In the feedback we got from a recent survey of parents and carers we had several variations of this question:
“How do I help my kids with homework when it’s above my level?”
It’s a question parents often ask when their children move up to secondary school. Homework may become a more prominent part of school life than it was at primary school, and aspects the curriculum will have changed (several times!) since parents were at school themselves. We don’t of course want parents to do the homework for their children, but looking around at websites offering help to families, some of the advice seemed a bit too generic.
I wrote this piece for our school bulletin. If you feel it’s useful, Please feel free to use and adapt as you wish. The first point refers to Show My Homework which we use to set tasks. Parents can monitor it using the website or app.
How do I help with homework?
This is a question parents often ask when their children move to secondary school. Here are our top ten tips on how you can support your child:
1. Keep track of homework at http://www.showmyhomework.co.uk or by downloading the app. You can see what tasks have been set, when deadlines are and when your child has submitted it.
2. Help your child organise their time: keep an eye on deadlines and encourage them space work out, rather than leaving it to the last minute.
3. Make sure they have space and somewhere quiet to work. If that’s difficult at home, our library is open before and after school each day.
4. Make sure they have the right equipment to tackle a range of tasks: pens, pencils, ruler, sharpener, eraser, coloured pencils or pens, scissors, glue stick, protractor, drawing compasses, calculator, and a dictionary. If money is tight, contact school: we can often help.
5. Limit distractions – no screens or TV. Check that any online research is directed at the task. Some people feel that music helps them to work, but there is good evidence that it can impair performance.
6. Take an interest in what your children are studying and the homework they are doing. Talk with them about school, and encourage them to try their best, and ask them to share the feedback they get from teachers.
7. Insist on the basics of good presentation: titles underlined, work dated, neat, legible handwriting, answers in full sentences, good punctuation and spelling.
8. Encourage regular reading: well-read students develop better communication skills and knowledge across a range of subjects. Reading should form a part of homework each day.
9. Ensure that your child acknowledges sources of information. From year 7 they should list the books or websites they have used. This good habit will help avoid plagiarism later and make the move to formal referencing of work easier.
10. Encourage reflection, resourcefulness, and resilience. If your child has difficulty with a question or exercise, ask what they have already learned that could help them. Prompt them to use resources like a dictionary, for help. If they are still unable to complete a task, please write a note to the teacher in your child’s planner. When work is returned, help them learn from the feedback their teacher has given and apply this next time. Learning from mistakes is a valuable part of both class work and homework.
I hope others find this helpful. I’d be interested in examples from other schools, or suggestions for advice I could add.