Homework is set for all sorts of reasons, not just because "that's what teachers do". It should be a chance for students to consolidate or revise work they have covered in class, and it provides opportunities for students to extend their skills in different areas of interest. Sometimes it will be interesting and engaging, and other times it will be just tedious and hard work. Homework demands self organisation and time management: these skills take time to develop, and your child may need support when they first start to do set homework.
What can you do to help your child? Here are 10 practical steps you can take:
1. Do your homework!
Find out the homework policy of your child's school and understand what is expected of you as a parent. Talk to your child's teacher about how he or she expects you to assist your child. Find out what your child's teacher will do if your child doesn't complete set tasks. Homework is basically an agreement between a teacher and a child so it should be up to the teacher to ensure the homework is completed. Your role as a parent is to support the school if a consequence is put in place, such as missing some recess to complete it.
2. Provide a good working environment for students.
Negotiate the time for homework, e.g before a favourite TV program, after dinner. Provide a quiet, organised work area, with materials your child will need. A table or desk makes a good workspace. Some kids hate to be stuck away in their rooms and prefer to work at the kitchen table and can do so productively. Others are easily distracted and work in short bursts. Work out what works best for your child.
3. Help your child to take responsibility for their work.
Ensure that your child understands what is being asked of them (especially important for students with reading difficulties). Suggest that your child sets a goal at the start of a homework session and at the end of the session check to see how well they matched it.
4. Help your child to plan their time wisely.
Homework is as much a time management issue as anything else. Help your child to plan so that each task is attempted for the appropriate amount of time. Help with time scheduling, especially with assignments that have a due date, to ensure that the student is allocating time wisely: a whiteboard or written lists can help. Help your child to break tasks down into achievable units of work: draw a 'timetable" if this helps them to keep on task.
5. Encourage your child to work reasonably quickly and efficiently.
Have a set time limit, which they should stick to. There is generally little point slogging away once they become frustrated or tired. Give them an egg-timer or use a clock and get them to work hard for small chunks of time. A little work each night is more productive than packing it into one weekly session.
6. Encourage independence.
The teacher is really not interested in what you know about a topic..... Leave your child to work independently. Don't correct or edit your child's assignments: teachers need this feedback to monitor the student's progress in independent writing skills.
7. Don't rescue your child!!!
Check that homework is completed, but do not help to finish it off. Note in the diary or communication book if your child has difficulty with a particular aspect. Teachers need to know aspects that your child is struggling with. If it is incomplete because there was too much for your child to complete in the set time, make a note of how long your child worked for.
8. Stay calm.
If you are helping a child with a particular task, keep your explanation as simple and practical as you can. If you become upset or frustrated and the atmosphere becomes tense then stop helping.
9. Help your child to develop research skills.
No matter how tempting, don't act as your child's research assistant: gathering and collating information is a vital skill for the student to develop, even if it takes more time.
10. Monitor Internet use.
The Internet is quick, convenient and gives access to huge amounts of information. Monitor time and energy sent "on the Internet": ensure that your child knows specifically what they are researching, how to use search engines, and how to select information Ensure that your child rewrites and edits rather than using cut and copy. Usually, teachers will have given some specific addresses to visit. Don't forget that books and teaching materials supplied by the teacher are a cheaper option for obtaining information, although maybe not as attractive to your child.
In the high school years, keep in mind that each student's program of study is likely to be different, so comparing your child's progress with other students is unlikely to be meaningful. If you have concerns, talk to the subject teacher direct, rather than discuss the issues with other parents.
Jenni Pearce, Psychologist (2009)
Child & Educational Psychology
6 Edward Street, NORWOOD 5067 South Australia, Australia.
Telephone: 0407 726 332
Fax: (08) 8362 0332