Twenty ways to help your child get to grips with homework

Homework time. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Homework time. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

1. Provide suitable study facilities. While the kitchen table may be ideal for many, others, especially older children, may prefer the calm atmosphere of their bedroom. Most children study best where there is peace and quiet so try to keep noise levels down and cut out distractions.

2. Turn off the television. It is impossible to study with one eye on the television or an ear to the radio.

3. Encourage children to get their homework done as soon as possible while it is still fresh in their minds. If that is not possible set aside a special time for it. It is also a good idea to get them to do it all in one block.

4. Foster a positive attitude to home study. Try not to moan and groan about your child’s workload or dismiss it as a waste of time.

5. Establish a study pattern. Children in junior infants, for example, may have very little homework to do but it is a good idea to get them into the habit of sitting down quietly and looking over their school books or discussing their day with you. This will prepare them for the routine of homework later.

6. Do not do your children’s exercises for them. Tempting as it may be, do not leap in with the correct answers if they are experiencing difficulty. Directing a child towards the correct answer is more helpful.

7. Be open to change. Teaching methods have changed greatly since many parents attended school.

8. Help them make a plan. As children move into more senior classes, especially in second level, their homework load will get heavier. Encourage them from the start to break up their work schedule into manageable chunks. Include short breaks to help them relax and refocus.

9. Talk to the teachers. If you are unsure how best you can help your children through school ask their teachers for advice. If you are concerned your child is spending too much time doing homework, for instance, (or more likely, not enough time ) find out what is the recommended nightly period.

10. Be generous with praise. Praise effort as much as the successful completion of a task. Encourage a child who keeps trying against the odds.

11. Avoid berating or putting your children down if their academic achievements or efforts to not live up to your expectations. Instead focus on building up their self esteem so they will have the confidence to reach for the stars.

12. Set a good example. Children tend to follow their parents’ example more than their advice so it may be a good idea to start learning a new skill yourself, such as a foreign language. Or read a book or write a journal while they are studying.

13. Focus on their talents. Every child has his/her own gifts so watch out for these and nurture them. If academia is not their strong point look for other school areas in which they can shine, such as sports, drama, etc.

14. Keep everything in perspective. Parent/teacher meetings or school reports can provide some disappointing information on occasion but try to see these as resources. Aim to use the knowledge gained to help your children reorganise, refocus or simply knuckle down to some hard work. It is important too to remember that school grades are just a measure of academic prowess and are not a reflection of children’s strengths altogether.

15. Encourage them to tackle the most difficult homework first. That way the easier subjects are kept until last. So even if they feel tired they will be able to get through those. Being able to get through homework efficiently and effectively boosts children’s self confidence and teaches them about the skills needed to complete tasks in a set time.

16. Help them learn to prioritise by completing the most important exercises first. Then if time is in short supply at least they will have done the most pressing assignment. The optional tasks or lessons with a later deadline can be shelved until later.

17. Encourage them to make good use of their time. This particularly applies to older or exam students. Setting targets for each day, week or month will help them organise their time more efficiently. Ask them to make a list of everything they want to do tomorrow/this week/this month, listing them in order of priority. Goals will give them a sense of direction and help keep them alert and focused. They need not be elaborate but make sure they are specific, realistic and time related. Breaking them down into achievable steps will boost their self confidence and encourage them to aim higher. Get them to draw up an action plan detailing how much time they are going to devote to realising their plans. Encourage them to take their first step as soon as possible. Once they get going the whole thing will gain momentum.

18. Advise them to start small. If your child is not the most studious avoid overwhelming him/her in a bid to achieve good results. Aim for mini successes instead. Any study is better than no study. Do not expect a scatterbrain to become completely organised and efficient overnight. Getting older school children to review their day at the end of each evening and examine how much they have done may give them a sense of achievement or shock if they have progressed little.

19. Develop a close relationship with your children’s school. This will help you be aware at an early stage of any learning or behavioural difficulties they are having which may affect their homework standard. It will also enable you to keep the teacher informed of any home factors which could have repercussions on school work.

20. Check completed homework. That way you will be able to spot mistakes and most of all discover early indications of problems. It will also be a deterrent for serial slackers and potential procrastinators whose interest lies anywhere but within the confines of school.

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