The trouble with kids and homework is that they’re kids. Living in the now is what they do naturally so it’s difficult to get them behind something that doesn’t have instant rewards. But don’t give up. There are plenty of ways to encourage less than keen kids and quite a few easy tactics you can use to introduce healthy homework habits early and cut down on fuss when the serious studying sets in later.
Take ‘Work’ out of Homework
Fit some time into your routine for homework at a set time every day. It’s easier than you think with younger schoolchildren. They don’t need 100% of your attention and half an hour in the kitchen while you’re making dinner works fine. As long as you’re there and they know it’s time for reading or writing or working on a project. And even if they don’t have homework, give them that set time anyway to do something together or just talk and it will naturally become part of their routine too.
Pile on Praise and Encouragement
Make a fun Homework Timetable together and hang it somewhere everyone can see it. Set goals for a week or a month so there’s something to aim for. And don’t forget to reward achievements, no matter how tiny. Praise motivates kids and stars and stickers are results they can see for real.
Make Homework Real
Relating what kids are up to at school with play, activities or days-out connects the abstract idea of learning to real life, makes it understandable and less like ‘work’. First time readers respond well to choosing their own books at the local library or ‘helping’ with a few pages from their bedtime story. If they’re finding out about mini-beasts at school, lending a hand in the garden is a chance to see their lessons in action. And homework is a lot easier if it has good associations.
Create Quiet Study Space
Creating a space in your home where your kids can focus, spread out a project or use the computer in peace is a great motivator. Internal bi-fold doors in the living room give you the flexibility to have a ‘study’ when you need it and sociable family space when you don’t. And remember, kids learn by example, so if they see you using quiet space to read or work, they’ll follow your lead without a second thought.
Give Everyone A Break
Everyone deserves a break in the day and children are no different. Set a clear line between school and home by planning and preparing after school snacks together, make it a fun time to talk about their day, or anything else they like, before going straight into homework.
Be A Little Tough Sometimes
Consequences of not doing homework are tough to explain in the abstract. Sometimes it’s best to step back and let them face their teacher with unfinished work. It’s a lesson to learn, won’t scar them for life and usually doesn’t happen more than once or twice.
Rewards Can Be Good
Some parents are very hard line about not giving rewards for homework. But you know your child best and if they respond to a special treat or the promise of an activity for their hard work, go for it. You’re not teaching them bad habits, most of us work for money as adults, so a tangible reward for homework well done (or at least done without a fuss) isn’t that different really.
Stay A Step Ahead
Don’t leave things to the last minute. Get your child to show you what’s in their schoolbag every day and what’s in their Homework Diary (if they have one). Finding out you’re missing something vital to finish a project on a Sunday evening, half-an-hour before bed, is pain we’ve all felt. Try to avoid it if you can.
Try Different Approaches
Be patient and if you find yourself getting frustrated, step away. Recommendations about homework for primary kids in the UK are changing and the general thinking is that gently reinforcing what’s learned at school is more valuable than set study. There are excellent homework resources available online to help you get more involved in what your kids are working on so you can introduce topics into conversation, plan a visit related to a subject and share ideas and information naturally. Much easier and more productive all round and avoids the potential for turning homework into a battleground for years to come.
And finally, remember the main purpose of primary school homework is to help children learn to work on their own initiative. So when you turn up at Parents’ Night and there’s a perfect scale model of the Parthenon sitting beside your kid’s lopsided, toilet roll holder disaster, don’t worry. Teachers know the difference between homework and parent work, even if some mums and dads don’t.