Before I start on some tips and ideas on how to manage school holiday homework, I want to write a little bit about homework in general.
I am not a champion of homework in primary school. I am happy for the kids to do reading, spelling and times table practice, but don’t think they should be burdened with significant homework. And I am not the only one who thinks this way.
This statement is from the document Homework Policy: Research Scan – NSW Department of Education and Communities:
Most researchers conclude that for primary students, there is no evidence that homework lifts academic performance. There is only a small correlation between homework and achievement in middle school (Cooper, 1989; Walker, 2011). Only in the senior years of high school does homework clearly raise academic performance.
Now that is out of the way, I will share some strategies on how we manage school holiday homework in our house. This is constantly changing though as I learn more and readjust my parenting style to reflect what I learning.
Primary school kids
Thankfully the primary school kids do not receive any homework, so there isn’t much to worry about with the younger two these school holidays. But I do still place a focus on reading. It isn’t formally structured but done so through role modelling and creating the right environment for reading.
- Before the school holidays start we will go online to our libraries website and make many reservations for books the kids will like to read. This means we have plenty of books in the house over the holidays that they will want to read.
- The younger kids do have more access to technology during school holidays than they do during the school term but it is limited. They have 1.5 – 2 hours a day and we work out in the morning when that will take place. The timing is generally centred around when I need to do some work, so we will all be on technology at the same time and as they only have a limited amount of time, I find I receive very few distractions while I am working at this time!
- We have many days where we just potter at home. I don’t attempt to keep the kids constantly entertained over the school holidays. There are moments when I may hear the “I am bored” but it is not very often as the kids are now used to needing to find ways to entertain themselves. Reading books are always a frequent choice when they find themselves bored.
- I have sessions where I read to them. We will often choose a book over the holidays that the younger two are both interested in and I will do sessions reading to them (other than the reading I do at night).
This will be the first year my daughter will have set homework over the school holidays and it is also the first year she will have exams, the first ones are in June. So over the holidays there will be two different types of homework she will be doing, set tasks and preparing for exams.
For set tasks, once the Easter break is over, I will get her to sit down and write up all the tasks she has and create a plan for when they will be completed. Her homework load is only minimal, but she also needs to re-read her English novel so will need to find time for that as well. I like them to create a plan, then so instead of nagging about when are they doing homework, I can just ask them how they are going with their plan and it really does help prevent for the last minute cram the weekend before returning to school.
For the second component, preparing for exams, I find that in year 7 you need to spend time teaching kids how to study and take notes etc. When I went through this process with our second child, I shared what I did in this post – Supporting kids’ learning – study skills and prioritising. This post shares some simple ways we can support kids learning in secondary school, advice on note taking and a template to download to prioritise and organise the homework and study load.
What I have learnt through being in the secondary school system for almost six years now, is that each year you need to be less involved in kids’ homework. In year 7 as they are adjusting to the workload, I found guidance was needed but as they make their way through the year levels, they become more capable and need to be responsible for themselves. The teaching a man to fish philosophy works well – teach them strategies and show them tools they can use to organise themselves, so they can do it independently.
This doesn’t mean I don’t offer support or I am not interested in what they do. I am happy to proof read essays or talk through problems, test them on vocab etc, but the onus for when this is done is on them. My kids know if they want a chunk of my time, they need to plan it in advance. They can’t bring an essay to me at 9pm at night to proof read when it is due the next day as I simply may not have the time to help them.
As for our year 7 child, our year 9 child will have set tasks and exam preparation to do. I will encourage him to make a plan for the holidays, but in the end I leave it up to him. I will only say something if too many days pass without any work being done, to gently remind him that spacing out the workload is a good idea.
Through my efforts to create the right environment for reading, it also provides an environment for studying. When the house is calm and organised, the kids can find spaces to work in quiet and get stuff done.
This school holidays is my first with a child in year 12. We have received information from the school about the amount of work that needs to be completed over the school holidays and it is significant. My plan is to leave the workload management to our son and focus on :
- Providing nutritious food for him
- Switching the wifi off at night so he sleeps well
- Taking an interest in the work he is doing
- Asking if there are ways I can help him
I know there will be times when I will have to use all my strength not to comment on how he is approaching his studies, but I don’t want to nag and I want to show him I trust him. Wish me luck!