"I will do it in a minute," "It's not fair, we get too much", "What's the point of it?". These are all too familiar wails from students when faced with homework.
The issue poses problems in many homes as pupils often resist it or at best only knuckle down to doing it under duress. It tends to be seen as a chore and an obstacle that gets between them and having fun.
Parents meanwhile resort to all sorts of innovative strategies to ensure that this work is done. Everything from tricks to treats is employed in the hope that homework is completed to everyone's satisfaction.
Appreciating the role it plays in your children's education can help you both realise the importance of this after school activity. Homework consolidates the work done in school, allows students to work on their own initiative, fosters self reliance and gives feedback to their teachers. There is strong evidence to prove that children who receive good home back-up are among the highest educational achievers. Being able to complete exercises and get through their work efficiently boosts children's self worth and teaches them about the skills needed to complete tasks in a set timeframe.
So, how can parents help make this process easier and more productive? Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Draw up a homework schedule. Children who are in infant classes may have very little homework but it is a good idea to get them into the habit of sitting down quietly and looking over their schoolbooks or discussing their day with you. This will prepare them for the routine of study later. Ideally, try to get homework done as soon as possible after school while it is still fresh in the child's mind. Some children however may need a break after school so evening time may suit them best. Even if the same time is not set aside for homework each day make sure the issue is on the schedule of events to provide consistency and to establish a sense of expectation.
2. Set a time limit and aim to get your child to adhere to this. Long drawn out homework sessions can cause friction for students and parents. Parents' tension mounts as time ticks away and children get weary and inefficient if the whole process drags on too long. Many teachers at the start of the school year advise pupils about drawing up a set homework pattern and tell them how long to spend on each subject. This is a valuable guideline for both child and parent and helps both avoid protracted discussion and argument about study times.
3. Provide suitable study facilities. Most children study best when there is peace and quiet so keep noise levels down and try to cut out distractions. Ensure there are pens, pencils, paper, a calculator, scissors, ruler, etc, on the desk. This will eliminate the need for them to wander off in search of an elusive something.
4. Help them organise their workload. This need only take 10 minutes. It is especially important for younger students as it will give them direction and will help focus their minds. Sometimes students do not know how to get started and can feel overwhelmed by the range of tasks facing them. Sitting down with them and helping them make a list and prioritise what they will do first and second will help avoid stress and get things done.
5. Maintain a positive attitude about the whole experience. Try to avoid moaning and groaning about your child's workload or dismiss it as a waste of time. Maintain a sense of humour as well, it will lighten the whole process and help defuse tense moments. Remember you are there to support, encourage, and guide your children not to nag or chip away at their self confidence. Steer clear of comparisons too and of pronouncements such as "Things were different in my day".Teaching methods have changed since many of today's grandparents and parents attended school and it is helpful to realise this. Be open to change and to the modern approaches to learning.
6. Avoid the temptation to do things for them. If they are struggling with a task or a subject it can be all too easy to step in and offer to do it for them. However, that is not helpful in the long run. Your role is to encourage and guide and then step back and let them complete the exercise on their own. Intervening and doing things for them deprives them of learning to do things for themselves and encourages helplessness.
7. Teach them how to cope with setbacks. They may be struggling to grasp a concept or find it difficulty to write an opening paragraph for an essay or may have come up against a brick wall when trying to solve a problem. Encourage them to take a break from the task for a while and do something calming, such as gentle exercise, or have a snack, or close their eyes for a few minutes. Afterwards maybe start work on another assignment. Then encourage and support them to return to the original frustrating task. Remind them that there are days when everything does not run smoothly and they may be having one of these days. Also, that tension, frustration, anger and anxiety block the learning process and disrupt progress so it is counter productive continuing until your mind is calmer.
8. Boost their self-esteem. Nurturing their self worth will pay dividents. Praise effort as much as the successful completion of a task. Not every child is going to be top of the class and achieving straight As but by recognising their unique potential and acknowledging that they are working to the best of their ability you are doing them a major service for the future.
9. Remain involved. In the case of young children particularly it is important to check their homework when it is completed. Be sure to offer praise and, if necessary, point out where more effort needs to be focused. If they got something wrong but tried hard put the emphasis on all the effort they put into the task.
10. Develop a relationship with your children's school. That way you are helping them understand that home and school are interrelated. You will also be aware at an early stage of any learning challenges that present themselves and that may be reflected in their homework performance. In addition, it will enable you to keep their teachers informed of any factors in your children's lives which could impact adversely on their schoolwork.