Homework, which varies by school and teacher, comes home from a young age – perhaps even the first day of school! Reading books, exercise books, worksheets… science projects, math problems, topic studies.
I talked to a group of parents about their children’s homework. Most parents agreed that the children get given too much. Many struggled to get their children to do it, and felt confused or overwhelmed themselves by the tasks given. There were also parents who felt homework was unnecessary at a young age (primary school).
I then talked to a couple of teachers about their points of view. Both agreed that they would prefer not to set homework, but some parents expect and demand it. They use homework to reiterate the skills they are teaching in the classroom. Neither wanted homework for their primary school students to become a big issue.
Homework is a great way for parents to be involved in their child’s education. You can use this time to catch up with their day, and help them through concepts they were unsure of. Ultimately to learn something, we need to be repeating new skills, quite soon after they have been learnt. So to learn a new concept we need to go over it that night, the next day, the following week, to be able to remember.
That is why most homework in primary school centers on reading, math concepts, and spelling.
If your child has an interest in doing their homework, embrace it! Allow them to research concepts further, draw about what they are doing, and tell you all about their progress.
If battles are ensuing in your home, try some of these strategies:
- Pick a moment when your child is calm and ready to learn. Your child will need food, a good play or run-around, and some quiet time, to re-energise before they are ready to sit down and learn again. The household also needs to be in relative calm – you can’t offer your attention and help if the baby is screaming or you are throwing dinner together!
- Make it part of your routine. Whether it happens every night at 4.30pm, or after dinner, ensure that homework is built into your routine. You can keep this up on other nights (such as weekends) by using a colouring book or comic book that your child enjoys. Ensure you do reading every single bedtime.
- Think outside the box. Homework doesn’t have to be on paper. Use pretzels as counters in your math homework, or kick a ball back and forth while calling out spelling words (that you’ve written on your hand!). Use the drive home to practice times tables. Try and make homework as much fun as you can.
- Use technology. Our children are growing up surrounded by various technologies so we should embrace it! Use computer games for reading and math skills, tablet apps for spelling words, music CD’s and cassettes for memorizing spelling words and times tables. You could also consider using computer time (or game consoles!) as rewards – 30 minutes of computer time when you have finished your math worksheet!
- Talk to the teachers! Make sure you know what is expected of your child. Be honest about what you can reasonably do in your household each day and what work is necessary (and what is extra). Talking to your child’s teacher will often reassure you that what is being asked is very simple, and they may be able to pass on strategies to help your child.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Homework shouldn’t be hard, it is just to reiterate learning that has already taken place. If you miss a day, or even have a bad week, be sure to forgive yourself! If the child is finding it difficult, send a note to the teacher. Don’t feel guilty because you haven’t read a story tonight, or you couldn’t remember your own 8 time tables!
The biggest key to success in learning is that children need to WANT to learn. If there is anger, frustration and a continuous battle to have them participate, that ‘want’ will be replaced with a brick wall – not conducive to learning! So if homework is not working for you, talk to your teacher about you can make the learning more fun, or if perhaps a break from homework would be better for a period.
Battling will only cause anger and frustration for all parties; keep in mind the overall goal is for your child to succeed academically!
Ashlee Sturme is a busy mum who spends her days negotiating peace agreements between her children, navigating dropped toys, and climbing endless washing piles. She blogs at http://www.themotherhoodproject.co.nz