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Helping with homework

It’s necessary in the learning process, but homework doesn’t have to be a dreaded task.

ONCE your child enters school, even at kindergarten level, homework becomes the focus in the family. Parents worry that their children who do not do their homework will end up with disastrous results in school learning. Some educators believe that children who do homework as early as kindergarten do better in school.

Homework definitely has a place in children’s learning. At its best, it reinforces skill practice in reading, writing and maths without the teacher’s direct supervision. Children learn to develop independent study and organisation skills when doing their homework.

On the flip side, homework in the form of “drill work” can bring about behavioural problems in children in their primary grades. Many children overwhelmed by school demands and lack of rest throw temper tantrums out of frustration.

Here's a real example. An early primary grade child was given 15 pages of writing to complete and submit to the teacher the following day. She also had to complete homework in other subjects the same day. Failing to complete the assigned homework would make the teacher angry.

Homework should be the child’s work and not the parents’. But when it is too much for the child to manage, parents can step in with guidance and encouragement. If parents feel that the child has been given too much homework, they should bring it up with the teacher. Do not complain to your child. You may not be able to change the school policy on homework and undermining the teacher or the assignments can only make matters worse.

Here are a few dos and don’ts on how parents can help with homework:


  • Children need rest and food before they start on their homework. Organise the homework session at a time when both parent and child have had some rest and are not feeling hungry. If parents work late, the child should complete what she can independently and consult the parents with the rest when they are home.

  • Do not make your child sit and do homework for long periods of time. Take short breaks. You have to remember that children who have had a full day at school will be physically and mentally tired when they get home. Take it easy with the homework schedule.

  • Set up a homework timetable. Put the fun stuff in the schedule too. Your Year One child will look forward to these activities when she has finished her homework. Be flexible with the homework schedule. School subjects are scheduled on different days of the week. This means, when there is a heavy workload, your child can complete her task at a later time and not have to rush through every piece of homework in one sitting. Talk to the teacher if your child is having a hard time completing her homework.

  • Make your homework timetable eye-catching. If attractive menus work for customers in restaurants, I am sure your child will enjoy looking at her favourite cartoon characters or pop stars decorating her schedule and dread doing her homework less.

  • On days when your child does not have homework, you can still help her out with some revision, even if it is just for 20 minutes. Or you can read a book together or work out some maths puzzles. When she has a stretch of days without any homework, you can give her a day off as well.

  • When you are helping your child learn a subject, try to make it fun. Don’t make it a chore. She does not need extra worksheets from you when she has completed her schoolwork. If your child is learning English, do some role-playing so that shecan practise the language in a fun way. Sing songs or read her stories in English to enhance her learning.

  • Make sure your child has a comfortable and fun environment to do her homework. Keep distractions such as the TV or computer games away. Have some light refreshments ready for an occasional break. Good lighting and a cool atmosphere can help with your child’s concentration.

  • Children need praise and lots of understanding from their parents. No two children are alike in their speed in doing homework. Avoid comparing your children. Offer positive remarks to each child individually whenever you notice them putting effort into their work.

  • At exam time, children become nervous and tense because they worry that they will fail miserably and disappoint their parents. To lessen children’s anxiety, you may want to encourage them to learn different things to develop their skills. Children who are confident with learning skills tend to cope better in tests and exams.

  • Do not do your child’s homework for her. You may think that you are helping her but you are actually putting her at a disadvantage. She will be dependent on you to a certain extent. Her teachers will not know what she is having difficulty with and will not be able to help her when they cannot gauge her progress. You can help by going through her papers when she is done.

  • Do not punish your child if she makes mistakes in her homework or tests. Everyone makes mistakes. Trial and error is often the best way to learn. If you want her to learn, do not demand that she gets a perfect score. Do not call her “stupid” or “careless” when she makes mistakes that she shouldn’t. Children need a balance of work and play. It is up to parents to help organise this in their daily lives. You can schedule an hour or two for outdoor games and play so that your children can have some fun. More importantly, parents must get children to learn to take responsibility for their own tasks.


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