It’s crucial that students get on top of homework as early as possible when they hit the new secondary school. A positive and organised approach will save countless hours of frustration and many headaches down the track. Parents can do so much to help in this important area.
Homework is here to stay. It’s important to take a glass-half-full view and help your children do the same. Here are some hints to keep in mind in the first weeks and months children settle into secondary school. It’s all about establishing a routine and being well organised.
If possible, set up a quiet space where your children can complete homework. This may be at a desk in their bedroom or even at a table in the family room. Importantly, there should be minimal distractions – no TV in the background or interruptions from social media.
Social media free zone
From the start, make it a rule that all mobile phones are turned off until homework is complete. Explain to your child that secondary schools recommend this as it reduces the time required to complete the homework and the quality of the work is also higher. Be firm about this or you will regret it.
Establish a routine
Set up a routine that suits your family. Ideally, children need some break immediately after school but it is helpful if even half of the homework can be completed before the family dinner. If the second half is completed immediately after dinner, children then have more free time during which the thought of uncompleted homework isn’t hanging over their heads. Once again make sure social media isn’t draining time and energy from the task at hand – homework!
Don’t take over
Don’t do the homework for your children. This is giving them a handicap that is hard to remove. It delays the growth of self-esteem which occurs when children start feeling that they are in control of homework rather than under its domination. Children need to become accustomed to working independently. It’s a big part of growing up.
Don’t smother with love
Don’t feel obliged to sit right next to your children while they do homework. Once again this isn’t allowing them the chance to gain independence and self-management ability.
Be present but allow space
It’s okay to occasionally ask how homework is going, to answer a question or two or help children interpret a task. But then go back to doing all of the things you have to do and show your children that this is their responsibility. Showing trust also increases self-esteem. If they are unsure about a task, they need to remember to immediately approach teachers before coming home and well before the task is due. Don’t rush in and rescue the situation. Doing this makes children less likely to remember to approach teachers in the future and to learn how to solve problems themselves.
Praise children for completing homework well and independently. Praise children who demonstrate good organisational ability. This encourages children to continue this great approach to homework. Remember, the effort is just as important as the score – perhaps even more important. When children know that we are proud of their effort, their self-esteem rises regardless of the result.
Use the school diary
Most schools have a diary where students record homework. Ask your children if you can see this diary and check that entries are legible and organised. Explain that schools ask parents to do this. If your child’s school hasn’t done this, make it up. Encourage your child to use the diary to plan ahead and avoid leaving tasks to the last minute.
Get a wall planner
Get a wall planner for your child’s room. Important assignments can be recorded here so that your child becomes used to planning ahead and starting assignments well before they are due. There should never be an eruption or meltdown in your house because your child is trying to complete important homework the day before it’s due and with little knowledge of what is required and how to even begin. Diaries, wall planners and homework routines are invaluable.
Ask your child to show you corrected pieces of work and major assignments. Praise effort. If comments from teachers clearly show that more effort was required, suggest that your child starts tasks earlier with future assignments. Give the clear message that success comes from being well-organised and managing time well and asking teachers questions to clarify set tasks. These are all achievable by every student.
If you can see that your child is well organised and putting in real effort but it is clear that too much homework is being set, approach your child’s home room teacher. The very best approach is a calm and reasonable one. ‘We are worried that Alex seems to be struggling to get homework done well without spending a huge amount of time. There isn’t time for her to relax at home. What can we do? Is there any way you can help us with this?’ You may discover that Alex is too much of a perfectionist, that she could listen more in class (and therefore know how to complete homework more quickly) or even that the teacher agrees with you and will discuss this with school leadership. Schools want students to be happy and will want to help you identify what is preventing your child from completing homework confidently.