Coping with primary school homework

by | May 21, 2014

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.

The end!




  1. sarahmo3w

    This is such a good post and I totally get where you’re coming from. My kids are 12, 10 and 8 and getting them to do homework is still a battle. To be honest, I’ve pretty much given up with the 12yo. It’s so hard balancing the needs of three of them on top of all their extra-curricular activities.
    Very well done to your boy on his little story! πŸ™‚

    • Nicola Young

      I’m hoping that by secondary school they can get on with it themselves, but I’ve heard that they get a lot of homework at that level. When you have three kids, it’s not as if each child does lots of after school activities, it’s just that it all adds up and you end up being busy most evenings. Weekends are then taken up with homework.

  2. mytravelmonkey

    I am dreading the battle with homework… as my attitude to it was pretty blasΓ© growing up and I was forced to do it all the time… Plus I’m not very crafty, so a sharing book would be a huge challenge for me! Wow, it’s a real insight into what I am in for… and parents were telling me that once your kids are at school it gets easier πŸ™‚ Think my parents would disagree with that one. Ps. Love your son’s story… it’s adorable.

    • Nicola Young

      We never had homework at junior school, so it’s a tough concept to get your head around. But that said, three children, three different attitudes and you will be amazed at the number of times you have to get your creative hat on!

  3. dakegra

    My 9yo daughter is really good (usually) at doing her homework. Apart from last night, when she suddenly remembered at bedtime that she hadn’t done it. And, of course, it was due in today.

    My 13yo son isn’t quite so conscientious – once he gets going with homework (especially art/english) he’s fine, but getting him to put pen to paper and actually make a start is often traumatic. Many a sunday afternoon has been spent helping him to make a start, with constant grumbles that ‘other parents would actually *help*’.

    Well, these parents will point you in the right direction, but if it’s us doing it, then it’s not *your* homework. If you don’t understand what to do, or can’t do it, then your teacher needs to see that!

    • Nicola Young

      I totally agree with you and have been in the same position many a time. What is the point of the parents doing their children’s homework for them, apart from making sure that they don’t get marked down for getting it in late? It seems like a tough lesson to learn that this is something they need to be able to do by themselves and that ‘helping’ them doesn’t mean you do it while they sit back and watch you!

  4. vanessa jane holburn (@vanessaSH)

    Yes, homework can sometimes be a trial here too! And I do get cross when there is a ‘making’ one at the Infant school and it is so obvious that the parents have gone way beyond helping! My eldest (8 yrs) at Junior school gets quite a bit now – maths, literacy, spelling – all at once. They are awarded house points though, so that motivates her. My younger daughter never does anything she doesn’t want to anyway, so homework has caused some friction. I have told her she can leave it if SHE is prepared to tell the teacher (whom she loves), not sure that is particularly good parenting (is it blackmail – or just getting her to be responsible?) but it works!

    • Nicola Young

      I think you have the right attitude and it is important that the children do their own craft work and can take pride in what they have produced.

  5. Jenny

    I have all this to come as neither of mine are in school yet but I am sure most moms can relate as I remember too well being that kid myself or rather hearing my mother battle my brother as I mostly liked my homework. It’s hard I can imagine with extra activities as well. trying to keep up with it all and three kids too! Wow you really have your hands full wish I could offer some better advice. Best luck hunny. And thanks for linking up to Share With Me. When you find the secret to it all share with me! lol haha #sharewithme

  6. ghostwritermummy2014

    Argh I have such a mixed relationship with homework. As a teacher, we were required to set it once a week and reward children who did it but as a parent it is the bind of my life at times. I do not see the point in pointless pieces of work that do not even get marked! If it doesn’t further the learning then it doesn’t get done in my house!

    • Nicola Young

      Yes when they put all that effort in for two house points you really do wonder, but I guess it all goes to their overall assessment. Good for you for taking a stand though!

  7. Nikki Thomas (@stressymummy)

    Oh don’t get me started on homework. I am a teacher and I get frustrated with homework. It is a great concept as long as it is meaningful and sometimes as a parent I do wonder if it is. I have to beg, plead and generally force my one son to do homework. That is such a sweet little story and how lovely that you managed to get him to do it as homework . If only it was always that easy

    • Nicola Young

      Yes I think I got lucky this week. I don’t know what we will come up with next!

  8. Emma (@emvanstone)

    Ha ha, what a fab story. Luckily we don’t get much homework. I am not looking forward to that changing. xx

  9. Perfection Pending

    Oh my gosh. I can SO relate to this! My daughter struggles with ever wanting to do homework. She just doesn’t have the focus and drive for it after school. So, it ends up being a battle that I feel like is torture for me. I hope and pray that eventually she’ll get more responsible and it will get easier as she gets older (although I’m afraid the homework itself isn’t going to get any easier). Thanks for linking up!

  10. Louise

    We’ve only just begun with homework at our house. We have a once a week show and tell assignment for my 4-year-old. Each week is a different theme – eg: something round; something starting with letter M; something that makes you think of summer etc… Given we’ve been at it since October now, it’s starting to get a bit challenging to find stuff to bring in (this week we sent her to school with sunscreen and her bathing suit for summer theme).

    All that to say, it isn’t too onerous yet, and we work hard to make sure she tries to find her item and then we practice her speech; but there are weeks where it’s very much me quickly going “Hey this is a square item!” and throwing it in her bag because we run out of time, or she simply isn’t engaged. And every week it is certainly homework for me πŸ™‚ I can imagine it gets worse from here…

    • Nicola Young

      That sounds a bit like the sharing book. Don’t worry, they tend to ease you in to it gently, but it depends more on the attitude of your child towards doing it.


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