How to help your child with homework

HomeworkWhether you regard homework as a curse or regularly corner your child's class teacher to demand more, there isn't a lot of fence-sitting when it comes to homework assignments.

And regardless of your feelings, at some point your child is going to end up doing needing your help.

What's the point of homework?

Homework should reinforce what you child has learned in class, keep you in touch with your child's schoolwork, and (to the dismay of many of us) encourage children to try creative projects that can't be completed in class time. 

Why it's not a good idea for you to do your child's homework

Yes, it would be quicker, neater (hopefully) and might well sweep the board at the Homework Awards, but that's not the point, is it? If you do the work your child misses out on the practice and their teacher learns nothing about their degree of understanding.

By the end of key stage 2, children should be developing more independence with their homework. They'll still need to be nagged into submission encouraged to start it, they might also find it helpful to discuss and clarify the homework task first, but they should be able to complete it independently.

How to encourage your child to be more independent

If your child is nervous about attempting work alone get into the habit of reading the homework task through together, let them explain to you what they have understood / how they believe they should tackle the task, then give them a set period of time to get on with it.

By explaining out loud they'll clarify their own understanding and feel reassured they're on the right path, with a set timeframe for independent work they won't feel abandoned. As time goes on they'll become more confident about interpreting tasks and won't need to relay it to an adult each time.

If your child is easily distracted by noise, activity or anything they can find, then use a sand timer or large clock to keep them on task. Set it for a short period and for a specific task, then offer effusive praise when they meet the objective, before setting the next task.  

Why it is a good idea to build on homework topics

Things move fast in school and sometimes your child won't have fully grasped a topic before the curriculum-juggernault rolls on. If you see him or her struggling with a particular type of problem, find fun ways to give them further opportunities to practise.

Skills such as spelling patterns, times tables and French verbs can be turned into games you can play anywhere. If she's studying the Romans, find an interactive website she'll enjoy; if the science topic is living organisms, give her some cress to kill nurture; and remember, the local library is your best friend when it comes to research.

Using the internet

As your child gets older they will be increasingly set homework that requires independent research. The internet is a great resource for projects but your child's access should be carefully monitored.

Find out more about child internet safety

It's a good idea to set ground rules for internet use with your child. Being involved will help them understand the dangers and give them a sense of responsibility. It's also useful to put the computer in a family room with the screen facing out so it's easy to monitor the pages your child is viewing.

Most search engines (Google, Bing etc) will allow you to set up filter controls whereby you can block results for websites or search terms you don't want your child to access. You can also set up parental controls on the family computer (some have it built in, others require software), that work across the entire web regardless of the search engine your child uses.

Get your child in the homework habit

When your child is tired and drooping, no threat or bribe will get that homework done. Instead, make homework a regular part of their afterschool routine, and then you won't have to hound your child to do it. As much. 

What to do if your child is on homework overload

Many teachers are just as exasperated by homework as you. However, until this year (2012), national guidelines stipulated how much time children should spend on homework and everybody's hands were tied.

These guidelines have now been scrapped and the responsibility for setting homework policy transferred to headteachers. Which means if you have a genuine complaint and can garner support from other parents, you can probably bring about a change. Just be aware, there will be parents making exactly the opposite argument. 

What Mumsnetters say about homework

  • In the Stratton household homework is done in the kitchen. I cook dinner and am on hand to offer encouragement, guidance and help if they are genuinely stuck. 

I only help if they are struggling and don't understand something. I don't help with content, or anything like that. ScarahStratton
  • If it's a language piece of homework I'll suggest changing words or syntax and explain why. I use the BBC Bitesize website to show examples, revise and do online exercises to help her understand it better. That to me, is teaching her how to improve on a 1:1 basis, not doing her homework for her. CeliaFate
  • I work in a library that runs regular homework clubs. You would be amazed how many children run around while their parents do the googling/typing/printing etc - half the time the kids don't even know which piece of homework their parent is doing for them! fuzzPigwickPapers
  • My son's Year 3 class were told to invent a chocolate bar and put together a presentation. Got to school this morning to find oversized models of chocolate bars, 3D plans, whole bound and printed books, powerpoint presentations, etc. There's no way the children did all this on their own. HRHPrincessReality  
  • It commonly takes my daughter (nine) up to six hours to complete her homework at the weekend, with parental guidance/assistance. It takes over the whole weekend, compromising other family activities. Melpomene
  • I used to download worksheets from the internet for my my son to do. I find it hard to understand why some schools give so much homework and some so little. I have raised it with every teacher but they all say the same: 'Some parents like homework, some don't - teachers can't win.' Ragwort
  • We do the homework before my daughter is too tired (and grumpy), which means half an hour after arriving home from school, before school and in the case of reading... in bed. MeMySonAndI
  • I make her do it straight from school and she is not allowed to play out until it's done. DooinMeCleanin
  • I ask them if they have homework, and we discuss when it will get done (especially at weekends). We also discuss how they might go about doing it. Then it is up to them. I refuse to fight with them about it. UC
  • When it comes to projects, my son he completes it, then I'll read and help him if needed. This usually means saying: 'OK, let's read the question again. Do you think you have answered all of it? What else do you think you need to write? etc...' I don't give him the answers, he has to find them himself. At the end of which I pour a glass of wine and he strops off having made (usually some of) the changes. Sibble
  • I will go and ask the teacher how a particular thing (usually maths) is being taught as my daughter struggles with it and I don't want to confuse her by explaining it totally differently. Her teacher loves me. LucyLastik 

Last updated: 11-Apr-2013 at 2:50 PM