It's amazing how even very young children seem to get homework these days. It's quite likely that children in reception stage will be given reading to practise or little projects to work on. And if your child has just moved into secondary school, they may be experiencing a big jump in the amount of homework being set.
So how can parents best support their children when it comes to doing homework? What can we do to help without taking over?
Here are ten top tips from the educational website ZooBooKoo. This company has been researching and designing educational toys for around 12 years, and many of their products, like this times tables cube, are designed to reinforce what children learn at school.
- When and where for homework
Decide with your child a regular (daily / weekly as appropriate) time slot to do homework and stick to this. Check with your school as to the appropriate length of time for homework for your child and explain this to your child. Choose a place to do homework: Decide with your child where homework is to be completed, for example, at the kitchen table or a specific desk. Initially you will need to be seated with your child, but with time you will be able to be busy with other tasks, but in the same room. Inevitably the kitchen tends to be the best place. Be ready to sit down if the child needs support.
- Avoid distractions
Turn off the TV, the Xbox, the DS and the computer – unless required. You need to help your child focus on their homework.
- Help get them started
If your child has understood the work at school they will be able to explain what they have to do. You may need to gently ask some questions and/or inform, if the child did not understand. You may need to openly discuss how to get started and discreetly point them in the right direction.
- Child completes homework (not parent)
Ensure your child completes the work – you can explain where necessary but do not provide answers. This is a great opportunity for your child to think for themselves. Encourage this.
- Patience and praise
You may have to explain some things several times. Resist temptation to rush your child. Consider this quality time – try to be relaxed and jolly. This is not a chore, it should be fun. If your child associates homework with quality time with you they will be more likely to do it and enjoy the routine. Praise your child often, particularly their efforts and not just final efforts: 'I really like the way you are sitting there doing your homework...'
- Look, say, cover, write
Your child is unlikely to learn by just looking at work, so encourage them to LOOK at it, SAY it out loud, COVER it up, then WRITE it out.
- Tools of the trade
Set your child up with pencils, pens, colouring pencils, ruler, rubber and a good pencil sharpener – all in a special stationery holder. You could even make or decorate this together. Or choose and buy them together. Maybe you could incorporate this as a reward. Let your child choose a special notebook for writing out work when they are learning with the Look, Say, Cover, Write method.
- 'Real-life' testing
Sometimes, perhaps in the car or out and about, you can discreetly test your child by incorporating what you know they should have learned recently. Try to make it relevant to the situation, so they do not feel 'tested' – and never at bed time.
- Parental role model
Children copy the behaviour patterns of their parents and others around them. It is great if you can do your more 'administrative' chores (bank statements, letters etc) while your child does their homework. Then they see you do your 'homework' too – be ready for interruptions.
- Communicate concerns with teacher
Communicate all queries or notes to the teacher on the homework completed by your child. You could discuss this first with your child so that they understand what you are doing. Follow up on the response as any frustration and failure to understand should be addressed as soon as possible.