does. Together identify ways that she can help with dinner prep as well as times when you can quiz her on her spelling, for example, while simultaneously completing another task.

By developing a plan together, she will get the attention she wants, and you will be able to accomplish what needs to be done for the evening.


Can you tell me how to help my son stay motivated through a mid-fall slump? He starts out the school year so excited and ready to work but by mid-October, he has lost his drive.

The excitement of a new school year, a new teacher and new classmates brings a special kind of enthusiasm that is hard to maintain. Once students are comfortable in their situation and the work-load shifts from review to new material, it is tough to keep from feeling a little tired and even a bit overwhelmed.

Make sure that you are maintaining interest and enthusiasm in his studies! Take a deeper look at what your son is learning and let him see that your interest is piqued. Ask questions about what he is studying. Help him see how what he is focusing on now will help him later, making specific connections. For example, you could say that you didn’t really understand how important the three branches of government were until you started voting and could see how necessary a balance of power in government is. You might also talk about how learning to write well is important across all types of communication – even when using email.

Do not be tempted to “bond” with him over a shared hatred of a subject. It is perfectly reasonable to tell him that algebra was tough for you, but follow up with a comment saying you were glad you had mastered it by the time college entrance tests came around. If you focus on how much you dislike a subject or how worthless you thought something was, he will see that as your endorsement for little effort on his part.


We moved to a new school, and my second grade daughter is very shy. She is having a tough time making friends. I am not sure how to help her find other girls she would enjoy getting to know.

Ask your daughter’s teacher to recommend a child or two who she thinks might be compatible with your daughter. Arrange an afterschool or Saturday morning play date. Because your daughter is shy, it might be a good idea for you to plan a few activities for their time together.

Having something specific to do will help the girls have something to talk about as they are getting acquainted. Pick up a craft kit, or make some cookies for them to decorate. Teach them to play a new game. Save a movie or a trip to the park until they have gotten to know each other better. Because these activities are focused on something or someone else where other people are in close proximity, the girls won’t have a chance to truly get acquainted.

If your daughter’s teacher is reluctant to suggest anyone, have a Saturday morning tea party for the girls in your daughter’s class and their mothers. Observe how the girls interact. Someone who is similarly shy might make a good friend for your daughter, but someone who is outgoing might also be a great complement to her quiet nature.

Don’t overwhelm your daughter with trying to cultivate a large number of friends for her. She may be more comfortable getting to know one or two people rather than having many acquaintances.


Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four who holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and InstructionDeb has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected]

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