How to get over homework horrors
Chances are your children have brought homework from school with them for the summer holidays or you may have a child starting homework for the first time come September.
Homework is one of the major sources of stress in a family – it causes even more battles than doing the chores and going to bed on time. Why? And what can parents do about it?
Homework is set so that families can support the work that children do in school – that’s the theory, anyway. But when it becomes so stressful that tantrums and tears accompany every attempt to get it done, it’s doubtful whether any learning is actually being supported as nerves are stretched to breaking point. The problem is particularly acute during the primary years. Parents increasingly feel that schools are offloading on to them work which should be done in school; teachers are under constant pressure to achieve government targets and the work has to be done somewhere. And while children often see homework as an unnecessary intrusion on their down time, many parents are reassured by it and see it as a sign that their child’s school is taking academic work seriously.
The pros and cons of homework are just at hotly debated in staff rooms, too. Teachers are only too aware of the distress that it can cause, particularly in maths. Children get something in school, but then can’t remember how to do it when they get home, a deadline is looming and parents don’t understand modern methods. It’s a recipe for disaster. And then there’s the parent who, either in despair or to impress, does the homework themselves.
So parents are faced with choices, but there is some all around parenting advice to consider. Guidelines suggest that children should do 10 minutes of homework each night during the infant years, rising to 30 minutes by the end of junior school. By the time GCSEs appear on the horizon, up to two hours each evening is recommended. You can, of course, pull your child out of the formal homework programme completely during the primary years, enjoy reading some fun books together and just focus on steadily learning times tables and spellings. The downside is that your child won’t have developed study habits in time for secondary school.
Whatever you do, never, ever, do the homework yourself – teachers can tell! If you are doing it to impress your child’s teacher with their progress, you aren’t helping your child. If you do it to spare the tantrums, your child isn’t learning anything. Far better to agree some rules with your child about when homework will be done – preferably when you are both relaxed but not too tired and always before deadlines increase pressure. Also agree in advance what will happen if your child can’t do the work – that usually involves popping a note into a diary to explain the problem, reassuring your child that they won’t get into trouble at school the next day.
Above all, remain calm so that your child feels supported and learning doesn’t become something to dread. And don’t, whatever you do, listen to other parents bragging about homework successes. Your child is unique. Your child is special. Celebrate that and enjoy sharing time together over homework that will yield dividends in later years, not just in academic progress, but also in your relationship.