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Have you done your homework?

Here are some tried and true methods for getting the answer you want to hear.

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Homework. For a relatively small word, it certainly strikes fierce emotions in students, parents and teachers alike.

Nonetheless, no matter your own personal opinion on homework, it is likely you had to do it when you were at school, and that your children are getting it now.

Whether your children love or loathe homework, you can help them get through it!

Life skills

Ideally, homework tasks bolster and clarify what your child learned in class, rather than imparting new material.

A regular homework routine can also assist the building of lifelong study habits, especially as your child reaches the upper years of primary school. High school and tertiary-level classes will be less of a shock to the system if your child has already developed good study habits.

Homework can also develop essential life skills beyond ‘the Three R’s’ of reading, writing and arithmetic; a homework schedule and routine can help your child become organised, develop problem-solving skills, and learn to manage stress.

How do I build skills so that my child manages their own homework?

It might be a good idea to have a homework calendar, perhaps worked into a family planner or schedule at first, and then into a diary they manage themselves. Mark down the due dates as each task is received to avoid the last-minute panic that could overtake your child when they realise a science project they haven’t started needs to be handed in tomorrow.

It’s also beneficial to use homework as a way to build independence. Ensure your child has a dedicated place to do their homework that is well lit, with required supplies located nearby. Set them up close enough to you that they can ask questions easily and that you can keep a bit of an eye on them, but don’t hover! If you’re right over their shoulder they may not even try to think it through before turning to you for help.  

How can I help my child without doing their homework for them?

It’s natural to want to help your children as much as you can, but when it comes to homework, it’s more beneficial to try and coach your kids than to do it all for them. It’s a technique as old as critical thinking itself, and is commonly referred to as the Socratic method (after the Greek philosopher). For example, when it comes to maths homework, try and work through the problem with your child. Ask questions that force them to do the working themselves. If they’re really struggling, do the first problem for them and let them watch, prompting them to complete the next step. Then get them to do the next question and have them talk you through the steps.

What do I do when I don’t understand their homework?

All parents have experienced the dread and stress of a school homework task that leaves everyone in the house scratching their heads. You’re in good company, so stay positive! If you can stay calm in the face of this problem, your child has a great example to follow.

The answer may also lie in your child’s class notes or textbook; ask your child to read it first, and then jump in to assist if they’re not having any luck. Often, your child’s memory of what the teacher said about the homework task will trigger once you’ve found information.

You could also try doing an internet search with some of the keywords from the assignment; the web is an often-untapped goldmine when it comes to example homework problems and answers. If all else fails, touch base with your child’s teacher. Let them know what part of the homework your child has difficulty with if there seems to be an area they are continuingly stumbling over. Teachers are busy people, but they care about their students; many will spend extra time with them to ensure they understand the course work.

How much homework should my child be doing at their age?

In early primary years, it is common for many schools to have very little, or no homework. Formal homework tasks often begin in Years 1 or 2 with take home reading, and tend to only take a short time to complete.

A common yardstick is the ‘ten-minute rule’: homework time should increase by ten minutes per school year, starting with twenty minutes per night in Year 2. By Year 12, it’s not unusual for children to spend two hours per night on their homework.

Research shows Australian 15-year-olds enrolled at private schools spend on average 8.2 hours a week on homework, but balance is crucial. Studies link more than two hours of homework per night with stress, poor health and sleep disruption.

And what do I do if my child won’t do their homework?

Most parents will face an uphill battle, at least on the odd occasion, when it comes to getting kids to do their homework.

The best tactic may be to explain to your child what the outcome of going to school with incomplete homework is. If they still won’t do it, it may be a worthwhile lesson to let your child go to school without having done their homework. The consequences may instil the sense of responsibility that is needed to overcome the desire to procrastinate.

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