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Finding the motivation to help with homework

Few things divide parents more than homework. Some think there’s never enough, some think that any is too much; some sit up half the night doing it themselves, others take no interest. Kay Hill looks at the lessons parents should be learning.

What’s the point of homework?

Former Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds said: “Homework isn’t just some joyless pursuit of knowledge. It’s an integral part of learning… an opportunity to develop independent study and application – and character traits like perseverance.”1 Busy parents might assume it’s designed to torment them, at least at primary school. Scale model of a motte and bailey castle? Check. Learn to play Three Blind Mice on the squeaky descant recorder? Check.

At its best, homework helps consolidate what has been learned in class, allows extra work around a subject and stretches brighter pupils. At its worst, it means you have to spend all weekend helping your child complete a monumentally pointless task that the teacher will barely look at. If nothing else, ensuring your child does their homework does let them know that you regard education as worth taking seriously.

Knowing what needs doing?

Where once you had the homework diary, or worse, the “do you have any homework?” conversation, most schools now have an online system the child, and sometimes the parents as well, can log into and check what has been set, when it is due and if its completed. Systems like Show My Homework and Moodle are definitely worth getting to grips with if you have a child who’s an ostrich about homework.

Homework isn’t just some joyless pursuit of knowledge. It’s an integral part of learning...

Making sure it’s done

Having a regular homework time, whether it’s as soon as they come in from school, after a snack and a break, or after dinner, helps turn studying into a habit. Encourage your child to get it done during the working week rather than letting it pile up to ruin the weekend (for everybody…). Younger children – and older ones who lack concentration – are better at the kitchen table where you can keep an eye on them, while older ones need a quiet spot. If you’re tight on space, at some point you’ll have to decide whether allowing computers in the bedroom for homework is worth the risk; a decision that’s easier if you have bombproof parental controls.

How much help?

The key word is “help”. You want them to do well, but doing it for them won’t achieve that – not least because the teacher won’t know that they don’t understand something if mum or dad has got all the answers right! The way things are taught may also have changed since you were at school (don’t even try to fathom the way they learn long division…) so you may confuse rather than help. Better to point them at materials such as BBC Bitesize and help them to find out the solutions for themselves. Supervise, support and motivate should be the mantra.

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