I would firstly like to state that I am not an advocate of homework in primary school. I will avoid jumping up on to my soap box here, but will say that Alfie Kohn has written an excellent book called the The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. By following this link you can listen to an interview with Alfie Kohn about homework.
However even with my philosophical opposition to homework my children do have to do homework. Once children reach grade three at the school they attend, they are expecting to complete on average 15 – 30 minutes homework a night. Hence, we have been at this homework thing for almost two years now, but it has probably taken until about half way through this year until we really have established a good homework routine.
With out going into all the gory details, some of the issues that we came across were:
- - homework being left to the last minute.
- - rushing tasks.
- - mum interfering.
- - frustration from both child and parents.
- - things getting misplaced.
- - tasks taking much longer than really needed.
While all is not perfect and there are still the occassional intense discussion over homework, the process that has evolved through trial and error, does work quite well for us. Here are some tips that we have found to aid the homework process for both parents and child.
(1). Homework is the child’s responsibility.
For a long time, I was really wearing the responsibility of the homework. I was checking at the start of the week what had to be done and would check through out the week that it was being done. I would then review the homework to make sure it was completed.
Thinker didn’t need to worry about his homework because I did for him! I met with his teacher and explained that I was no longer going to be doing this. (Thinker has an excellent teacher.) She was very supportive of this and I explained that it was important that the stated consequences for non completion of homework would be enacted if it came to this.
Thinker was probably the happiest person about my decision to back off. He (quite rightly!) was resenting my “nagging” and since I handed over full responsibility he has had no problems handing his homework in and I don’t have to nag.
(2). Designated Homework Area
For too long, Thinker was doing homework in a variety of places. Upstairs in the study on the dining table etc. When we made the above change, as part of the changed process we placed a desk in his room and this is now the only place where he is to do his homework.
(3). Part of Routine
Although the homework from school is an averaged amount of time per night, this is not realistic for us with after school activities. Thinker doesn’t do homework (he still has reading) on the two nights he has after school activities, but works for greater periods of time on the other nights.
(4). Parents to assist with the process, not the content
It is important that I am still available to assist Thinker when he requests. We have set guidelines around this though, for example he cannot expect that I can help when I am in the middle of cooking dinner, so he needs to plan when he would like my assistance.
What I have learnt to do, is to not focus on the content of the homework, but what is the logical process that he should follow to successfully complete this task and discuss this with him. For example, if he has to write a speech to present to the class, we talk about what is the logical structure of a speech on this topic – intro, arguments to fill time limit, conclusion etc. I make sure he writes this down – his mind can wander and by having something to refer back to he can continue on with his task.
(5). My Attitude
As stated above, I am not an advocate of homework in primary school. Thinker was aware of this and it was affecting his attitude to his homework. I had to discuss with him another of my strongly held beliefs – if we have committed to something we must follow through to the best of our ability.
By enrolling him at his school, we effectively committed to their rules. While he is there I will expect him to complete homework to the best of his ability regardless of my philosophical opposition to homework. (Yes I know, what a hypocrite .)
(6). Minimise Distractions
Thinker shares a room with his brother and the other siblings are often in and out of his room. When he is doing homework this is not to happen. At first for some reason, this seemed to make it more necessary that they all had to go in to his room and tell him stuff, but we have all gotten used to the idea now.
As well as having a designated area for homework, we made sure he has all the things he needs to complete his homework. This includes not only stationary, but also things like a dictionary and a pin board.
Thinker works well with visual reminders. He can pin his homework to the pin board in his room at the start of the week and it helps him organise what he needs to do.
(8). Model Research Skills
I find children learn so much by watching and quite often when they don’t realise that they are being taught something. I do quite a bit of research for some of the posts on this blog and I will quite often show Thinker what I am doing (if I think that it is a topic that will interest him).
There are also plenty of real life opportunities to use as well – researching school holiday activities, buying presents for people, solutions to garden issues and lots more. Thinker’s dad has to do numerous presentations for work, so this also provided opportunities to show how important research skills are and that they are not just a homework task.
(9). Fed and Watered
Thinker eats a lot and I make sure he has had adequate afternoon tea, before he even starts his homework. Thirst and hunger can be massive distractions!
(10). Time Limit
Thinker does love to learn and can get quite absorbed in some of his projects for homework. This does however mean that he will spend a great deal of time on them. As with all activities there needs to be balance, so it is sometimes necessary for us to set time limits for him to complete the task.
For example recently Thinker had to turn his research into a Power Point presentation. Thinker loves Power Point and would have spent hours adding pictures, animations and sound affects. We set a time limit (generous though as to not to squash his enthusiasm) to make sure that he was still having time to go outside and play.
What tips have you come across during your homework journey? What would you avoid?