magical toolkit

They’re home, they’re fed, the telly’s off and now it’s the Homework Horror Hour!

What is the right amount of homework, how much do you help them, how do you help them manage their time?

All questions I regularly get asked.

Here are a few practical tips.

A recent survey carried out by the Government’s “Get On” Campaign reveals that 7 in 10 parents are wary of helping their children with their homework and are finding it increasingly difficult to understand and lend a hand in their children’s schoolwork.

Children live and learn in two worlds – home and school. The way these two worlds interact and communicate can make an enormous difference in how your child manages in both places. You, your child and your child’s teacher need to trust each other and listen and talk regularly to each other to get the best out of your child.

Of course, family life is very different today than it was a generation ago. You probably spend far less time together than families in the past. You may face an up hill struggle to balance the demands of your family life and your career or may lack the confidence to help due to your own school experiences. But that doesn’t stop you from encouraging your children, listening to them explaining about what they are leaning or helping them find the information out with them on the Internet or from the library.

It’s about showing an interest, sitting with them and encouraging them, or teaching them where to find the information out if you can’t help or don’t know. It’s about bonding with your kids, spending time with them when things are a bit tricky and not leaving them feel abandoned in confusion.

It also builds the “we” or team mentality in your family where you help each other out.

It’s also about showing them that you value homework and learning. Your involvement tells your child that education is important and valued by you.

Research has shown that children from all walks of life really benefit from having you show an interest in their school work regardless of whether you are divorced, separated or happily married.

All children struggle at times at school so don’t panic or feel bad when a problem occurs. Talk to your child’s teacher to find out exactly what’s happening. Encourage your child to ask their teacher themselves. As a former class teacher I loved it when a child asked me to explain something. I was there to help….. I enjoyed helping …. it showed me that the child was keen to learn or interested in what I was talking about. So teach your child to ask as it also teaches them to take responsibility for their own learning long term.

I think it helps if parents realise that homework is all about consolidating your child’s learning not trying to catch them out or terrify them about what they don’t know. They shouldn’t have to do something completely new, it’s more about reinforcing what they’ve already learnt at school.

Children develop at different rates and most children are more advanced in some areas and slower in others. We all have strengths and weaknesses. In our house I help with creative writing and my husband helps with maths. But it’s more about just being willing to sit down, get involved and help in whatever way we can.

Here are some Positive Parent = Confident Kids Tips to help with homework:

•Discuss Homework. Give your child a chance to talk about their school work if they want to. Even if you know nothing about a particular subject, you can still help just by talking and listening and helping them find their own answers.

• Encourage your child. Help your child take responsibility for organising and doing their homework and never forget to praise them for their hard work or their improved concentration, handwriting or presentation.

• Use available tools. Many schools have a homework diary, or daybook for parents to sign each day, so show your interest, commitment and respect for your child by signing it regularly. This helps you and your child know that their homework is being monitored and also builds up goodwill between yourself and the school.

•Help your child keep to a routine. Some children prefer to do homework straight after school, whereas others prefer to ‘unwind’ first, or have their meal then do homework later. Let your child decide.

•Establish a study zone. It’s also very important to try to create a suitable place where your child can do their homework, ideally somewhere with a clear work surface, good lighting and no interruptions. Try to teach younger brothers and sisters not to get jam on their books or to interrupt when homework is being done. It’s worth remembering that some children like to work with music on to keep them company.

• Allow for differences. Children are all different and have different learning styles and some prefer to study alone, whereas others like to study with friends or family.

•Use resources. If there isn’t space in your home try a local library or some schools offer a homework club. Visit the local library with your child and encourage them to use it. They can use computers there to get on the internet if you do not have access at home.

•Get tech savvy. The internet can be great for looking up things and finding out more so encourage your child to become an independent learner and to go the “extra mile” with their studies.

•Read together. As parents you are your child’s first teacher, and one really practical way to help your child is to read together, particularly when your child first starts school. But even as children get older they still love to be read to – and remember to share the stories between both parents, as Dads are powerful role models and have a strong influence on their son’s attitude to reading. Let them see you and older children read.

Listen to your children read little and often on a regular basis and you will really notice a huge improvement in your child’s reading ability and confidence. Try taking your children to the library to get a library card and help them find books to suit their interests and hobbies. Libraries are very keen to help you find suitable books and during the summer holidays they often run exciting competitions and reading events to encourage your child to enjoy reading.

•Offer rewards. Make homework rewarding by setting up some treats like staying up 10 minutes later or watching 10 minutes extra on the computer or having a friend round or playing a game with you.

It’s about getting the balance right, feeling at ease and confident around schoolwork and just “being there” to lend a hand or a listening ear so who knows, the old tradition of children getting home from school, hanging up their school coat and sitting round the kitchen table with you to do their homework may not be a thing of the past!

Download here my very popular  “Magical Toolkit: Studying, Learning and Spelling Made Easy – MP3 & Workbook”