Whose homework is it anyway?

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As children progress through the school system, the demands placed on them increase and for parents it is important to offer the appropriate support and assistance at each stage. Sometimes though it can feel impossible to know what the right support is. Parents can end up nagging, micro-managing and even doing homework for their children in order to help them meet deadlines and avoid getting into trouble. The following tips will help parents offer the most effective support, making sure that homework remains the responsibility of the child not the parent!

  • Consider how you communicate with your child about homework.  For some children, just the mere mention of the word ‘homework’ can evoke a very negative response and put them off before they even begin getting down to it. Sometimes words like ‘study’, ‘learning’ or ‘tasks’ can be less off-putting. Experiment with calling homework something else for a while if you see your child switch off whenever it’s mentioned. Also ask yourself how much negative interaction you have with your child about homework as opposed to positive reassurance and praise. It’s always easier to spot what’s wrong and hasn’t been done rather than to take time to praise your child for completing their homework on time and to a good standard (or better standard than before). Spotting small ways to praise your child can really make all the difference to their motivation levels.
  • Consider the role you play in their homework.  A parent’s role should be one of support and guidance not doing it for them. Tempting as it may be to step in and take over when a child is struggling, it is this act of struggling that results in the greatest opportunities for learning. Using questions to test their understanding rather than simply telling them the answers is a good way to encourage them to think more broadly. Some children can find it useful to have a parent close by while they are doing homework, while for others they may prefer being on their own.
  • Make sure they have the resources they need. This may sound like a basic one, but it’s often the smallest things which have the biggest impact. Does your child have a place they can work? A desk in their room? Space at the kitchen table? Somewhere quiet and without interruption from siblings? Do they have the textbooks they need? Access to online resources? Do they have the right equipment? Calculators, pens, pencils, rulers etc.? If space is short in the house, it can be useful to consider the practicalities of a ‘hot-desk’ type environment. For example, the dining table could double as a work space and then when homework is over everything could be packed away in a plastic crate or box so other members of the household can use the space.
  • Help them to create a REALISTIC schedule. For students who have several after school or weekend commitments it can be difficult for them to manage their time and keep on top of homework, assignments or revision. Helping them to create a plan or schedule can be a very effective tool to show them how they can be using their available time most effectively. Start with a blank timetable for the week and begin by adding all the regular commitments such as sports, clubs and activities and also any family commitments. Also mark off school and travel time. Once these are filled in you can see the potential time available for homework. Next, it’s important for your child to identify when they feel most focussed and productive. Are they good first thing in the morning, or are they more of a night owl, preferring to work late into the evening? Are there any gaps in the school day that they could get some homework started - at lunchtime for example? It’s important for students to understand the time their teachers expect them to spend on homework tasks each week. This will be vital to work out how much time is needed for each subject, each week. Different year groups, different schools and different teachers will have different expectations so it is useful to find this out early on in the school year if possible.

Succeeding at school isn’t only about academic ability.  Life skills such as planning, organising, scheduling, prioritising and trying new methods can be equally important to set them up for a successful life after school. Parents can play a key role in helping their children gain these vital skills and sometimes it’s important for them to take a step back, see the bigger picture and how best they can support and guide in the moment.

Beth works 1-2-1 with children, teens and parents and also runs group workshops.
For children aged 7-11  ‘Brilliant Minds’  covers topics including ‘Boost Your Confidence’, ‘Working out Your Worries’, ‘Dealing with Anger’ and ‘Friendship Skills’.
For GCSE students, ‘HeadsUp!’ focuses on revision strategy and exam confidence, and her ‘Parent Powers’ programme is available as a workshop or audio series.
She also offers a free 15 minute phone consultation to discuss any aspect of parenting or issues with children.
To find out more or to book, visit Beth Parmar's website: www.bethparmar.co.uk

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