Homework is a chance for children to do
some work that will enhance what they do in school. There is no point in
homework if parents or older siblings do the work for them.
Yet, if you can help your children with
their homework, you show that you care about them and their education. This can
make a big difference in their success at school.
In families where communication is slow,
working together on homework can build trust and develop relationships.
how can you help with homework without actually answering the questions for
your child? Obviously, this will depend on the
child’s age and ability as well as the particular piece of homework, but the
following ideas can often be applied:
- Listen to your child read
out their spelling words or what they have written. Just being interested
- When your child is
stuck on finding a fact, show how to use a book or the internet to look it up.
Alternatively, a trip to the library
is a good plan.
- Discuss the topic
in general terms, perhaps over a meal, so the child gains a broader
understanding than just answering a few questions.
- Have appropriate materials readily available – it’s hard to present neat work if the child doesn’t have a ruler
and sharp pencils, or only has scraps of paper to write on.
- Make suggestions
or ask questions that will lead the child to think of the appropriate answers
for their homework. If your child needs to know if summer is hotter than
winter, don’t say “yes it is”. Ask “when do we go the beach?” or “do you
remember when we went to the snow?” so they can think out the difference
between the two seasons.
- Don’t worry about
the child’s work being perfect, as long as s/he worked at it and tried their
best. If every word is spelt incorrectly, perhaps point out every third error
or so; if you correct every word, the child will lose confidence and feel they
failed. Likewise, if your child has reasoned out their answer, and researched
it, let it stand even if you can see a flaw in it. What is important is that
they tried and you acknowledge their efforts; the teacher will help correct
further errors at school.
- Whenever you are
aware of a general topic being studied at school (eg animal habitats, the water
cycle, natural disasters, the gold rush) try talking about them with your
child. This not only teaches your child more, it gives your children a chance
to share their knowledge with you.
- After a tough homework session, tell the
child and others how proud you are of that child’s efforts. You might tell
Grandma or Uncle Jack “Sam worked really hard on his maths assignment” and
Aunty Jill “Chris now knows how to spell ‘where’”. This positive feedback will
make the hard work worthwhile for the child.
- Make sure you have
a suitable dictionary and other
reference books available for your child to access. Instead of spelling out
a word, show how to look it up in the dictionary – this is teaching a valuable
skill rather than spoon feeding the homework answers.
- Choose your
moments to help. If your child is writing a long piece, then helping spell a
word or two will allow them to keep on with the main work. On the other hand,
if the homework is writing only a few short sentences or a spelling list, tell
your child to use a dictionary or sound it out for themselves.
- Watch your child.
If things are getting too hard and the child is becoming very frustrated, this
is the time to step in. It may be
time for a break from homework to do something active or a good time for you to
work with the child. You may find that you can see a way to simplify the
homework to make it less frustrating. That doesn’t mean you change the tasks,
but perhaps you can break the overall task into smaller bits the child can
- Do activity based
homework together, or test out answers
where applicable. For instance, if the homework is about measurements you
could get out a ruler or tape measure and compare different objects around the
house. Let your children see that ‘longer’ and ‘shorter’ can be specified in
Tash Hughes is a Mum of two in Melbourne. She is also a writer and owner
of Word Constructions. Tash is available to write articles and profiles for any
business, as well as doing other business documentation projects. You can see
her site and services at www.wordconstructions.com