If you’ve ever stayed up until midnight putting the finishing touches to a full scale model of the Taj Mahal made out of loo roll and yoghurt pots, or if you’ve ever had to Google ‘How to do long division’ to help your child with their maths assignments, then you’re not alone.
A recent study conducted by a UK money saving website, found that 46 per cent of parents admitted that they had helped their children with science tasks alone.
Should parents help with homework? And how can they do this without ending up doing all the homework themselves?
One in six parents ‘do all the homework’
A recent poll revealed that in fact, in many households, it’s the parents who actually do all the homework.
The main reason that they gave for taking over the daily chore, was to avoid family arguments over getting it done.
A tenth of the parents in the study revealed that it saved a lot of stress to just do the homework themselves.
In over a third of cases parents reported that their children wandered off and left them to slog over their textbooks to complete the work.
A spokesman for the Brett-trade show, who conducted the research said:
Most parents will get called upon to help with their children’s homework at some point during their education. But these results show there is a fine line between helping your child understand what they are studying and completely taking over.
Should parents help their child with homework?
In an interview with The Telegraph, Andy Wiggins, director of teaching and learning at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst, Hampshire, was asked how much parents should be helping with homework and replied:
Ideally, not at all.
He went onto explain why, saying:
I have always maintained that there is a set limit to homework time, and if a child cannot complete their work in that time (give or take 10 minutes) then they should stop. I want to see an accurate reflection of the child’s work.
For older children, the idea of homework is that it is a task which they complete by themselves.
If they run into problems and can’t do it, then teachers will know that the pupil has not understood the lesson and will need some more help and support in class.
What about early years homework?
In the early years of primary school, homework is very different. Children are learning to read and write those first letters and numbers.
Homework tasks in these years are specifically designed to be done with the support of an adult. Helping with homework at this stage is not only encouraged but has been proven to make a big difference to children’s learning.
Detailed analysis of data from the National Child Development Study revealed that:
In the early years, parental involvement has a significant impact on children’s cognitive development and literacy and number skills. The frequency with which the child plays with letters/numbers at home was linked with attainment in all measures. Parents’ drawing children’s attention to sounds and letters was linked to literacy skills, early number skills and non-verbal attainment.
When should parents help with homework stop?
These homework tasks will usually be meant for children to do by themselves. Because they have been taught the skills they will need to complete the task in school, they should be able to complete the tasks easily and without help from parents.
So when they reach this stage, it’s best to let your child tackle their homework independently.
If they are struggling then pop a note in their homework jotter or speak to the teacher about the level of the homework being set.
This may have a much better impact than helping them complete the tasks. Instead if parents help with homework, they will give the teacher marking it the false impression that their child has understood everything taught in class. While on the contrary, their child may need more help to consolidate their learning.
So how CAN parents help with homework?
Rather than giving your child so much help that you practically (or literally) do their homework for them, there are more productive ways to help that will have a much bigger impact:
Help them get started
For tired children who have just spent a busy day at school, one of the biggest obstacles in doing homework is often starting it.
One good way parents help with homework is reading through the instructions of the task with them and making sure they understand what it is they are being asked to do.
You might even talk through the first question together so you know your child is set on the right path to complete the rest of the task on their own.
Show an interest in what your child is learning
While your child is doing homework show an interest in what they are doing.
By asking them about the topic they are studying or the book they are reading you can help make homework a more positive and shared experience.
You could talk about the work they are doing and what has sparked their interest, or why they find it boring. Asking questions can lead to conversations which bring learning to life.
It also shows your child that schoolwork is important.
When children talk or explain a concept or subject to someone else, it also helps them to learn it well. So asking your child about their homework can really help them at school too.
Don’t hover over them like a hawk
Think about how you would feel if your boss was breathing down your neck when you carried out an assignment. You’d feel pretty uncomfortable and pressured, right?
Chances are your child will feel the same if you breathe down their neck while they are trying to do their homework.
By all means stay close by so you are on hand to offer assistance if they need it, but otherwise stand back and let them work.
Go over completed work with them
Homework is not a test. It’s a time to practice.
When your child has completed their work take a few minutes to go over what they have done.
You can praise them for their efforts and, if you spot mistakes, encourage your child to look again and see if they can work out where they went wrong.
Helping your child manage their time
Find out how much homework your child has and when they need to complete it by.
You can then help them find ways to manage their time and avoid any stressful last minute rushes to get it all done.
Work out those bits of time in the day that would otherwise be wasted, and suggest that they do their homework assignments then.
Some examples are when they are sitting waiting for their sibling to finish a swimming lesson or in the half an hour before tea, when they are hanging about waiting.
Alternatively you could encourage homework sessions before teatime, when you can all sit down together and get your own tasks done. Then the rest of the evening is free to relax, play and wind down.
If your child is struggling, don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher
If your child is consistently struggling to complete homework tasks (or takes hours to wade through them) then they will quickly become not just a chore but a source of real stress.
Homework is not supposed to be so difficult that your child struggles to complete it and gets upset or despondent when they can’t.
Talk to your child’s teacher about the level of the work being sent home and explain that your child is finding it hard.
Ask about opportunities for more support to be given in class. Enquire if more time can be taken to make sure your child is really understanding the work taught in school. Then they can bring home more appropriate homework tasks to consolidate their learning.