What’s homework for?
There’s a lot of debate about how much homework children should get (the norm varies from country to country and school to school). But wherever you live, the principle is the same – homework helps kids practise what they’ve learned in class, while getting used to thinking on their own. It also shows teachers how your child is getting on, and any areas where they might need help.
So I can’t do it for them then?
We’d all like our child to get a gold star every time, but if you’re the one doing the work, it could backfire. Yes, most seven year-olds need a bit of guidance here and there, but once they’ve left primary school, they’ll be expected to do their homework by themselves. And that’s the key. Not only is working independently a crucial life skill, but getting a ‘B’ on your own builds more confidence than mum getting an ‘A’ for you. And making mistakes is a part of learning too.
So rather than running the race for your child, think of yourself as a coach or buddy. Someone who motivates them, praises them and gives them the odd tip, then stands back to let them shine.
Here are some ways to do it.
Timing is everything
You can’t fight nature, so don’t expect your child to do their homework when they’re exhausted. Straight after school is usually a good time, but you’ll know what works for you. The most important thing is to get into a good, regular routine, when your child isn’t too tired or hungry.
Break it down (and talk them up).
Sitting down and doing things on your own can be hard for children (and some adults!). A lot of it comes down to confidence and knowing how to break things down. You can help by taking a few minutes to talk through that day’s homework, and dividing it into smaller tasks. Decide together how long each task should take (a timer or special clock can help if they’re a real fidgeter), and give them praise as they go through ticking off each one.
Practice, practice, practice
While you can’t do your child’s homework, practising skills with them – and making it fun – is where parents can really make a difference. Whether it’s maths or a foreign language, games, songs and other learning-infused activities can all help them learn without pressure. And don’t forget reading – research shows it’s the most important thing you can do to support your child’s education.
Do the nerd thing
Topics at school can change from week to week, so if your child is interested in something, from Pharaohs to frogspawn, let them be nerds and explore the subject to their heart’s content. Documentaries, picture books, days out and craft activities are all ways to get under the skin of a topic and make it come alive. Join in the fun, and you might learn something too.
Be library buddies
Today, kids are encouraged to do their own research from a much younger age, and that’s a good thing, as it’s a brilliant habit to get into. Hit the local library together to get the facts on volcanoes or Henry VIII, and you’ll be introducing your child to a great free resource they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
Get web savvy
Of course, your child’s most important research tool is going to be the internet. This raises worries for most parents, but think of it as the perfect opportunity to use the web alongside your child, teaching them about safety as you go. And it’s not just about staying safe – you can also talk about where information comes from, and why some sources are reliable… and others distinctly iffy.
Remember, children shouldn’t use the internet unsupervised. Parental control settings are essential, but knowing how to stay safe online is a lesson children need to learn with you as their guide. So make sure you give them some basic rules to follow, and put the computer in a family room with the screen facing out so you can keep an eye on things.
Find out more about child internet safety at http://www.kidsmart.org.uk/parents/
Show me, tell me
From time to time, part of your child’s homework might involve presenting what they’ve learned in school to their family at home. This gives you a chance to support your child’s learning in the simplest and best way possible – by taking time to listen to what they have to say.
How much is too much?
There’s no fixed rule about how much homework your child can expect, but in the UK, it usually looks something like this.
|Years 1 and 2||60 minutes a week|
|Years 3 and 4||90 minutes a week|
|Years 5 and 6||30 minutes a day or equivalent over two/three evenings or at the weekend|
Since 2012, homework isn’t based on national guidelines anymore, and is very much down to the head teacher. So if you think your child’s struggling, you might be able to make a change – as long as other parents feel the same way.
How to help your child with reading
How to help get children interested in words and books.
- Read little and often as part of your routine, keeping books within easy reach.
- Take time to talk about each page and what they see.
- Find books on topics your child likes, from fairy tales and animals to fashion and sport.
For more info visit http://family247.net/parenting/books/reading-for-life/
Helping your child with maths
Even if you didn’t enjoy maths at school, there are lots of ways to help your child be number-confident.
- Point out shapes in everyday objects and buildings
- At the shops, let them help count grocery items and money
- Look for numbers on street signs and car registration plates.
For more info visit http://family247.net/parenting/education/11-fun/
Things to try
- Do have a flat, well-lit homework area or table with all the stationery they need (so they don’t have to go looking for a pencil sharpener mid-session).
- Do be aware of modern teaching methods, like phonics and ‘chunking’.
- Do create a homework routine that you both agree to.
- Do give your child a small, healthy snack before starting to keep their energy up.
- Do chat about the homework they’re doing and how it connects with school.
- Do turn off the TV, although music’s okay if it helps them concentrate
Things to avoid
- Don’t give your child the answers, although you can remind them how to work it out.
- Don’t teach your child methods you used at school. It could confuse them.
- Don’t let homework become a chore. Keep it fun and make it a special time that you both look forward to.