Practise makes perfect
Good homework habits need practise. Teach children from an early age that a little studying every day will help in the long run.
Make homework easy
Homework is more doable when it looks like it can be easily tackled. Break it into sections, give children breaks and work in time increments to get the best out of your child.
You will find that most children focus and do better when consistently refreshed by taking a break or two in between assignments.
Help your child understand his homework tasks
Sloppy and incorrect homework is often nothing more than a case of not properly understanding the instructions. Sit with your child, read out the instructions, explain the objective of the work and ensure that he has a good grasp of what is expected.
The British Dyslexia Foundation offers a fantastic learning tool. It’s called COPS and is a self-editing and monitoring skill that’s very handy for children. Once the homework is completed, teach children to use COPS to check that everything is in order. This is:
- C: capitals
- O: overall appearance
- P: punctuation
- S: spelling
A good attitude goes a long way
A good homework attitude is invaluable for success. Be positive about homework. Explain why it is essential, what children can expect to glean from it and how it helps in developing all manner of skills.
It should also be enjoyable as far as possible. Take your child “homework” shopping and let him pick out his own supplies: colourful folders or fi les, pretty stationery.
Don't do your child's homework
A pet peeve of teachers is when children turn in homework that has clearly been largely completed by parents. This helps no one because your child is not learning the material. Parents should provide guidance, not the answers!
Teach him to exercise his mind, grapple with possible answers, but ultimately he has to learn to fi gure it out himself. Homework is like a precursor to working life and if your child can learn to work independently now, it will stand him in good stead.
Mind mapping is an effective learning tool. It’s a simple concept that entails mapping illustrations, words and key phrases to organise information. Mind mapping is a big help in subjects like geography, history and science and can work wonders for children who aren’t great with memorisation.
Depending on your child’s personality, it might be helpful to do homework when he’s doing homework. He will appreciate the solidarity and you are right there if he needs a hand, some guidance or an explanation.
Show your child how homework can be translated to the real world, how maths helps in balancing your check book, how history helps in research, how science helps in the kitchen, and so on.
Use the internet
Is your child a computer whiz? Use the web’s infinite resources to tackle homework. There are fantastic learning sites, and as long as it’s not an excuse to play games, the Internet is a great learning tool for research.
Make sure he understands that cutting and pasting is not research! If he needs to look up a subject for a project, encourage him to find information online and to note down the important points himself on paper.
It is extremely helpful to the teacher to know what the child struggled with, what he enjoyed, and so on. Ask your child these questions once he’s completed his homework and pass on this information to teachers, so these areas can be focused on in class for your child’s betterment.
The amount of time spent on homework
Be aware of how long your child is spending on homework. The National Education Association in the US recommends no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night.
In other words, a second grader should be spending about 20 minutes a day on homework, and a sixth grader no more than an hour. If the homework load seems excessive, speak to the teacher for possible reasons and solutions.
Every child learns differently
Every child learns differently. Some children are more visually inclined, others are swotters, kinesthetic learners learn best through touch.
Get to know your child’s unique learning personality and work with him to find a homework environment that best suits him. An artistically driven, creative child might work better with props like coloured pens and pencils, while a restless child might need plenty of breaks.
Homework sessions with friends
In some instances, children learn better with others. If this helps your child and his friends, set up regular homework sessions with all of them.
Children need to have a set routine both at school and at home. Routines provide children with a sound sense of structure and security provided that they are routines which are realistic and sustainable.
It is crucial for parents to help their child establish an easy-to-follow routine and to teach him/her that slight variations within this routine are okay. It is, however, just as important for parents, themselves, to recognise that constant disruptions within these routines may have detrimental consequences for their child.
Establishing sound family routines provides stability and reinforces and supports the teachers’ efforts to develop responsible and organised behaviour by their pupils. Children tend to model their parents’ behaviour and it is therefore desirable for parents to display sound organisational skills.
Open channel of communication between school and home
One of the most important things for me as an educator is for the child to know that there is an open channel of communication between school and home. This is not solely for negatives but for the positive aspects too. The child soon learns that the parent and the teacher are supportive of one another and stand as a united front.
The moment that contact is only established after a negative event, you lose the trust of the child and the bond becomes a threat. Praise and positive support is vital from day one. Learning needs to be a priority, not only at school but at home too.
With this in mind, speak to your child’s teacher and find out about homework policy – how much time should be spent? Are there ‘everydays’ like spelling, reading, tables etc? How much parent input does the school require?
All of these will empower both you and your child and give clear guidelines as to how the classroom is run.
Checking homework is done
The older a child gets, the more inclined we are to leave them to their own devices. Asking the question, “have you done your homework” at 5pm after work, doesn’t hold much water.
You need to check your child’s homework regularly and provide immediate feedback, help with any corrections, (and by this, I am by no means advocating actually doing the work!) and ensure that the books are packed away for the next day.
Your child also needs a dedicated space for homework, one that is quiet and away from distractions. Good lighting and appropriate materials are important. We also need to remember that it is very challenging for a child to complete homework when it is seen as a punishment, when the rest of the family is having fun or swimming or watching TV.
Setting a good example is vital. Reading, writing, family “talk time” are all strategies that childrenm can benefit from seeing and experiencing.
Showing an interest in what is happening at school makes for a happy child. Find out about their day, help them through things that they may not like such as subjects, tests, differences with friends.
Children do not have a sense that learning is useful or that it will help them outside the school walls. They need to be guided into seeing that learning is just a small part of lifelong education over which they will, someday, have control.
Empowering these thoughts and processes allows a partnership in their efforts.
Thank you to the following teachers for writing in with their homework tips: Sarah-Jane Darroll, Julia Dunn, AF de Souza, Marianne Pillay, Sanette van der Westhuizen, Jenny Platford, David de Wyld, Felicia Smith.