Julie Accardo, an eighth-grader at West Running Brook Middle School, works on her French homework while her mother, Sara Accardo, looks on.

Derry mother Staci Hartnett says when it comes to helping her eighth-grade daughter with homework, math is the subject that presents the biggest challenges.

It's not that Hartnett doesn't know how to do a problem and arrive at the correct answer. The challenge, she says, is in the process of arriving at that answer.

"There's a new and improved way," Hartnett said, and it's not the way she learned at all.

That's why Hartnett finds it so important that Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, where he daughter is a student, offers resources for children who need help with homework and study skills that Hartnett herself may not be able to provide.

Likewise other schools in the area offer similar resources, and a parent's key job is to be aware of what those resources are and how to encourage their child to take advantage of them.

School administrators in Derry, Londonderry and Chester say a key first step for parents is to teach children to be their own best advocates, and not to be afraid to ask for help.

It's a skill that will be especially important in high school, they say, and the classroom teacher is always the first person to turn to.

"They need to feel comfortable talking to their teacher," said Chris Harper, dean of academic affairs at Pinkerton Academy.

Londonderry High School Principal James Elefante agrees, saying by the time they reach high school, students should have mastered the skills to attack homework.

That's one reason why it is so important for parents to encourage children to reach out to teachers for help and to emphasize the need to complete homework on time.

A parent's job is to provide space and time for doing homework, and help or advice when needed. But the worst thing a parent can do, educators say, is to complete homework for their child.

For students who work well independently, parents can back off a little. When a child is more reluctant, however, a parent needs to provide structure and check the work to be sure it is complete.

For the school's part, it's important that teachers provide challenging but not frustrating or impossible assignments. If a parents finds a child is genuinely struggling, he or she should allow the child to stop the work after having made a good effort, and write a note to the teacher requesting help.

Derry Assistant Superintendent Mary Ann Connors-Krikorian said communication between school and home is key to success. And again, it's important that parents be aware of the variety of homework resources provided in local schools.

Pinkerton offers peer tutoring groups for math, foreign language and science to help students during study halls. Londonderry has a learning lab available during the day where a teacher is available to help.

"Kids can find that help," Elefante said, noting children even can e-mail their own teachers.

Maggie Holm, reading coordinator at Chester Academy, said she finds that putting children in touch with another student | someone from a more advanced class or a student who is doing well in a given subject | for peer tutoring is sometimes best.

"Sometimes kids respond better to another student," she said.

And Sara Accardo of Derry, a parent and third-grade special education teacher in Windham, said in her house brothers and sister work together.

"They can help each other," Accardo said.

For instance, she said, she encourages her daughter, Julie, to seek out her older brothers and dad, Carl Accardo, especially for help with technical subjects, like math.

Londonderry Assistant Superintendent Mark A. Blount said the district provides a variety of before- and after-school programs for students, as well as staffing the libraries after school. Additionally, the district's Web site provides information about what students are learning each trimester, tips for parents, information from textbooks and a variety of electronic tools and Web resources.

To help parents and students keep track of grades, attendance and other matters, Pinkerton Academy uses EdLine | a Web-based system where student records are posted. They can find test scores, attendance records, school calendars and other such information on EdLine.

Though Londonderry High School doesn't yet have a program like EdLine, Elefante said the school is looking into a parent portal on the Web that would provide similar information.

A number of teachers in the Derry schools and Chester Academy post homework assignments online at HomeworkNow, which is accessible through the school Web sites. And schools offer suggested Web search engines, Web sites for specific information and other resources that are safe for children to use, school officials say.

Tips for parents:

Don't do the homework for your child.

Have student keep an assignment log you can review.

Know what your child knows and doesn't know.

Check corrected homework.

Work toward independence but never total removal from the child's homework regime.

Model good work behavior. If you bring work home, do it at the same time and place your child does homework.

Know teachers' homework policies.

Have children advocate for themselves, particularly when problems arise.

Keep the teacher informed of problems.

Use online help, such as EdLine.

Praise for effort, not for being "smart."

Remove distractions. No TV, music, etc.

Plan that students will have homework.

Make sure students understand that studying for a test is homework.

Help students work out a plan for long-term assignments.

Check that your child understands the material.

If possible, have students do homework in a common area.

Prioritize after-school activities. Ensure balance between school and activities.

Work cooperatively with the school.

Source: Chris Harper, dean of academic affairs at Pinkerton Academy

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