It’s back to school time and with this, comes the inevitable trials and tribulations of homework.
Re-establishing the homework routine often comes as a shock to parents after the long summer holiday, giving you a small insight into the shock it must also be to your child. And with the sun still shining and the summer holiday feeling lingering, it can sometimes take a while to get your child’s head around the school routines again. So where do you begin to get your child to complete their homework tasks with as little stress and nagging as possible?
First of all, don’t make assumptions that the time you want your child to do their homework is the best time for them. Some children need to come home, eat and have a decent amount of downtime before they even begin to think about homework. Others might want to do it straight after school while they are still in school mode. Some prefer to do it after dinner, once they’ve had a nourishing meal and time to run around and fully de-school their bodies and minds. Yet others might prefer the following morning before school, after a full night’s rest. The trick is to find a time that works for you and your child. Remember, not all children are the same and siblings may prefer to work at different times. Children need consistency, so try and set a homework plan and stick with it.
Have one place in your house where they do homework every day. It might be a kitchen table, a breakfast bar, their bedroom, on the living room floor, wherever they work best. As long as there is no TV on, it doesn’t matter where homework gets done, as long as it’s being done.
set time limits
Ask your child’s teacher how much time they should be spending on their homework each night. You may want to initially set a timer to go off at the end of that time. When they have worked for the amount of time required, allow them a break if they have not finished and then come back and finish the task. If your child is consistently not finishing homework in the allocated time, let their teacher know. If you find your child can’t concentrate for the allocated amount of time, break the time up into more manageable time frames that suit your child (for example, 30 minutes: 15 minutes reading, 15 minutes number work).
Rewards or incentives may make the whole process more pleasurable for all. For each occasion where they settle down and do their homework without prompting, you might decide they can have 5 minutes’ extra time before bedtime, on the computer, or time with you to play a game of their choice. Alternatively, pocket money incentives may work. Other rewards may be for completing tasks with minimal help or instruction from you, the presentation of their homework, perseverance at completing the task, or evidence that hard work is paying off with test scores are improving.
The best reward of all for most children is verbal reward. Tell your child how proud, happy, impressed and pleased you are of them. Encourage them and praise them for their efforts, for their attitude, for the final product, for the evidence of all their hard work. Praise goes a long way but be careful to praise the actual effort and attitude. Saying “I liked the way you stuck at that question until you figured it out” is so much more meaningful than simply saying “Good boy/girl.”
be a good role model
Sit at the table with your child for their allocated homework time and don’t get distracted. Leave the dinner, text messages, emails etc alone and focus on your child. If your child is at an age where they are doing homework independently, take the time to do something for yourself like reading a book, writing a shopping list, writing birthday cards, or doing some work of your own. Demonstrate to your child good ‘work’ behaviours, such as seating posture, no distractions, completing tasks, organisation.
If your child is struggling at a particular subject, don’t admit to them that you also struggled when you were at school. This sends the message that they can give up as you never understood it either. If you did struggle at something, say to your child that you found it hard and had to practise when you were young, but you are so pleased you did because you understood it in the end. A little white lie won’t do any harm. Consider sitting with them and helping them understand the subject better, if you can. There’s also the Internet to turn to; you can find plenty of online resources that can come to your child’s aid with difficult homework, like bookworm hub and other such websites.
leave the music on
Studies show that some people concentrate better with music in the background as opposed to complete silence. To some children, silence can be deafening’. Also think of the kinaesthetic child. Have things (rubbers, pencils, a ruler, teddy) on the table for them to fiddle with and don’t tell them off for doing so. Studies show that some people just need to fiddle to concentrate.
If your child is still reluctant to do homework, try and ascertain why. Is it because they don’t know where to start? Or they don’t see the benefits of the task? Or they don’t understand what they have to do? Feed their response back to their teacher and ask them to clarify the homework to your child.
And don’t forget to smile! Have fun and try to enjoy this learning adventure with your child.
Jo Apperley is a mum of two children and a primary school teacher. She is passionate about the role of parents in developing their children into lifelong learners.