How much help should I be giving my student?

Julia Kaziewicz Collier

New to online classes?
  • Confirm that the student knows how to contact the instructor.
  • Check to make sure that the student has put all due dates and deadlines on a personal calendar of some kind.
  • If your student hasn’t taken an online class before, or is using a new platform, make sure that your student knows how to submit assignments—and watch the student submit the first couple of assignments of the semester.
How much help should you offer middle school students?

It’s completely fine to make sure that they understand the assignment, to check in with them mid-assignment to make sure they’re still on target, to explain to them anything they don’t understand, and then to eyeball the finished assignment to see whether it’s been properly completed before it is submitted. You should also make sure your student is staying on top of due dates. 

Are you helping your middle school student all the time?

You shouldn’t be sitting beside middle-school students to make sure that they’re doing the work correctly. Learning to follow instructions given by teachers is a valuable skill in itself—and you can short-circuit the student’s development if you shepherd them through each part of an assignment, rather than allowing them to wrestle with the work on their own.

You should not correct the student’s work before it is submitted. The assignment has been given by the instructor to develop the student’s skills. If the instructor cannot clearly see what skill level the student has achieved, the teaching process won’t work the way it is supposed to. The instructor is supposed to be evaluating your student’s skills—not yours.

It’s especially important that you don’t edit writing assignments before they are submitted. Our expository writing courses are designed to develop writing skills, step by step, in a carefully designed series. If you edit your student’s work, our writing teachers will not be able to see what skills need additional reinforcement.

No parents of a middle school student should edit work out of concern for grades. Remember that middle school grades DO NOT AFFECT the student’s future. They are never seen on college application materials. Middle school grades are useful only so far as they allow parents and teachers to develop stronger support for students who may be struggling with specific academic areas. If you edit your child’s work, you reduce the child’s readiness to move into high school work.

Are you not helping your middle school student at all?

Some middle school students are capable of highly independent work. But all middle school students are still learning to handle major projects and assignments. They may get overwhelmed, get behind, and be too embarrassed to tell you (or they may think, incorrectly, that they can catch up later).

It is very easy for even the best students to get off track in online classes. They might be browsing the internet or playing an online game while they have class open in a different tab on their browser. They may tell you they are submitting their work, when really they are weeks behind because they are overwhelmed or distracted.

If the student isn’t attending class, or not submitting work, this lack of attention will be reflected in the student’s grades. But too often, parents wait until a final grade arrives to check on a student’s progress; they find the student is failing, and it is too late to do anything about it. 

Because of this, we strongly recommend that you check your middle school student’s grades and records once a week for the first two months of class, and then every other week. Ask your student when major papers and tests are due, and check to make sure that these have been turned in on time. Ask to see the final grades on major papers and tests as well.

In addition, make sure you have the instructor’s email, and that the instructor has your correct contact information; make sure school emails get to your inbox, not your junk folder; and when you receive an email from the school, or your student’s instructor, make sure to read it, and if necessary, respond. Instructors will email a parent after a student misses a few classes or assignments. If you check your email and read the emails from the instructor, you will know what is going on with your student.

How much help should you offer high school students?

It’s still fine to make sure that they understand the assignment, to check in with them mid-assignment to make sure they’re still on target, and then to eyeball the finished assignment to see whether it’s been properly completed before it is submitted. 

If the student is confused and needs clarification, encourage the student to contact the instructor. Asking for clarification from an instructor is a valuable skill that students need to develop before college or career begins.

Do not edit or correct the student’s work before it is submitted!  High school is a time of preparation for college-level work, trade school, or entering the workforce. If the instructor can’t accurately judge the student’s skill level, this preparation can be disrupted, placing the student at a serious disadvantage.

Because even good students can get behind in online classes (see above), we highly recommend that you check your student’s grades once a week for the first month of class, and then once a month for the rest of the year. And, as above, make sure that the instructor can easily contact you in case of difficulty.