Educational, Family Life

Homework Essentials: Time, Space, Support

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…

Time

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.

Space

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.

Support

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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8 Comments

  • Reply Jayne @ Sticky Mud And Belly Laughs August 29, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    We home educate so we do not have to suffer the homework debate. I recall when I was at school though it was more beneficial for me to get it out of the way as soon as I returned from school. I found that as soon as I had turned off from the school day it was incredibly hard to get motivated to start again.
    (hubby helping out)

  • Reply L dove August 29, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    My eldest is 13 and gets a lot of homework, it’s really quite overwhelming for him at times! Even my 5 year old gets homework, sometime soon it’s too much!

  • Reply Karen August 29, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    I’m a bit anti homework til they are at least in Year 5 or 6, because I think they do enough at school and are tired. Homework for my son with SPD does feel like a form of torture sometimes. However we do still persevere and get it done. He sits with me and I work along side him to encourage him. We try and do it when he’s calm, had a snack and isn’t too tired. That helps to keep it smooth, mostly. Helpful post for my older one though, she starts secondary next year and they get a lot of home work then!

  • Reply Sarah | A Few Favourite Things August 30, 2017 at 10:07 am

    My daughter and I struggle to complete homework together. So fortunately for us, her school offer a homework club which she attends. This provides her with access to all the resources she needs in order to get tasks completed.
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  • Reply Elizabeth August 30, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I don’t understand the point of homework. The kids do so much work at home, surely home time should be family time spent learning about other things. Bah! Still, they get it and it gets done at the kitchen table. It would be nice to have a designated space for it.

  • Reply Newcastle Family Life August 30, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I have homework all to come as Sophia is off to school next week & my eldest is starting her GCSE year! x
    Newcastle Family Life recently posted…Tapas Revolution Northern Spain vs Southern Spain Summer Menu ReviewMy Profile

  • Reply Katie August 30, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Oh man, my eldest is still not even in school yet, but I am dreading homework already! I can’t believe how much kids get these days – I’m sure I didn’t do that much when I was a kid. Great tips, though.

  • Reply Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... August 31, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I was shocked at how much homework my son got in infant school and it will only get harder as he moves to juniors next week 🙁 I set a time limit on the amount he does as he is already so exhausted from being at school all day, plus I set aside time to sit with him and help

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