Mum-of-three Anne Reid finds out how to help your child develop a successful homework strategy.
If you want your children to do well in school, parental involvement in a homework is a must.
Getting the kids out of bed, faces washed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, dressed, fed, schoolbags ready, coats on and out the door first thing in the morning is quite the challenge. When accompanied by a last minute howl of “Mummy! I forgot to do my homework!” it can tip an already frazzled parent right over the edge.
So, how do you keep on top of things? Here are a few ideas to help you put a homework system in place that will work for you and your family.
At Junior Infants level your child will not be given homework. Later in the academic year they may be given a book or word list to read with you. As your child progresses through primary school, their workload increases and more time will need to be dedicated to homework.
First things first
When your child comes in from school their first priority is usually food. Once your child has had a snack, getting their homework done straight away means the rest of the afternoon is free for play, activities or family time. If your child attends afterschool care, they may have a homework system in place. This can be especially useful when a parent’s free time is limited. If your child does their homework at their place of childcare, take the time to have a look over it in the evenings with them. This can give your child a sense of pride as they show you their work and may encourage them to present their work well, which is a good habit to get into for later on when they attend secondary school and college.
Give them control
Sometimes, the mere suggestion of homework is enough to cause a child to go into meltdown mode! Giving your child the opportunity to have an input into their homework timetable can calm the situation and make your child feel more in control of their schedule. It will also teach them responsibility. At the start of the school year, sit down with your child and come up with a plan. Agree on a time-slot within which homework needs to be done and stick to it.
In his book, The Essential Parent’s Guide to the Primary School Years, Brian Gilsenan gives some guidelines on how long your child’s homework should take, depending on the stage they’re at, “Parents of children in the infant classes are always encouraged to read stories to and with their children as often as possible, to play games with them (not educational games necessarily) and even watch television with them. In first and second class, 20 minutes per night, in one or two subject areas, with a little reading should be sufficient. In third and fourth class, this goes up to 40 minutes and typically, in fifth and sixth class, homework time will not exceed one hour.”
A homework-friendly environment
Ensuring your child has adequate space and lighting and is generally comfortable when they settle down to do their homework can help make the whole experience a good one. Some children are happy to sit at the kitchen table doing their homework with the ambient sounds of Mum or Dad making the dinner in the background, whereas others need the peace and quiet of their bedroom or a study to do theirs.
Your child should, where possible, be allowed to work without assistance. If your child needs help with their work, encourage them to search for the solution themselves, rather than immediately providing them with the answers or correcting their mistakes. This will teach a child that taking a different approach can often be the solution and they will learn that it is okay to make mistakes.
If you find your child is finding homework a real struggle, it may be time to have a chat with their teacher. When you let the teacher know the specific areas where your child is struggling, he or she can then work on those areas with your child and may be able to show you ways in which you can help your child at home.
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