Having a homework nightmare? Here’s how to deal with it!

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Published initially in August 2020.

Buried under mounds of poster paper and glue? Battling endless after-school tantrums? Homework can be exhausting and frustrating for everyone in the family. Here are my top three tips for making homework manageable!

1. Plan ahead

To help avoid tantrums and meltdowns, try and make sure no deadlines ‘sneak up’ on you.

Allocate a set time every week to sit down with your child and ‘map out’ what homework deadlines are coming up in the following week. Together, plan how your child can fit time for homework in around their other commitments, like sports or tutoring.

I suggest creating a Google Calendar to enter deadlines, so that you can easily share them with your child and other family members – but go with whatever works! Family wall planners or diaries can also work well.

Golden rule: make sure your child has input into the decision making process. Try to give them as many choices as possible: Would you rather do reading on Friday straight after school, or on Saturday morning? Children are far more likely to ‘buy in’ to the idea of planning their time in advance if they’ve had a say.

Planning ahead might sound simple, but it can really help avoid last-minute homework meltdowns and tantrums. Most importantly, it is great way of teaching your child invaluable time management and organisation skills that they’ll need throughout their lives.

2. Watch the clock

What is your school’s policy regarding how much time students should spent on homework per day? If you don’t know, find out. If your child’s homework is regularly taking them longer than the school’s set amount, then you need to step in. Spending hours upon hours isn’t good for your child’s well-being – or for yours.

My suggestion? Pop a timer on, and stop your child working when the set time is up – yes,  even if it means leaving homework unfinished! Instead, send your child’s class teacher an email or note to let them know that your child spend X minutes on the work, in line with school policy, and then you asked them to stop. If they have any concerns, they can get in touch with you.

Communicating clearly with your child’s teacher is crucial – particularly if you are finding that homework is taking up a disproportionate amount of time at home, or causing your child stress. Your child’s teacher will appreciate being kept ‘in the loop’ and may be able to adjust the amount or type of work set, and/or offer your child more support as needed.

3. Leave it to them

So many parents run themselves into the ground worrying about the quality of their child’s homework. Please remember: it isn’t YOUR homework! Of course it is fine to remind your child about upcoming deadlines, but try not to let these conversations escalate into repeated nagging, fights or arguments.

Because here’s the thing. At the end of the day, if your child refuses to edit or improve some work, you’ve got to employ a bit of ‘tough love’ and leave it. If the work is not done, they need to face any potential consequences themselves. Never do the work for them! Your child’s teacher needs to see what they can do on their own – and if this means messy, unfinished or simply incomplete work, then so be it.

Constantly helping your child with their homework – whether that involves prompting your child to write more, making them re-do incorrect answers or correcting their spelling – is merely masking what your child is capable of independently. It might benefit them in the short term, but in the long term, they aren’t learning any useful lessons about time management and their teacher will be missing important information about their strengths and weaknesses.

A few final thoughts

Good (and by that I mean well-planned) homework should reinforce learning that has happened in school. It should stretch and challenge, to push your child’s thinking beyond what was covered in class. Well-planned homework also gives you the fantastic opportunity to engage meaningfully with your child’s learning at home.

Homework should not be simply finishing off work done in class, or consist of endless repetitive exercises that don’t correlate with learning happening in class. If your child is receiving homework like this on regular basis, it’s worth having a chat to their class teacher.

Helen spent more than a decade working in international schools all over the world. She is the founder of SchoolSelect Malaysia, Malaysia’s first specialised international school consultancy, and is passionate about helping families navigate the complex school selection process. 
 

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