Updated: Sep 10, 2022
The beginning of the school year also means the of start of homework.
If your child is new to secondary school, you will very quickly notice the difference between the volume and variety of homework that they are being set from that of their primary days. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you may be holding your breath and awaiting the inevitable, ‘have you done your homework?’ question, only to be met with tumbleweed silence.
Like it or loathe it, homework is a significant – and daily – part of secondary school life, averaging around 5 hours per week.
Whilst the goal is for your child to access the learning tasks independently, the reality is that there will be times you need to support, encourage or simply remind them to complete it. Not only that, but taking an active interest in the homework your child is set will help you to understand where they are in their learning journey and how you may be able to support them.
So, what is the point of homework?
It supports academic achievement by building on what your child has learnt at school
It reinforces a concept or challenges them to research something in a little more depth
It develops independent study skills
A study made by the Department of Education, found that regularly completing homework tasks can improve outcomes for children in subjects such as maths, English and science
Despite this, homework can still strike fear into the hearts of some children (and parents!) But fear not, here are 5 simple strategies you can out in place right now to help homework be an enjoyable – or at least bearable - experience for all involved, even if enthusiasm starts to waver later down the line.
1. Have a designated homework space
Have you ever tried to do an important task at the kitchen table with your kids running around demanding you cook dinner or with the television blaring out? If you have, you’ll know that getting anything done to any degree of accuracy or quality is nearly impossible. The same applies to your teen.
Trying to complete a task in front of the T.V – as much as they will try and convince you otherwise – is not conducive to successfully completing homework.
Creating a space that is dedicated to learning will support children in getting into the right mindset for completing homework.
A small desk is ideal, with good lighting and that’s free of other distractions such as game consoles or televisions. Of course, the space is theirs, so they should have an active role in deciding what it might look like or how it might be decorated.
Short of space? The kitchen table can absolutely work, just make sure that the area is free of household hustle and bustle for the time the homework is being done to help them concentrate.
2. Work together to build confidence
All children will require, and request, different levels of support from you when it comes to homework. Some children may want you to sit with them throughout the whole process, while others may prefer to do it alone. Either way, being present for your child during the set homework time can work wonders to develop their self-study skills and confidence when completing tasks.
The start of the year is a great time to sit down together and talk with them about the best ways to tackle homework tasks and manage their time.
Discuss with them which subjects they prefer to do first and why; ask them where they’d like to work and what areas they think might need your help to get started. This guided process might feel like a lot in the beginning but as the year goes on, the systems and processes you help to establish in the beginning will help develop their independence and confidence to overcome problems they might face with homework down the line.
3. Build confidence with positivity and praise
Another great way to build confidence early in the school year is though positivity and praise.
If you are using language like, ‘maths is hard,’ or ‘that’s a lot of homework!’ it may lead to your child being less productive, having negative associations with school work or feel less able to complete it.
It’s normal to find some things hard or challenging, especially in the beginning and it’s important to validate the feelings your child has around the homework.
But applying a growth mindset will help them to face these challenges and become more confident in what they are doing.
4. Make time for it
When we don’t make adequate time to complete something important, the outcome can be less than ideal. Of course, sometimes deadlines and time blocking can help productivity, but not allocating enough quality time to something can result in us feeling like we haven’t done our best or even not completing it at all.
When it comes to homework, our children are still learning how to best manage time to complete something to the best of their ability so helping them with this can really help develop independence and confidence.
Each child has unique needs and preferences but as a rule, homework is best completed after a little ‘down time’, a carbohydrate-rich snack and drink so they are feeling ready to apply themselves to some more learning.
Of course, talk to your child and ask them when they feel the best time would be to complete their work: they may prefer as soon as they get home to get it done, or closer to bedtime when they’ve had some free time. Do what works for you and agree a time that suits everyone.
5. Understand and empathise with the struggle
Homework can be hard.
When something is hard, it becomes frustrating and frustration can lead to deregulation of emotions. This is totally normal – especially in the beginning and CAN lead to us, as the adults, feeling frustrated too. We only want to help, right?
In these situations, it’s hard to know what to do. Our instinct could be to throw more help at the situation, go through the problem one more time, Google it, call someone else to come and help, and while these can sometimes be helpful, it may be that your teen simply needs a break from study and to come back to it later.
They may just need you to listen to them and empathise with how they are feeling.
A simple, ‘I can see you’re getting frustrated with this,’ can be enough for them to feel heard and is all they need to try again.
Don’t struggle on!
If your child is struggling with homework or doesn’t understand something, it may pay to contact the teacher who set the homework to ask for some help. Alternatively, investing in a tutor for your child can be a great way to overcome homework challenges. When your child works alongside a tutor, they will be able to talk through homework worries or queries to help build their confidence.
If you feel as though your child would benefit from additional academic support in the transition to high school we are here to help, please contact email@example.com for more information on the tuition services we offer.