However fondly we might look back on our own schooldays, all of us surely remember the groans of despair when given homework, particularly if issued on a Friday afternoon, to be in for Monday morning. Some of us might even remember the excuses, arguments and tantrums at home which went with it!
Pity then our poor children who seem to get more homework than ever and who also have to deliver Controlled Assessment pieces seemingly every few weeks.
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It puts us in a difficult position as parents. On the one hand, we feel sorry for them; whether they believe us or not, we have actually been there ourselves and can understand how they feel. On the other, as parents we have now been handed the mantle of responsibility and are expected to work in partnership with the school in encouraging, cajoling and, yes – possibly insisting – our kids do the work.
Homework in Key Stage 1 and 2
For very young children, the main emphasis should be on doing work in short, manageable chunks and most importantly, in making homework fun. At Key Stage 1, the focus is still very much on learning through play and experience. In terms of homework, all children should receive is practice in reading, writing and arithmetic. If they show resistance, leave alone and try again when they are ready. At this age, a simple incentive scheme such as awarding stars for effort or achievement works well. Even at Key Stage 2, children should never feel stressed over homework and may still only receive one piece of numeracy or literacy-based work per week to complete at home.
Homework in Secondary School
Things get slightly more complicated as children enter Key Stage 3 and are expected to work more independently at home. The amount of work they are expected to complete as homework will build year on year and this is usually where resistance starts to creep in.
What Can Parents Do to Help?
So what can parents do when children resist doing homework? Far from being a mere bystander, there are many things a parent can do to help counteract resistance and which will also help create effective conditions for doing homework.
Create a Dedicated Work Space
Making sure there is somewhere in the house which is conducive to working is a must. It is very difficult to concentrate with the TV blaring or with a drum practice going on in the same room. Find a place which your child likes, whether it is at the kitchen table, a desk in their bedroom or a coffee table in the lounge and help maintain a clear and organised space for at least the period of time when homework must be done in the week.
Help Your Child Adopt a Regular Routine
Having a set time in which to do homework is invaluable. However much they might resist it, routine is good for children; they need to know the boundaries and to be clear what is expected of them during that period of time. Also, pay attention to the body clock of your child; some are early birds and some are night owls and if they are attempting to work at the ‘wrong’ time for them, their resistance to it will be far greater. If at all practicable, try to carve out a slot which doesn’t clash with other activities and make sure it is used for homework.
Support and Encourage their Efforts
Sometimes it will inevitably be thrown back in your face (with possibly a bit of door-slamming to boot) but overall, your support, interest and encouragement are invaluable. The Campaign for Learning published a report which states that the support a parent gives during a child’s education, can have a direct effect on their GCSE results. When energy allows, be there to listen, offer advice, make drinks and test them on their subjects when they need it.
Make Sure Equipment is in Place
It may be a simple thing, but it is amazing how tempers fly when a sharp pencil can’t be found at the right moment or homework ‘can’t’ be done because there isn’t a calculator. One easy solution is to keep a box topped up with pencils, rubbers, pens, and any other stationery supplies which might be needed to complete a piece of coursework.
Eating and Sleeping
Again, basic stuff, but children need sleep! They also need to eat good, nutritious food. As young adults, their bodies are developing rapidly and their brains do not only have to cope with teenage emotions, but with the mental demands of their schooling as well. By feeding them appropriate food and making sure they go to bed at a reasonable time, stress and fatigue will certainly be reduced.
When a child resists doing homework, teachers – and parents – have heard all the excuses before. The main rule of thumb is that if a child is consistently coming home and saying they don’t have any homework, they will be lying. If necessary, do regular bag and school planner checks to find out what they have been set, and always feel free to speak to the school. Remember, the parent is the one in charge. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, brave the storm and use sanctions if at least an attempt at the homework is not made.
When things go Badly Wrong
If a child is resistant to doing any type of homework at all and their behaviour seems ‘out of control’, seek help. The school and external bodies are available for professional support and advice.
Conversely, if a child has worked well, listen to them when they ask to go out instead of completing their homework. Negotiate when it could be done and try to be flexible. The whole process of doing homework helps children to learn how to work independently and manage their time. Learning how deliver results whilst also being flexible is part of the same learning curve and an invaluable lesson for when they leave school.
Is it all Worth It?
On days when we feel exhausted from the energy it takes to get our children to complete their work, we may well ask, “what does it all achieve?” But in providing the right set of circumstances for children to do homework, they are not only far more likely to attain the results they want, but also more likely to develop into mature adults who can adjust to the demands and responsibility of the workplace – so yes, it’s worth it.