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Many teachers give out homework to the students in their class. Some homework is interesting and the children enjoy doing it, other homework may be difficult, too hard or uninteresting.

So how do you get your child to get used to doing homework, with waging World War III every afternoon?

Identifying why the homework is given, working with your child’s teacher to obtain homework that is beneficial, and organising both yourself and your child into a routine where homework is part of the afternoon course of events, will help.

Firstly, why is homework given? Most schools have a policy of giving homework. This is aimed to reinforce ideas, concepts and skills learnt at school, and to revise the days or week’s learning. It is also designed to review skills that are needed to be learned, for example learning times tables. It is not seen as a punishment, nor should homework be used as one. Homework can also be assigned for those older kids who did not get to complete all their work in class and who need it covered so the class can continue on next day.

How do you work with a teacher to obtain beneficial homework? If you have a child who cannot understand or complete the homework, you may be faced with a situation where you as the parent are on homework completion duty. Then the goal of homework is not met, simply because you will be finishing off tasks your child cannot do, or directing the child to such an extent that no learning is taking place. Make an appointment and meet with your child’s teacher. Ask what parts of the homework sheet are essential, and ask for the homework to be modified if your child is unable to complete it. Your child’s teacher may not be aware of the daily homework battle, and as such, is expecting a homework sheet to be completed each week. If all that means to you is a daily grumble, argument, fight, tears and frustration session, then you need to act. Inform the teacher that your child is not coping with the work. Organise for support work to be given instead, so that your child can work towards learning the skills. Then once the skills/knowledge is learned, your child can step back up to the usual class homework.

As a parent, I find organising myself the most difficult part of the homework scene. If I can provide the equipment my child needs – pens, pencils, rubber, quiet place, and my time – then I usually find, although hesitant, my kids will knuckle down and get stuck into their work. As a parent of 5 kids – all in high school or university now, I have found my time is the most valuable thing (apart from reassurance) that you can support your child with while completing homework – especially when working around after school sport, activities, shopping, living out of town and my own full time business.

Explaining to your child that homework is required and we must get organised in order to complete it, often sets out the expectation that it is important and that they should treat it as such. Comments like “bloody homework, it’s a waste of time” are unnecessary and erode the value homework can be. Not that I think it is the be-all and end-all of life. Rewards for completion of homework are an option, as it the simple expectation that the homework will be done, without fuss so we can all get along with life.

Unfortunately I have seen many a homework sheet that is crammed with activities, unsuitable for the child’s current abilities, with writing down the sides and no room left on the sheet for working out maths problems etc.

So here are a few tips:

  1. Check the homework is at the same level as your child’s learning – if not, speak to your child’s teacher
  2. Organise a calendar of homework times, and talk with your child about preferred times to do it – some kids are better in the mornings, some are better at night, others are better straight after school.
  3. Try not to make the homework session too long – kids have already been at school for hours, and are often tired. Short work sessions are more productive and a lot easier to enforce.
  4. Manage the environment – 2 neighbours knocking on the door for your child to come and play is a huge distraction. Turn it into a goal or reward and say “yes, he can come out in 15 minutes when his homework is finished.” Better you have 15 minutes of focus and attention than a full 30 minutes of fighting and complaining.
  5. Keep up the snacks and water – most kids do not drink enough water daily, so hydration is important and snacking on healthy food during homework can make the whole work session more popular.
  6. If the homework sheet is crammed, cut out each section, glue it in the homework book on separate pages and timetable them for each week night eg maths might be Monday, reading comprehension on Tuesday, maths puzzles on Wednesday etc. That way a portion of the sheet is finished each night and that can bring a sense of achievement for your child. It also saves the mad rush of finishing 5 or 6 different sections late of Thursday night, ready to hand in Friday.
  7. If you are a busy family during the week, discuss with your teacher if the work might be handed in on a Monday, so you can make time to complete it over the weekend. One of my child’s teachers was very accommodating and rescheduled the whole class’ homework to be due on a Monday. I think every parent heaved a huge sigh of relief at that one!
  8. Don’t blow your stack. Juggling 5 childrens’ homework, cooking dinner and trying to get your own business work done simultaneously is enough to send most people to the brink. However keeping calm and viewing your child’s reaction to homework as a reaction, not a bad behaviour, is a good way to see it. Nothing is achieved if both you and the child are frustrated and angry – no learning will take place other than judging how “hard” the homework is.
  9. Some kids save their most trying behaviour for mum (and occasionally dad). Activities that your child may confidently do at school when you are not present may be a totally different ball game when you try to get them to do it at home. Try not to buy into the behaviour game – whinging, whining, crying are all responses to the situation. Think of easier ways to get the same work done. Try spelling the words in magnet letters on the fridge. Spray a board with shaving cream and draw the spelling of words into it. Take a photo of the words and glue them into the homework book. Importantly, explain the issue you are having at home with your child’s teacher.
  10. You may need a reward system for the time your child works on homework. Remember if you do introduce one, be structures, stick to it and deliver your promise. Make the reward something your child will want to work for, as well as making sure you can deliver for each session of homework completed. For some kids, a promise of the beach on Sunday is too far away to see the value in, OR, they might need a more immediate smaller prize to strive for. It is up to you if you use a food reward eg lollies and snacks, small toys, stickers, a game of cards etc – whatever you think is reasonable and that the child will work for. The chart might say: 5 homework nights of practise = one page of stickers per night = one visit to the beach when 10 stickers are won.

Homework is one of those things that most kids and their parents cringe at. If you can encourage your child from an early age to do small amounts, and you can also provide your time and attention for your child, then you are paving the way for later years in high school when homework is so essential. It also allows other assignments and projects to be fitted in the busy week we all live.

Remember, if you have any problems with homework, always discuss this with your child’s teacher.