Have you ever found yourself wondering who your primary aged children’s homework is actually for, them or you?
Starting from reception age, most UK children are given some task or other to complete on a weekly basis. It’s not compulsory by law or anything, but yet it is encouraged. Schools nowadays call it home learning, because essentially that’s what it is. They rely heavily on the parents to help them fulfil their curriculum needs, so homework isn’t just an opportunity to reinforce what the children have been learning at school. It’s much more than that.
Attitudes to homework differ according to the child. My eldest child has always been very much against the idea of doing any homework (at all) and it has always been a battle to get her to do it. What happens in cases like these is you find that huge chunks of your weekend are taken up doing projects that are no fun for anyone and you are left wondering what your child is gaining from it all. It’s difficult to find a balance. The teachers are always the first to say that you should never force the children to do their homework, especially if it is turning into a battle with tears and tantrums. But at the same, you need to instil in to your child that they can’t always pick and choose what they want to do in life and that some things have to be done whether they like it or not.
I have found that the best way to deal with reluctant home learners is to strike a deal, whereby you do an agreed amount at any one time, either per week or splitting it up and doing a little bit each day. A kitchen timer can be useful for setting an agreed time and once it goes off, the homework is put away. If your child really digs their heels in about doing something, then you should speak to their teacher. You may enjoy getting your creative head on and producing a brilliant papier mache model, but the fact that you’ve done it for them won’t help your child. All that tells them is that they really don’t need to bother.
My eldest is in year 5 now and she is able to go to her room and do her homework by herself. She understands that she can come to us for help at any time and we are more than happy to do that. What we weren’t happy with was her previous attitude of ‘I can’t do it’ and therefore not even bothering to try. It has been an on going struggle, but we are getting there.
I haven’t had the same sort of difficulties with my middle daughter, who is now seven. But at times she will just burst in to tears if she doesn’t understand something. When this happens you get nowhere by attempting to explain things, you just have to leave it till another time. What helps my younger daughter though, is that she sees that her older sister has to do her homework, so she knows that it is something that is expected of her.
Splitting yourself between more than one child is never easy and with homework it is no different. With younger children I’ve found it is easier to get each one started on a task that they have to do and let them sit together and get on with it, making sure you are around to help out if needed. It works much better for us that our eldest has a desk in her room, where she can work in peace. If she needs help she will come down and ask for it.
My youngest is in the reception class and their homework consists of a sharing book. Each week they are encouraged to add to their book so that they can show the rest of their class the following week. This is as much about doing a task at home as it is about standing in front of your peers to talk about it. The sharing book is open to anything which, as good as it sounds, can be a nightmare. Having to come up with interesting things to put in it each week becomes the job of the parent when you are dealing with a five year old.
My eldest used to put a lot of photos in her sharing book. If we hadn’t done anything exciting at the weekend, I would send her out in the garden to take some pictures of the flowers or insects. Then when my middle daughter started school, she would happily draw a picture each week and I was happy to let her do this. Third time around and I am struggling for inspiration. We rarely do anything at the weekend because we are usually busy doing homework and other jobs around the house and my son is typical of his gender and doesn’t really enjoy colouring and drawing pictures. So you can imagine my relief when his book went missing. I confess I was relieved to be given a few weeks reprieve.
Thankfully the book is back with us again, so no excuses anymore. But this weekend I was over the moon when my son came to me to ask for a piece of paper:
‘I’ve got a brilliant idea for a story,’ he said. And off he went.
When he had composed his master piece I had a lightbulb moment.
‘Why don’t you put it in your sharing book,’ I said. ‘You could even do an illustration to go with it.’
And that’s just what he did. Of course I was relieved that we had managed to get the sharing book done this week, but I was impressed by my son, who up to now has needed quite a bit of encouragement to do it and even then was content to do the bare minimum. And the story was so cute (and short), that I am now going to share it with you.
The Bee that dreamed.
Once there was a bee that dreamed he wanted a flower that never ran out of nectar.