Whether or not homework is useful for children has proved fertile ground for debate among academics over the years. Those against it often claim that homework can detract from family life and foster an ultra-competitive academic environment, and that homework is often designated as a matter of policy, not necessarily to hone in on crucial aspects of learning that need reinforcement.
Those who believe in its value point out that homework teaches a child discipline and the importance of being prepared for lessons. While the academic debate continues to rage, homework is still very much a part of daily life for children in the UK and in many other countries across the globe. What is a parent to do if their child finds no joy in this daily task?
In this article we provide you with top tips to turn what for some is a burden, into a pleasure:
- Find the right resources: These days, learning is a much more interactive, visually stimulating process, thanks to an array of online learning sites like the BBC’s Bitesize, famed for its excellent animations, fun approach to learning and provision of various levels for children to improve their skills at everything from basic addition and subtraction to quite complex equations. Learning should be fun; anything that is forced is bound to encounter rejection from children. You should also look into purchasing or downloading extra resources, to practise areas you notice your child may be having difficulty with. Some of the best mathematics, science and literacy books cost less than £3 yet go a long way towards helping children grasp core subject matter. Likewise, you should learn about groundbreaking methods like Montessori, which utilises colourful tools to help children advance in maths at a young age.
- Establish a routine: Once you have all the resources you need, you can work on establishing a set time for homework. Most parents agree that the best time for work is as soon as your child arrives home from school, perhaps after having a small snack. Make sure to keep homework sessions for smaller children short but sweet – guidelines in the UK suggest that children in Years 1 and 2 should do around 10 minutes of homework daily, and children in Years and 6 should study for around half an hour. Too much homework can lead to stress and anxiety and the ultimate aim should always be for children to associate learning with pleasure. For little children learning to read, for instance, a profound love of reading can be fostered by parents sitting alongside them while they make their first attempts, or reading to them out loud, using funny voices and gestures. Children then come to associate reading with laughter and with fun time spent with their parents, which is usually what they most desire.
- Share valuable strategies, shortcuts and tricks with your children: Whether Mayan maths, multiplication shortcuts or memory boosting tricks have always made life a little easier for you, share your knowledge with your children. These techniques are likely to remain with them for a lifetime. Important study techniques like using mind maps, also come into play here. From the time they are in primary school, sharpen their critical thinking skills by using visual maps to divide topics into categories and sub-categories, and encourage children to analyse how various themes are connected.
- Discover the way your child likes to learn: Cater homework sessions to your child’s learning style. If they are reflective learners, allow them time to read and process the materials themselves before helping them with assigned tasks or discussing the material. If they are active learners, try using physical games (such as, for instance, throwing a balloon between you while you recite a particular multiplication table). You can also look into nouvelle learning techniques such as spaced learning, in which students are exposed to three ‘input’ sessions divided by two 10-minute breaks. During an ‘input’ session, students are exposed to course content via short Powerpoint presentations. Content is revised and then ‘tested’ by asking students to fill in blanks, etc. During the breaks, they engage in a simply physical activity (such as a quick basketball game, origami or modelling with clay), returning to their desks afterwards to review what they have just learned (by filling in blanks in the text they have just seen). It may sound a bit odd, but teachers have been using the method for quite some time now, and are reporting pretty impressive results in students’ memory retention, in particular.
- Be a guide and helper, but give them the independence they need: The aim of homework is no greater than ensuring students understand key areas and retain knowledge received in class. Parents should avoid the temptation of doing the work for their children; rather, they should allow them to have a go at maths problems, for instance, helping out when children get stuck or after noticing errors in work (or untidiness, poor presentation, missing answers, etc.). If you are unable to be your child’s guide owing to work or other conflicting obligations, make sure there is someone who is motivational and knowledgeable enough to be there for them. A good tutor can help with subjects children find most difficult. The investment is usually more than worth it, since children can get stuck in subjects like maths, which involve a linear progression of knowledge. It is vital that children obtain a good basic knowledge in maths, so that they can tackle more complex areas (like calculus or geometry) as they progress.
- Establish a good relationship with your child’s teachers: From the time your child begins attending school, it is vital to communicate well with their teachers. If you notice that homework tasks are causing stress, your child lacks the fundamental knowledge required or is doing an inordinate amount of homework, speak to the teacher. Sometimes, teachers from different subjects do not coordinate on set tasks, so that children can have a couple of tough evenings with more work than they can bare. This should never be the case, since it is counter-productive.
We hope that you have found this blog post useful. If you have some tips to share when it comes to getting your kids to do their homework, please feel free to share them with us via the comments below.
In the meantime, for the curious among you we have blogged about homework before, maybe you would like to check the following articles:
New study finds that homework doesn’t improve grades
Doing your child’s homework? Turns out you are not alone
Homework – who do you go to first, parents or teachers