We often get asked, “Can au pairs help with homework?” And of course the answer is yes. Whether it’s understanding assignments and concepts, working on a project, or helping with foreign language, your au pair is there to support the kids and ensure they get their work done.
Homework is important because it helps children practice and strengthen academic skills, teaches time management, initiative, self-reliance, and resourcefulness. Homework also teaches children responsibility and a sense of accountability for mistakes and successes.
Support, encouragement, patience and guidance are basic in helping children with their homework. You may have your own after school and homework routine and it’s important to discuss that with your au pair.
Things to talk about:
- When is homework to be completed?
Do the kids start right when they get home? Do they have a break first? It may vary, especially with activities.
- What supplies do the kids need?
What should the au pair have ready and available for homework time?
- What’s allowed or not allowed during homework?
Can they listen to music, can they use the computer for school work? For how long?
- How much time is expected?
If the kids have a heavy work load or are having trouble concentrating, can they take a break and do something else so they can return to their work refocused?
- What should the au pair do if homework isn’t getting done?
Should they take away privileges? Should they wait until you return to deal with the situation? You know your kids, and sometimes they might just be having a bad day, but from your experience, talk to the au pair about how to handle the situation if the kids are not finishing their work or following directions.
And some questions to ask and tips for au pairs:
- What is a good routine for the kids?
Does the child need a snack or rest? Do they like to touch base with mom or dad after school? Develop a (flexible) schedule with the parents so the kids know what to expect: help them prioritize the day’s work and and identify which assignments they can do on their own and which they may need help with.
You may have kids with a range of ages so you may have to juggle homework time and taking caring of a younger child. Try including younger sibling(s) in homework time by giving them their own “assignment” while the older child does homework.
- What to do if homework isn’t getting done/the kids don’t want to finish their homework.
Talk to your host parents if you are having issues getting the kids to finish their work.
- What to do if the kids are overwhelmed with their work.
Are they not understanding concepts even after a lot of work and explanation? Do they just seem to have too much work? Talk to the parents about these concerns.
- How much help is too much help?
When kids are struggling, it’s natural to want to explain the issue and show them the answer. But it’s important that they understand the work and will be able to complete it themselves, especially in school where they will have tests and quizzes. Doing the homework is the child’s job, helping when your child is having problems is your job. Give specific praise and constructive criticism: “that’s a great first draft” and “your teacher will understand your ideas better if you use your best handwriting.” Be available to answer questions, read over directions together, help your child divide a challenging task into smaller pieces, and be the audience as your child practices spelling or reading.