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How to tackle homework

Posted on 18 September 2018

Homework can cause arguments in families as parents struggle to understand it and children bristle at our efforts to help.

We may not like homework but it matters. How can we as parents, best support homework without tearing our hair out?

1. Encourage life skills

Think of the skill set required to complete homework and fit in extracurricular activities and a social life. This requires organisation, time management, problem solving and innovation skills plus a sound work ethic to knuckle down and crack on with a job you may prefer not to do.

Children need to be left alone to learn these skills for themselves. We can provide guidance on what these skills look like and how to develop them but ultimately they are acquired through trial and error. However though, this does mean letting our children take responsibility for incomplete or late homework.

Homework provides teachers with a golden opportunity to assess whether the child has grasped a specific point. Parents can help to support this by including notes in their homework, if their child struggled, to let the teacher know that they didn’t understand or quite grasp the subject or task.

2. Check for understanding

Ask your child to explain what their homework is and whether they understand how to approach it.  Discuss ideas then leave them to continue to work on it. If your child struggles with the task rather than jumping in with the solution, ask helpful questions such as: “What do you understand?” “Can you give me an example?” “What do you think the answer is?” “How could you find out?”

3. Start with the end goal in mind

No expert suggests we abandon our children to sink or swim with homework but rather we reconsider what help will be of the greatest benefit, long term.

By secondary school our children need to be independent learners, able to manage deadlines and workload with minimal guidance and input from parents. What can we do to encourage independent learning?

4. Facilitate don’t enforce

Provide an environment conducive to study: a desk large enough to accommodate textbooks and strictly no screens unless they are required for the task. Play gentle background music if it helps your child and remove siblings from the room. Many parents of primary school children find it helpful to provide a homework pencil case to avoid their child wasting time “looking” for stationery equipment.

Help your child learn to manage their time from primary school.  Set a timer for the length of time the homework should take as specified by the teacher and stop the task when the timer goes off.  This is a remarkably effective method for cutting down procrastination.

5. Encourage brain breaks

They don’t need long to recharge and get back on task but do encourage regular brain breaks.

6. Don’t do it for them

We’ve all got to that point where you contemplate completing the homework for your child, especially if they’re struggling or the due date is pressing. But this isn’t helpful for you or your child, not only are they not learning, but you aren’t teaching good habits.

7. Provide praise

Look for opportunities to praise your child for independent learning. Some parents choose to reward children through treats, but you can provide praise with a simple “Good job, you’ve done some great work” or allowing them some free time to enjoy doing something they like to do.


At what age would you give your child a mobile phone?

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