10 Tips to end conquer the homework battle with kids

It’s the end of another school day. Your kids are exhausted, you are busy preparing dinner, lunchboxes and… Is their dance/football/self-defence uniform clean for tomorrow? There’s another thing to add to that list: homework!

Some people think homework is important. Others think it’s an antiquated regime. Whatever you believe, homework exists and it’s not going away in a hurry.

Education experts and researchers can’t agree on if or how homework contributes to learning. The reason for this is because there are too many variables. Developmental capacity, the type and/or amount of homework, and whether or not parents are involved are just some of the factors. What is known is that teachers can gauge where you child is at in terms of knowledge development, and homework also assists in teaching children valuable life skills. These include accountability and responsibility, critical thinking, delayed gratification. Not to mention following directions, goal setting, independence, motivation, perseverance, self-discipline and time management.

Therefore, homework can have its place, but what you don’t want is for it to discourage your child’s love of learning.

Whose responsibility is it to complete homework?

A lot of parents say that homework battles are common and that the whole experience is upsetting to deal with. When it comes to completing homework, the responsibility is on your child. However, parents and caregivers have a role to play.

Your child needs monitoring, support and guidance. You also need to ensure that the homework is something your child can complete by themselves.

The goal with all of this is to give your child some autonomy in their life and to encourage them to be self-disciplined. Homework can prove helpful because it allows your child to develop competence, confidence and resilience. You don’t want to do the work for your child — that’ll only weaken them in the long run — and neither do you want the homework battle.

You want to make homework an enjoyable routine then all this fades gently into the background. Sounds unlikely? It’s not! It’s entirely possible but it takes belief to pass this on to your children. They mimic and absorb your every mood and action. If you haughtily suggest that they do their homework, they will haughtily ignore you. If you sigh and tentatively suggest that perhaps they should do their homework, they will stare at you with such melancholy in their eyes that you can’t bear to enforce such a barbarous thing. The effort some children put into not doing homework is frankly amazing. The energy they and we waste avoiding this daily task should be bottled.

Tips to help end homework battles

Send a clear message about homework

Homework is there to help reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. You should support your child if they need help, but you also need to make it clear that you will not be doing the work for them. If you understand what the purpose of the homework is, then you can also determine if the work being sent home is appropriate. If you don’t feel that it is, speak to your child’s teacher.

Put a plan in place

For any child to be able to tackle their homework, a plan needs to be in place. This plan will be dependent on the type of learner your child is and the stage of learning they are at. Kids should be able to complete their homework independently, to a large degree.

The plan should include what needs to be done and how much time your child should spend on each aspect of their homework. If you have young children, you are likely going to be involved in helping them with reading, sight words, early numeracy tasks etc. Older children might have subject-based homework.

Don’t assume your child knows how to plan though. You may need to sit with them and help them put a basic plan together. Offering them your support until they can do this independently is also important.

Be involved

As a parent or caregiver, you have to be involved. By showing an interest in and support of your child’s education, you will know where your child is at with their schoolwork. Doing homework with them is an excellent opportunity to monitor their progress or lack thereof.

Your kids might sit at the kitchen table while you are preparing dinner. You can watch how they deal with sometimes difficult tasks. It’s an opportunity for you to see your child shine, while also being on-hand to offer assistance when it’s needed. Your interest should be genuine. Kids know when you’re not invested. Imagine a day when you arrive home and your children pull out their homework and start without having to be prompted. Imagine them and you actually working together and conversing about what they are working on.

conquering the homework battle

Break the homework into chunks

Homework can be overwhelming, so help your child break tasks into chunks that can be dealt with during a single session. It’s unusual that children are given less than a week to complete their homework. Knowing they can break it up, especially over several days, can make completing homework that much easier.

Here are three ways you can help your child do this:

  • Break it up into subject. Put each subject into a separate pile and work through the piles one by one.
  • Sort assignments into ‘relatedness’. This means your child works on written work or computer work or project-based activities in order.
  • Prioritise based on due date. Teach your child to work on the homework that is due soonest, first.

Create a routine

Work with your child to set times when they can get their homework done. This is especially beneficial with younger children and with children who have lots of other activities to factor in. Find the best times for your child based on what their commitments are and — importantly — what their energy levels are like. For most children, a time after they get home from school and have had something to eat works best. Older children might like to take more responsibility for their homework routine, so give them some flexibility in setting times to get the work done.

Find a spot that’s good for learning

Find a spot where your child works well. That’s going to be different from child to child. However, a location that has minimal distractions is best. Our suggestions include:

  • At a desk
  • On a bed
  • At the kitchen table
  • On the floor
  • At the local library
  • Outside at a table or in a comfortable chair

Ask your child what works for them and create that environment as best you can. Check in with them every few months to confirm that the location is still suitable.

Conquering the homework battle

Help your child get started

Children love procrastination. They never seem to struggle to find other things to do. One method is to set a timer for 20 minutes and then at the end of the time the child gets a 5-minute break. Reset the timer and start again. This method might be enough to anchor your child to their homework. It’s a small incentive and something to look forward to.

Ensure your child has everything they need

Before your child starts their homework, you want to make sure they have everything on-hand to get the job done. It can be helpful to have a homework supply box, which includes things like pencils and rulers. This cuts down the amount of time your child might spend looking for resources.

You might also want to check in on a regular basis to see what upcoming homework might need completing. If the homework is project-based, this will allow you and your child to identify (and purchase) materials and supplies, such as card stock, poster materials, paints or other items.

A final word

The homework battle can be exhausting for everyone involved. With a little more planning and knowledge, you can help your child along the way. The process should then become easier.

If, however, you find you are still engaging in a homework battle after making positive changes, don’t be afraid to call for back-up. This might mean you schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss the issue. It could also mean you engage a tutor to work with your child. Tutors don’t necessarily need to be adults either, sometimes children benefit from listening to a peer or someone slightly older than they are.

Do you have any strategies to overcome the struggle of homework?


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Written by Calista Bruschi

When she’s not moulding Play-Doh or dancing in the living room with her children, Calista Bruschi is an editor and writer. She has oodles of experience working on newspapers, magazines and websites. Calista likes to organise and be organised. She loves being a mum, Italian food, wine, sport and stationery. She hasn't sleep a full night in more than five years and is powered by coffee.

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