Homework time can be a trying time for both children and parents. In order to make it a smooth process and pave the way for good habits in the child’s school career, child psychologists at the Sandton Psychology Centre offer the following tips:
It is helpful to have a specific time in which to do homework, (for example, after lunch or after lunch and a short play period) if your child comes home directly from school.
It is a much more trickier situation when a child stays in aftercare after school. Some aftercares are structured whereby children are closely monitored with regard to homework. However, at times children are left to take responsibility for their homework and they may therefore have a choice as to how they spend their time in aftercare. Parents should meet with the aftercare teachers and get a clear understanding of what the aftercare’s homework policy is, how much assistance the child receives etc. It is best to make sure that, as a parent, your expectations and needs can be met by the aftercare centre.
If a child is in aftercare, the homework time at home can be rushed and stressful. A wide amount of things have to happen within a time frame of 3 – 4 hours such as parents preparing supper, eating, bathing etc. which fills this short time with stress and much rushing about. It would be important to find a short time to revise homework, for example, in the early grades it is vital that children read to parents/caregiver and practice spelling which requires parental involvement. For older children a period of time where parents can go over and check that homework has been completed is important. For a child to be doing all their homework in this period is problematic and unsustainable.
Make sure that the duration of homework is reasonable. Check with your child’s teacher as they will be able to tell you how much time a child in that grade is expected to spend on homework. Generally, children shouldn’t spend significantly less or more time (in comparison to peers in their grade) completing homework.
Try to make sure that homework occurs in a quiet place. If possible, it is a good idea for a child to have their own space with their own desk, and all that they may need close by. For older children, one would have to establish rules about cell phone use, text messaging, and access to internet etc. within the homework time frame.
Make sure that the household has due reverence and respect for homework time. Younger siblings, for example shouldn’t be allowed to make too much noise, watch television, and generally be allowed to distract the older sibling. It can be helpful to introduce younger siblings to their own ‘homework time’ such as colouring-in and drawing etc. at the same time that their older sibling is completing their homework.
Parents should be involved in the homework, however for guidance only. Parents should not do the child’s homework for them. Think about it, what are you actually teaching your child if you do his/her homework? (To rely or depend on others? That they don’t have the ability to do the tasks themselves? That you don’t trust them to do it well or correctly?). In addition, if parents do their children’s homework they are not learning important coping resources such as perseverance, responsibility and ability to ask for help when necessary.
Educational Psychologists suggest that homework time can be a good time for parents to gain valuable insight into how their child copes with school work, for example, do they stick to the task at hand, or are they easily distracted, do they persevere or give up easily and if they have more serious difficulties. Parents should be alert when a child wants to constantly avoid homework, gets easily frustrated, doesn’t understand the homework or cries over homework, as this may be indicative of possible underlying difficulties. If any difficulties are noted it is wise to sort out the difficulties as soon as possible and to involve the necessary professional such as an Educational Psychologist who can conduct a thorough educational assessment which will evaluate whether there are any difficulties or vulnerabilities and how to remediate them.
In order to keep children motivated regarding homework, parents should be encouraging. Often children only get praised when they have achieved something tangible (“Wow, you got 20 out of 20 for your spelling test”). Encouragement is important because it doesn’t necessarily focus on the end result, it also addresses the middle part or the ‘doing part’ such as “I like how you are concentrating/staying focused”…. “I like how you’re taking your homework time seriously” “I like how you keep trying…..”. If parents just focus on the end result it can become discouraging for a child, who can easily become de-motivated.