Let me set the scene. It’s Friday! The working week is done and you think you can relax and put your feet up, (unless you’re a teacher then you know that’s impossible). But no- your little monsters have just got their homework today and you know if you don’t get them started, it will be a massive rush the night before the deadline!
But you know how it goes, you think to yourself, we have plenty of time and it’s only Friday. Before you know it, it’s Sunday night! Aaaaaaahhh!!! Homework is due soon and I don’t even know what they need to do! Nightmare scenario… They have to make an erupting volcano or something ridiculous like that and you start feeling a little nauseous. What am I going to do? Panic mode has truly set in!
I guess I could:
- Guide them through their homework regardless of the fact that we are short of time.
- Ask the teacher for an extension
- Do it for them!
Which one would you pick? The last option is a definite no-no, don’t even go there. It is the easiest option but what good is that doing our child? I know we’ve all done some of their homework for them and in our heads we hear a little voice saying, “Its ok, it’s just this one time,” or, “I’m NOT doing their homework for them, I’m just helping.” Nonetheless, it a dangerous road to take and the beginning of a slippery slope downhill for our children.
So, let’s go back to Friday night and be good, well-behaved parents, start as we mean to go on… even through I’d love to sit in front of the telly watching nonsense, eating a massive slice of chocolate cake! The plan is on Friday evenings to sit with my children and go through the requirements of their homework to ensure that they fully understand it. On Saturday they would do most of their homework and on Sunday they add the finishing touches and double check it’s all up to standard. Done! Simple!
So, I ask my children to get out their school books, (or log into the schools virtual learning environment), so we can look over the homework they have to complete. I have to deal with the moaning and groaning, “It’s Friday, why do we have to do homework? I can’t be bothered! I hate homework!” I wish I could tell them I feel absolutely the same way, but we have to remember, we are good, well-behaved parents who have to set a good example to our children. So, we’ve managed to check what the homework is without pulling out our hair.
It’s now Saturday. Homework must commence. We all know that the best option is to guide our children though any difficulties with their homework and give them the skills to find answers rather that give them the answers. Most parents would know that is easier said than done. Apart from all the cooking, cleaning, washing… I could go on, as a minimum; we have to find time to read with our child on a daily basis too.
I think it’s fair to say that all children prefer one subject to another. In my daughter’s case, who is currently in year 4, absolutely loathes comprehension but loves doing maths. She enjoys it so much that sometimes she has completed her maths homework on Friday night, (making my life a little more bearable!). When it comes to doing comprehension the gloom sets in. “I HATE this! I can’t do this!”
That is not what I want to hear. I get worried, and my heart sinks. I get a horrible feeling in my stomach and I know where this is going, most likely ending in tears because she starts to doubt herself and does not believe in herself anymore. Again, the easiest option might be to give her the answers, but what good would that do my daughter and for her confidence?
My husband and I are lecturers at two different further education colleges. We have seen the effects of spoon feeding education to our children. Our courses offer students without GCSEs a fresh start. Often these students lack any independent learning skills because they have been given answers throughout their education rather than being given the tools to enable them to find those answers themselves. Quite often such students lack rudimentary literacy and numeracy skill. Lecturers in such departments are given the daunting task of undoing the harm which was done during the primary and secondary stages of their education. I really don’t want my daughter being one of those students that we teach.
So, a different approach is needed here. My daughter now feels she is not able and lacks confidence when it comes to doing her comprehension work. The key to this is instilling self-belief. Seeing her mum and dad getting tense and frustrated too does not help the situation and will only make our daughter think that we think the same as she does, that she can’t do it, when we know she is actually more than capable. Perhaps she just doesn’t enjoy it, so we have to make it fun!
Let’s break this up into small, manageable chunks:
- To explore what is required – in my daughter’s case, have a quick look at the topic of the comprehension, how much reading there is to do and the number questions to answer. So now she has a better idea of what needs doing.
- Complete the work – so now she reads the text. The latest piece she did was on Pancake Day. She read the text to me and we talked about it as she was reading. I tried to make it relatable to her, discussing how she likes her pancakes and her opinions about the different ways people celebrated Pancake Day. This helped her remember the information. She then went ahead and answered the questions and mum and dad provided plenty of praise.
- Mop up any loose ends and double-check the work – It’s a good idea to get children into the habit of proofreading their work. My daughter was able to spot her mistakes and correct them.
When it comes to comprehension, I have told my daughter to imagine she is a detective looking for clues to solve a crime. It isn’t always easy for a detective and sometimes they need to dig deeper to find the answers. I think it is vital to stay calm and relaxed when your child is doing a piece of work they find difficult, even if you want to pull out your own hair! Make sure you reassure your child and allow them the time they need to find the answers and over time they will develop the ability to seek and find answers to anything regardless of the subject. Try to build on the strengths of your child and see if those skills could be transferred to deal with any areas of difficulty.
To sum up, make learning fun. Don’t let it become a chore; remind them that the homework is an extension of their learning. Most importantly, instil self-belief, an ‘I can do this’ attitude, and the
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