Homework can seem like a never-ending chore but a parent’s help can make all the difference, writes Colm Fitzpatrick
With school once again in full swing, pupils will be arriving home in their droves to a hot meal, comfortable clothes, and reams of homework. The bane of most children’s lives, homework is seen as a barrier to complete freedom – a freedom that can only be achieved by completing this mundane and monotonous task. While it can lead to tears and tantrums, homework at its best can be an enriching experience for your child, so finding ways to make it enjoyable and practical is worth exploring. With this in mind, here are seven tips to tackle homework blues:
Set a regular homework time
When it comes to homework, routine is essential. Without establishing a designated time for your child to begin and finish all of their work, their attitude towards it can become laxed. Generally, it’s advised that your child should begin their work after dinner and before playtime. This means they’ll be energised and focused to tackle the task at hand while also incentivised to complete it so they can relax afterwards. Depending on the age of the child, assigning school work to the late evening is feasible, but if this entails staying up late into the night then it’s no longer a sustainable option. It can be tough enforcing this timeframe day-in day-out, but after a short period of time your child will acclimatise to the routine. Eventually, they will just begin their homework without parental intervention.
Create a comfortable workspace
It’s common in many households for children to do their homework in their bed or on a couch in the living room. However, these areas are rife with distractions whether it be from the television, other siblings, or the temptation to fall asleep. To be fully productive, a child needs to sit in a comfortable chair at a work desk. A study room is the optimal option but if space is tight, they can work at a table in the kitchen or bedroom. It’s vital that the room is well-lit otherwise their work may be impaired from writing in the dark. Instead of their books being sprawled across the floor or on their lap, a desk affords the ability for your child to properly lay out all of their study material as well as any needed stationery. An organised and quiet environment will allow your child to work to their very best.
Encourage your child
Homework isn’t just a responsibility to be placed on a child’s shoulders without any communication or help from a parent. After a day of school, homework is the last thing a child is interested in, so motivating them to begin and complete it is essential. This doesn’t mean enforcing it in a dictatorial fashion but empathising with them and recognising that it can be a struggle. Once your child realises that you’re on their side and that you only want what’s best for them, they’re much more likely to jump into the task at hand. Encouraging them means offering solid words of support as well as physical affection like hugs or high-fives. If they’re finding a particular question difficult, don’t ignore their frustration. Instead sit down with them, explain that they’re capable of doing it and point them in the right direction so they can hopefully answer the problem themselves.
Don’t do your children’s homework
It can be easy to fall into the trap of completing your child’s homework without even realising that you’ve done so. The process might start with a difficult maths equation that stumps your child and requires the help of an adult to fully grasp. This in turn results in the parent doing all of the working-out while attempting to explain their logic to a blank-faced child that has fallen even deeper into a pit of confusion. If you want to clarify a principle or idea, write up a similar question and use that as an example to explain your point. This is particularly helpful in subjects like English and Maths. Once you’ve made yourself clear, see if your child can apply what you’ve said to the question they’re struggling with. If not, repeat the process or use an alternative method to teach them. Whatever the case, make sure you don’t answer all the problems for them.
Learn what they’re learning
At the beginning, the work your child is bringing home each day will be easy to understand, as they grow older the material will become much harder and complicated. You might think you know how to do long division, conjugate French verbs, and find the area of circle, but you may be deceiving yourself. In this vein, familiarise yourself with your child’s syllabus, including what is expected of them and how they should be progressing. Your child will feel much more confident in their work if they know that a parent educated on the topic is monitoring them and is an arm’s reach away if they’re struggling. A child may also become apathetic towards their work if they recognise that their parent isn’t knowledgeable on the subject; the mentality of ‘they don’t need to know it, so neither do I’ will prevail. Taking the time to learn the subject material will make all the difference to your child’s progress.
Praise their work
Everybody loves being rewarded for doing something good, whether it be passing a test or winning a race. Likewise, children ought to be praised for completing their homework well. This doesn’t mean giving them a bag of sweets every time they finish their work – that would be excessive. Setting up a reward system is certainly worth considering – perhaps giving them a gold star every time they finish their work to a high standard with a prize when they reach 25, is an option you can explore. Methods like these reinforce to your child that completing homework is worth the effort and that achievements should always be praised. This will no doubt encourage them to finish their work, even on the most tiresome of days. An opposite attitude towards work can be detrimental: if a child is no longer being congratulated for a positive deed, then they might be deterred from carrying out any more.
Talk to a teacher
All homework should challenge your child, but if you sense that they’re displaying signs of anxiety or confusion about it, speaking to their teacher is the best way to broach this problem. Every year, schools hold parent-teacher meetings, but waiting until this time comes around isn’t practical if you want the issue sorted immediately. Arrange a meeting with their teacher and explain that your child is finding the homework overly-difficult or burdensome. The conversation may give you a new perspective on your child’s academic abilities or at the very least make the teacher aware that you’re concerned. The teacher will also advise you on how to address this issue.
These tips are not exhaustive, but do offer an insight into how to approach the topic of homework. It shouldn’t be treated as a job or a chore, but another part of a child’s daily routine, like brushing your teeth or eating your dinner. With a healthy attitude towards homework, reinforced by an encouraging parent, your child will be able to flourish psychologically and academically…even if there are a few hiccups along the way.