There are plenty of questions and debates around homework. How often should it be set? How much is too much? What benefits does it actually bring?
Teachers and parents alike have varied opinions on homework. However, generally speaking, there is a broad consensus. Most can see that pupils who complete homework to the best of their ability on a regular basis tend to progress well at school. Of course, homework needs to be constructive – an endless succession of uninspiring worksheets will never cut it – but if the tasks and activities asked of pupils either enhance or reinforce learning in some way, homework is worthwhile.
But how can parents get involved and help with homework?
The first step is to get involved. Parents needn’t be interrogating their children every night about what their homework is. However, taking a healthy interest in what homework is being set and how it is being completed is very useful. Being involved is also a good way to open a dialogue with teachers. This can only be a good thing. You should never underestimate the importance of the home-school partnership.
Create the conditions for learning
Parents need to create the conditions within the home that are conducive to learning and that make it possible for children to complete their homework without distractions. The size of a house or the family can make this difficult sometimes, but it is vital that a child has an area that is as distraction-free as possible.
Children need time and space too. They need to be given the time and space to complete their work independently. On the flip-side, parents need to commit to spending some time with their children while they do their homework every once in a while. Some children just respond to having some company.
Model the behaviour
Most of us have ‘homework’ of some description to do, whether that’s a report for work or answering work emails. Parents should model the fact that they are doing their own homework – possibly at the same time as the child is doing theirs. This normalises it and shows a child what ‘homework’ really means.
Make it a positive experience
Few children will take exceptional delight at having to complete homework day after day. Most children will resist at some point – but you can make the whole experience generally positive.
Put it this way, locking a child away in their room and forcing them to complete their work – almost as a punishment – will get you next to nowhere.
Setting a routine will help to make the whole process of homework a more positive one. It instils discipline too – always a good thing.
Give them ownership
A parent has to create the correct conditions for homework. A parent might also have to set a routine, lay down a few rules and establish boundaries. Most children will need a careful mix of being watched over and being left alone to get the most out of homework.
However, over time, the more ownership and independence that can be given will be a real benefit.
This way, homework moves from being something that needs to be done because parents and teachers demand it, into something that the child just recognises needs to be done.