Now that the children are back at school, the familiar battle over homework looms each evening in homes around the country. Some parents feel that it’s the biggest school year challenge and most kids would gladly be distracted by just about anything else rather than buckling down to complete that extra bit of schoolwork.
You can see where the youngsters are coming from; in my time I remember thinking my brother had nailed it when he said that homework was an extension of school and therefore expecting any child to do it in their precious free time was grossly unfair. Now that I’m all grown up of course I can see the benefit, even the necessity of homework, but a little part of me sympathises with the moaners.
That little bit of sympathy needs to remain well hidden, however, since children can spot and manipulate parental impatience with homework at one hundred paces, and they will use it to their advantage!
One important consideration for every parent is to do your own homework in regard to what your children are learning at school. Keep an eye on the curriculum, read your children’s books; check what they are required to read. The bottom line is; these are your children, you are in charge of their moral upbringing, if the school curriculum is interfering in any way with that you should be strongly objecting.
But back to the children’s homework: the following tips for getting homework done are not of my own devising but are an amalgamation of what every parent and advisor have learned the hard way.
As with everything in life, children are more likely to stick to a regimen if you do it at the same time every day and make it an inviolable part of your schedule. So make time for homework. Don’t leave it up in the air as to when homework will be completed. This only ensures that it won’t get completed until you have an extended argument with your children about it—usually one hour after bedtime. Instead, decide where homework fits into the afternoon or evening schedule and make it non-negotiable. It is always helpful to anchor homework time to some other regular activity. Good choices are: directly after school or right before or after dinner. (Scheduling homework in the hour before bedtime is usually not a good practice since your children may be too sleepy to do a good job.)
It is also important to dedicate a set amount of time for homework. This will discourage students from rushing through homework so that they can gallop off to engage in a more fun activity. Remember too that a reasonable amount of time to spend on homework varies with age. Check with your children’s teachers if in doubt.
If you hear ‘I finished my homework in school’, or ‘The teacher didn’t assign us any homework today’, quite often, chances are that you’re being had. The best way to deal with this is to say it doesn’t matter that they don’t have a specific assignment. Students can read silently during their allotted homework time, they can look up information to enhance what they are learning, or they can look at flashcards, practise maths facts, and test their spelling. This is how to teach your child to be a self-directed learner. You will be giving them a gift to get them in the habit of doing this now.
If you see homework as a nuisance, chances are your children will do the same. Parents should be available to offer assistance and keen to see that their children are learning new and exciting things. That doesn’t mean doing the homework for them, just that they can see you are enthusiastic about learning new things. It is a real thrill to see little ones manage to spell and read and older children grasping more complex concepts.
Most people’s advice on homework is to set up a desk in your children’s bedrooms and make sure that they have a quiet and distraction-free work environment. This sounds very reasonable, but space might be a factor and some children study very well together. However, the living room floor, or the sofa in front of the TV are not good options. Clearing the kitchen table and settling everyone down for an hour can work if bedrooms are too crowded, but it is important to have some consistency and to have study items and books at hand.
In order to instill the proper values in our children, we must model them. If we expect our children to be conscientious, hard-working students, then that should be what they see in us. Show them the value of hard work and if you waste hours in front of the TV, expect them to want to do the same. Be eager to learn something new. The more that you can show your child that learning is a lifelong adventure that requires their involvement, the more likely it is that homework will cease being a chore and start being an integral part of a life well lived.