Tips for handling those homework challenges

Help with homework
Help with homework

KIERAN HOWARD: Thanks very much for the hand, foot and mouth disease Louie

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I don’t know how the matter of homework sits in your house, but in mine at the moment the only homework my son brings home is a daily reading book plus the odd maths game and spelling practice – yet sometimes we seem to struggle to even keep up with that!

So you can imagine my concern over his impending change to junior school which, as I understand it, brings with it ‘proper homework’.

So I spoke to Howard Jones of Kip McGrath Education Centre, which runs professional after- school tuition at its study centre in Southsea. He gave me some useful tips on how to handle homework.

‘First, it is important to understand the purpose of the homework which is set,’ Howard explained. ‘Some homework is given purely to practice and master specific skills, such as learning times tables. Other tasks are given to introduce new topics, while some homework combines the use of many skills in projects or creative tasks.’

Howard suggests setting aside at least 30 minutes a day devoted to ‘family brain cell development’. During this time, there should be no TV or computer games. Find a quiet, well-lit place, or study area, away from distractions.

It’s a good idea to help children with time management by creating a timetable. Perhaps a little each day, or schedule time each weekend for larger projects.

It seems that a big pitfall for many parents is getting too involved. This only creates frustration, anger and kids who believe they can’t learn without their parents’ help.

Try not to force help on to your children, and only step in when they truly want your support. Instead, while your child is doing their homework perhaps take the opportunity to do your paperwork or e-mails, to read a book or write a letter. Creating a working atmosphere is a great way to support your child and you are right there if they do need assistance.

But only help when there is an absence of anger or frustration, otherwise learning can become associated with these feelings. Watch out for signs of stress and failure. This may be a sign that the work is too challenging.

Also, help only when your child can describe what the teacher said – this reinforces the importance of your child paying attention to teachers. Some kids learn that it’s okay to ‘tune–out’ at school and let their parents do all of the teaching at home.

Howard suggests moving away from your child before he/she ‘gets it’. Some children believe they can only learn something, or ‘get it’, when an adult is in the same room or is guiding them. To prevent this dependency, avoid always sitting at the table as your child does their homework.

And of course, reinforce positive effort by rewarding progress and completion of homework. If your child struggles with seeing the benefits, emphasise a positive outcome by giving them a small reward or something to aim for, like a day out or an activity they really enjoy.