I don’t know about you, but homework is the bane of my existence; not so much the homework itself – as I’m a bit of a Hermione who played teacher with my dolls and used and abused my red pen – more trying to squeeze it in to the week around working, afternoon tea, sport, swimming lessons and well Iife really. I found it hard enough when I just had my (now) 10 year old at school but now Henry’s at school and in Year 1, I’ve found that I’ve really had to raise my game; particularly as I have two boys at very different stages in their school career (Yr1 and Y6) and who constantly need different things from me.
So, here are my top tips for managing homework without losing your sanity!
- Timing is everything; an obvious one but not to be underestimated with my two. I find that feeding mine whilst they have down time (watching TV) and doing homework afterwards works for us but know other mum friends who do the opposite; they get the homework out the way and don’t allow TV time until they’re finished. Do what works best with your kids.
- Making sure that you factor in 1 on 1 time – when you are trying to manage homework with more than one child – is so critical, particularly as they typically need different things. We obviously can’t be two places at once so need to do a bit of tap dancing here, and I usually work with Henry earlier on in the afternoon/evening before he gets too tired then move on to William who can typically study independently for the majority of the time. When it comes to creative writing – which is William’s nemesis – I try and make sure that Henry is doing something with my hubbie and occupied so that I can give William my full attention and work through the (often) painful task at hand.
- Play to your children’s strengths and interests. Look at how the siblings can help each other and might enjoy working with their brother and sister e.g. William’s having a real tween ‘Reading is boring’ moment which does my head in as he’s a cracking reader but he quite likes helping his brother with his home readers so it makes me happy that he’s engaging on some level and I hope that it will rekindle his love of books. Maths however is his jam, he can’t get enough of it and loves loves playing maths games online with Henry and helping him with his Mathletics. Total win in my books!
- I find that actually writing a timetable is a useful strategy for managing homework; more importantly getting them to write it so that they own the schedule and you can remind them of that when they start whinging that they don’t want to do it.
- And on the subject of reducing good old whinging, factoring in rewards is also a good tip – and one that friends of mine have employed more consistently and successfully than me – with completion of homework equaling weekly treats or a saving system towards bigger rewards. Give it a whirl.
- And making homework fun is so important – it can never become a chore – as that defeats the object and doesn’t exactly set them up for a lifetime love of learning does it? For example, when I came up against a wall of eye rolling this afternoon – when I asked William to write some creative sentences using his spelling words – I suggested that he write silly sentences about his brother. The sentences and insults were soon flowing and there was even (god forbid) a smile…! Even when it’s the most painful of sessions, I always try to talk positively about homework and remind them why we do it i.e. to help them, particularly when it’s optional – as it is in our school – and some of their friends might not be as diligent.
- Be realistic; I’m a big supporter of homework and believe it very necessary to reinforce what they’re learning in class, but I also think that there needs to be balance and that it’s really important to have down time to eat, rest and play. So sometimes less is more.
- Also talk to your mum mates and see what works for them; I have a couple of friends who put me to shame in the time that they have spent over the years working one on one with their kids and they’ve always got great ideas. So, if in doubt or you’re hitting a brick wall, learn from your mum heroes; I certainly do!
- I also make sure that I regularly check in with the boys’ teachers to ensure that we are targeting specific needs as opposed to just doing general tasks that have been set for the whole of the class e.g. Henry’s handwriting has been a wee bit creative (read crap!) and he needs to practice it and William needs support and encouragement with creative writing so I make sure that I focus their time in those directions.
- And finally, and as a working mum, I’m a big fan of this one; find the nooks and crannies of your day where you can bosh through some of your homework things to do e.g. William’s a super early riser so we’re trying to introduce reading first thing rather than leaving it until before bed when sometimes he’s just tired and plain grumpy. And the walk to and from school is great for times tables, playing maths and word games and practicing spelling words. It’s all about making it as painless as possible for everybody involved!
So, there are my top tips for surviving the homework years. Have I missed any or do you have any tips to share as I’d love to hear them?