But like most things in family life, how we approach homework help with kids is constantly evolving. A number of readers have emailed over the last couple of months asking for tips on how we run homework in our house, so I thought it timely to update what it is we are doing.
Who needs what homework help?
We have four children in school who all need some assistance with their homework:
- Master 6 – in his first year of school (prep in Victoria) and has reading to do each night along with learning some high frequency words.
- Miss 8 – has weekly times tables and spelling test, which we work on, as well as asking comprehension questions about the nightly reading she does.
- Master 11 – has weekly tasks which he sometimes needs assistance working out, timetables and spelling, as well as asking comprehension questions about the nightly reading he does.
- Master 13 – has lots of homework he does independently but will regularly ask me to proof read essays or give some guidance on projects etc
Philosophy for giving homework help
As I noted in this post:
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.
It is often a matter of giving them a scaffolding to work and build their own ideas on – the fundamental point being it is their ideas, not mine.
Working out who to help and when!
On any given night, all four kids will need some assistance from me. We have an understanding that unless it is just a quick question, the 13 and 11 year old will wait for the younger children to be in bed and I can then help them.
The prep child’s reading is the first activity we do after school as I find the later this is left, the harder it is for him as he is tired.
Our daughter is an early riser. She is generally up just after 6am each school morning. I am at the gym at this time, but at least once a week, I will leave her a times table quiz sheet or spelling activity to do, which we can discuss when I get home.
Walking to school also provides a great opportunity to quiz the 11 year old on his time tables and spelling, and practice addition sums for the 6 year old (he doesn’t have these as homework but loves numbers and is always asking me to give him sums!)
Monday to Thursday the primary school kids do not have any technology time. Technology time encompasses TV, iTouch, Wii, computer games etc. However I will use technology strategically to assist with the homework and as a way to etch out one on one time with children as needed.
For example when I am working with our daughter, the 6 year old loves to sit close and watch everything we do. Sometimes that is ok and sometimes it is not. When we need to be on our own, I will let the 6 year old play educational games like Mathletics or WordShark for the 15 minutes or so we need to work through a concept or activity. Then we flip it around and I can do some work with the 6 year old and my daughter can play both these games also as they have a broad level base to choose from.
During the evenings when I am preparing dinner or if we have spare time in the morning, I will also let the kids spend short bursts of time on apps (5 – 10 mins) aimed at helping them practice literacy and numeracy skills. Some of the apps we use are:
- Friends of Ten – early numeracy. $0.99
- Montessori Hundred Board 0 – 100 – early numeracy. This app is well thought out, but the kids will only play them until mastered and then no longer interested. $1.99
- Montessori Hundred Board: 101-200 – early numeracy. Same applies to this app with regards to longevity. $1.99
- Live Mathletics – primary school maths, levels depending on ability. $1.99
- InQuizitor Times Tables Free – middle to upper primary school maths. The kids really like this one as you get bonus games to play once you achieve certain results. Free
- Motion Math: Hungry Fish – early numeracy and builds up. There is a free version which is limited, but you can buy different levels to make it more useful.
- Motion Math: Wings Pro – multiplication practice. Helps to work on speed and instant recall. $7.49
- Montessori Crosswords – Spelling With Phonics – Great for beginner readers. You can focus on particular sound groupings or use a mixed list. Ability to increase difficulty. $2.99
- Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables – Spell To Read – excellent phonics based app. You can choose particular phonograms to work on and master. You can check progress and there are ways kids can get hints and strategies so they can master new words. $2.99
- This Week’s Words – allows you to add individual spelling lists of mulitple children, practice them and then it tests them. You can choose from English or American narration. $4.49
Setting some ground rules
It is easy for kids to become dependant or rely on help from parents. I found some of this creeping into the homework pattern of my 13 year old recently with regard to proof reading his essays. So now we have some new ground rules:
- I will not proofread the night before it is due – must be at least two nights before.
- He must be able to show me a plan.
- He must be able to show me a print out of his first draft with hand written edits (so I can see he has actually attempted to proof read it himself first!)
So how do you manage the homework help in your house?