How can parents help children with their homework?
Homework is one area where parents can play a very active and encouraging part in their child’s education. On a very basic level, it can help kick-start conversations between parents and children, especially in families where busy work and extracurricular commitments may prevent regular mealtimes together.
While research has shown that regular family mealtimes is an excellent way to boost academic performance, this isn’t always possible for families to achieve. Therefore alternative times have to be manufactured to promote conversation and for parents to demonstrate interest in their child’s schooling.
Homework can also help parents identify areas of strength and those for improvement, potentially more successfully than the classroom teachers.
Homework is also a lesson in independence and time management, and pupils need support to manage these commitments – developing a schedule and helping them balance their homework with extracurricular activities and family commitments is important.
So what can parents do to support their children with homework?
1. Create space
Set up a space for your child to do their homework.
While making this space in their bedroom is sometimes the easiest option, this automatically makes homework a solitary activity.
If there is an option for a space in a communal area of the house this helps promote discussions and it is easier to get involved without it feeling like an intrusion.
Wherever the space, give the learner some ownership over it and make it an inviting space to spend time in. New stationery, a comfy chair and good lighting will also help.
2. Make it positive
Make parental input a positive thing.
My dad used to check my work with a red pen; neither positive nor encouraging.
If your child has a question about their work, help them, but try not to tell them the answer. Use questioning to help them get as close to the answer as they can. Starting these practices in younger years will mean that when homework becomes a bigger part of their learning outside of school, your child is comfortable discussing it with you and values your input.
3. Let them make mistakes
It’s OK for answers to be wrong.
Telling your child the right answer and getting them to just write it down means that the teacher is none the wiser about which bits they are struggling with and which they excel at.
Help but not too much and leave the mistakes as they are for a teacher to see. Any errors are very revealing and this helps teachers adjust their teaching to address these issues.
The chances are, if your child doesn’t understand it, others in the class probably don’t either, and homework is a great way of highlighting this to the teacher.
4. Be realistic
Give them time to complete work set.
While it is tempting to book weekends full of fun, non-school-related activities, children need some downtime.
Allowing them some space in the family schedule means they will be able to start allocating their own time and gives them plenty of time to complete the work set. This will allow more time for discussion, greater conversation between family members and the learner, and an altogether calmer approach.
5. Insist work is finished
Do not excuse incomplete work.
There are genuine reasons why homework isn’t completed. However, for a teacher it can be infuriating when pupils come in with a note from a parents that simply says, “My son/daughter has not done their homework. Signed…”.
Trust the teacher’s professionalism – we don’t set homework because we enjoy it.
Parents – your children need your help. The rise in mental health issues in young people, the expectations they place on themselves fuelled by social media requirements and the pressures placed on them by schools, all amount to feelings of stress and anxiety.
Homework is a very contentious area – have a read of some of our other blogs on the topic: