Many of us underestimate the importance of homework for a child’s learning process and development. As parents, particularly those in working families, it can be difficult to navigate the crazy life of work, sorting the children, doing the food shop, walking the dog - or anything that adds another thing on your to do list.
So when it comes to your children throwing a tantrum and refusing to do their homework, it’s understandable that you might want to throw the towel in too - we’ve all been there at some point!
That’s why we’ve collated this list of some simple, but effective, ways to support your child with their homework and to succeed in school - even if they are reluctant to.
Why is homework important?
Homework helps to encourage children to be independent learners, and to take responsibility for the work they produce - a skillset sure to come in handy in the working world.
Completing homework consistently and successfully is sure to increase your child's rate of achievement and encourage participation in class, both of which are beneficial academically.
Supporting your child with homework
In order for your children to engage properly with their homework it requires a partnership between home life and school.
Parents and guardians play a vital role in their children’s academic success, helping to positively influence their attitude towards homework and learning in general.
Here are 8 productive ways to support your child with their homework...
1. Find ways to make homework engaging and enjoyable
One of the main reasons why children don’t like doing homework is because they see it as a mundane and compulsory task - one study found that 70% of the students surveyed regarded homework as “annoying” and “boring”.
Learning shouldn’t be categorised as ‘boring’ when it reaps so many benefits for later in life. It is crucial that, as parents, you instill a positive mindset in your children from a young age.
The best way to do this is to make learning as fun, interactive and enjoyable as possible - which can be done in a variety of ways;
- Create a shared workspace where you can sit with your child while they work without getting involved, do some of your own work, write your shopping list - anything that makes them feel as though they are working alongside you.
- Use visuals, get your child to create a homework chart with fun stickers, colours and paper and each time they do their work they can tick it off or reward themselves with a star.
- Incentives and rewards are sometimes necessary, and work successfully for many families. Suggesting a minute of screen time on a phone, iPad, laptop or TV per every exercise they complete is a great way to motivate them.
- Turn tasks into games, if children enjoy what they are doing they are more likely to remember it - you can do simple things like using smarties or sweets as numbers for maths questions.
2. Establish a positive home environment for their homework routine
Having a well-lit, comfortable space for your children to sit down and concentrate on their work is key to creating a positive environment for them.
Research from Cooper et al (2000) suggests that it is important, where possible, you choose a quiet corner or room of the house that has limited distractions. For example, avoiding areas of the house where there are video games, TV’s, and any other fun interactive activities.
Check out these top 10 tips to creating a DIY homework station that won’t break the bank.
Sadly, in the UK, there are a large number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds that receive significantly less help with their studies outside of school. These children, in many cases, unfortunately don’t have access to a quiet environment at home, and the resources they need to complete simple tasks such as reading and writing are limited.
Learning Cubs centres’ sole purpose is to help disadvantaged children with their academic performance, making the environment of their centres warm, comfortable and conducive to work for students to have a quiet space to work outside of school.
For parents of children from disadvantaged backgrounds there are many things that you can do at home or through the use of after school provisions such as Learning Cubs to help provide a focused space for your children to complete their homework.
3. Communicate with the school as much as possible
What your children tell you about their school work might be different to what their teachers will tell you. Make sure you try to touch base with teachers on a regular basis to give you a better understanding of your child’s progress. They’ll be able to advise on their strengths and areas for development.
Events like parents' evenings are a great way to discuss your child’s learning and to get some tips from teachers for how to improve their learning at home.
Parents who may be struggling to balance work and provide enough support for their children's learning may benefit from speaking to the school and finding out what kind of after school provisions and tutoring is available. Often if children come from disadvantaged backgrounds they will be eligible for free or heavily subsidised after school provision, such as the kind that Learning Cubs offers.
4. Sleep is important for homework focus
There have been endless research studies into the effects of sleep deprivation on young people and how it impacts their school work, with results showing that both chronic and acute sleep deprivation have a big impact on how children function during the school day.
One study found that in 9-14 year olds, good sleep quality, feeling rested at school and having a distinct bed time were all associated with better functioning at school. Another study of 10-14 year olds found that when deprived of sleep for a single night they have shown deficits in abstract thinking and verbal creativity.
If a child is sleep deprived and not functioning properly in a school day, getting them to do homework out of school hours will never end well, nor will it be effective.
Ensure your child is in a good sleep routine, this will vary upon their age but generally it is important that you encourage relaxation strategies before bed (a hot bath, reading), avoid using iPads, laptops, phones or TV’s in their bedroom at night, and ensure the room isn’t too hot or cold as this could seriously impact quality of sleep.
5. Allow your child to make mistakes in homework
Everyone makes mistakes at some point in their life, it is impossible to try and achieve perfection in everything you do. The same applies for your children, don’t set unrealistic expectations of them when inevitably they will fail.
Many parents, innately, want to protect their children from failure, so when you are helping your child with their homework it is easy to offer them the answer when they show signs of struggling.
It is important that as parents you avoid doing this as much as possible, and instead find ways of teaching your child the correct answer through trial and error.
Experiencing failure is actually key to building resilience. By experiencing failure it helps to develop key traits in children that will help them through to adulthood; little fear of failure, and the resilience to carry on when they fail.
6. Ensure that your child has enough downtime
Providing a balance between school and leisure time can be difficult, it is easy to fill your children’s schedule so it works around your own schedule - but this must be done with caution and consideration of when your child has time to relax and switch off.
Not providing enough downtime or leisure time for your children may lead to them resenting the time spent on homework and in school. A study by the London University’s Institute of Education, found that homework can often cause problems and rows at home, leading to no homework being done and a stressful family environment.
To avoid this from happening you can try the following techniques:
- Don’t have an extra-curricular activity planned for every day of the week, this lets your child know that there is some free time to do an activity of their choice.
- If your child is taking part in after school clubs ensure they are actually enjoying them and not just taking part to keep your schedule clear.
- Combine homework with educational trips to places like museums, galleries and other places of interest that your children can have fun at but also be learning new facts.
- Listen to your children - as a parent you are bombarded with moans and groans all day long so it is easy to pass off a comment about not enjoying an activity as another moan. Take the time to speak to your children about their school work and extracurricular activities to really understand how they feel.
7. Allow your child safe access to the internet
With the digital world evolving and schools introducing more digital technology into the classroom, the use of desktop computers and laptops are becoming almost fundamental to children's learning.
Having the ability to research and find answers to questions in an instant is a key learning tool. Thus providing safe internet access for your children is pivotal to extending their knowledge on certain topic areas.
The e-Learning Foundation found that children without access to a computer in the evening are being increasingly disadvantaged in the classroom.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the struggles many families faced when they could not access the internet to homeschool their children. It is estimated that 9% of families in the UK do not have a laptop, desktop or tablet at home.
Learning Cubs are working with disadvantaged families to bridge the gap and provide these learning resources for children to use in after school provision classes and at weekends.
8. Encourage independence in their homework
By definition, independent learning is when children set goals, monitor and evaluate their own academic progress, so they can manage their attitude towards learning.
Encouraging independent learning from a young age will have major benefits for children as they progress through to higher education. Providing more opportunities for your children to figure out the answers on their own will enable them to become more independent and less reliant on your assistance.
There are several ways you can encourage your children to engage in independent learning:
- Ask them to set their own academic goals for the school year and develop their own learning plan/schedule
- Provide your own feedback on their homework
- Encourage them to get involved in educational activities at school and at home
- Set some time each week for your child to reflect on their work and make points of how they can improve the following week
So, how does Learning Cubs support home learning?
Learning Cubs have helped hundreds of children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their full potential by offering free after school provision and tutoring at learning centres in Nelson and Blackburn.
The children who have attended their classes have praised Learning Cubs for helping to improve their academic performance, including Zainab who stated:
“Coming to Learning Cubs has helped me so much. My tutor explains things to me and sits with me until I understand.”
The centres are open weekdays until 7pm and over the weekend, providing multiple opportunities for parents to use the services for their children to complete homework or just to receive additional support academically.
If you are interested in signing your child up for after school provision with Learning Cubs, book your assessment and we’ll get started on your child’s independent learning journey.