Homework has certainly been a hot topic in the headlines this year. Whether you’re for or against or somewhere in between, ensuring your child completes theirs can become an onerous extra task loaded into already busy days. With the new school year on the horizon, if your offspring is moving into an important year for their education and perhaps heading up to high school, you may be expecting more homework and potentially dreading the friction it will bring. So what can you do to motivate, encourage and assist your child when it comes to homework completion? Let’s take a look at the issues impacting on homework today…
By the time you get everyone home and fed at the end of the working day, there often isn’t much time for many families before bath and bedtime kick in. This is one of the many growing objections to homework being thrust upon younger kids. But it’s not just the daily commute and family dinner that digs into after school time. According to a recent survey of 2,000 parents carried out by Center Parcs, the average child crams in seven hours and 51 minutes of clubs and homework every week on top of a 30 hour 50 minute school week. That right there is a full time job, so if they’re protesting they’re too tired to tackle their homework, it’s sometimes hard to argue with them.
With this in mind, balancing extracurricular activities, homework and family fun is a fine art that has most frazzled parents feeling like a combination of a glorified taxi driver or jailor. Dance, art, drama, sports and other social clubs can play a hugely important role in developing all kinds of skills, confidence and learning for kids, so it’s hard to say no to something just so you can fit homework in, but for many parents it does get to this point. Some families find that scheduling homework into a particular slot is a compromise that helps children to make time for its completion but it doesn’t work for everyone. Indeed, some individuals learn better when things are less structured.
Some experts recommend getting homework out of the way before other activities begin. This can be a great motivator, but like every bargaining tool in the parent’s arsenal, it also has potential to become a topic of debate. There is, however, some evidence to show that following this rule could have a positive impact. Research by the Social Market Foundation’s ‘Commission on Inequality in Education’ showed that children whose parents made them complete homework before moving onto other activities scored almost two points higher in verbal reasoning tests aged 11.
Do you have a dedicated space for doing homework and if so, what does it look like? When it comes to internet safety, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the family computer in a communal space where you can gently oversee things without being perceived as snooping. Of course, these types of areas aren’t always quiet and conducive to work completion.
Many experts agree that having a homework zone that’s set up for work and free of other influences can help productivity. Author of Pride and Joy: A Guide to Understanding Your Child’s Emotions and Solving Family Problems,”Ken Barish, Ph.D recommends a setting a little like a library with other children or parents present, all working away at their own tasks. If your home layout means you’d struggle to set up a whole room for home study, could you perhaps section off part of a room or create a little learning nook? If you set up a desk in the dining room or conservatory, bi-fold doors can create practical and stylish barriers to noise from elsewhere downstairs. Vufold has some very versatile styles that are at home in modern and traditional settings. Strategically placed bookshelves and a comfy chair can also be handy for creating quiet reading corners.
Making a homework area a comfortable and appealing place for children to learn can also go a long way to helping them want to spend time there. Don’t worry too much if you can’t afford the latest laptop for them to work on, instead think about letting them decorate the area by putting inspirational posters or drawings up on a chalkboard. They could also have fun customising the area with their favourite colours and stationery.
When schools assign a lot of projects, papers and tests, parents can start to feel they’re as much under scrutiny as the children. It can be really hard to know how involved to be in your child’s homework. On the one hand it’s important they know you’re there to guide them through things if they’re having difficulty with a task and on the other one of the biggest skills homework can teach is learning responsibility for your own achievements and efforts. This is an area where schools continue to make changes too.
Some schools ask parents to sign up to homework contracts as recommended by experts report while many pupils (up to 50 per cent according to an Ofsted survey) complain that their homework never or only sometimes helps them to make progress at school. It can be hard to enforce homework time if the work itself doesn’t seem relevant or valuable. As a parent, this is somewhere else you can offer support by giving feedback to schools and teachers. Children engage with work more when they find it useful and interesting, so if homework is given, you can try your best to steer it in a positive direction.
How do you approach homework in your house? Do you have dedicated homework time and a space to complete it? Do you think little ones get too much homework and need more time to play?
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