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What do you do when your child says "I don't want to do homework"?
You can't do it for them, but you also have a responsibility to support their education and make sure assignments get done. It might not be possible to turn "I hate homework" into "I love homework", but there are positive ways to turn such problems round.
Often, it's not the homework itself that's the issue, but some underlying cause of unrest. The student may be having problems at school you don't know about. They might need coaching in time management or prioritisation skills. Perhaps they don't have a comfortable space in which to do their homework. Sometimes, kids simply have bad days and lash out with an "I hate school". Getting to the bottom of their real problems is crucial, and we've put together a separate guide on helping kids deal with stress.
Some people (including many students!) would like to see homework banned. To assign homework after school is to rob the student of hours that could be constructively channeled in other ways, such as playing sports or getting involved in community activities, both as important as academic learning. Such ideas would need a radical shake-up of high school systems, with teachers having to either fit more information into school hours, or else drop some of the curriculum. In its favour, working at home encourages a student to plan for themselves and understand the value of self-motivation. For now, teachers will continue to assign homework, so we better find ways to support that learning outside of the classroom.
Here, we discuss 10 methods for helping kids with homework or revision, so they can study and learn effectively.
All young children have an innate sense of curiosity. It may diminish as the years go on, but it's always there. We need to give our children as many opportunities as possible to tap into this sense of exploration so that even homework feels like a means to finding out more about the world. This isn't a quick fix, or something you can turn on in one day - it is an ongoing way for parents to engage with their children. Encourage questions about the things they see around them, explain unfamiliar words, expose them to variety in everything, and never be negative or dismissive. One of the main reasons kids say they hate homework is that almost anything else seems more like fun. If you've brought them up to find wonder and interest in everything, then they may even love their homework.
One of the most effective ways of reinforcing learning is to show somebody else how to do it. You can do this by asking your child to pretend to be the teacher, and to give you a lesson. Perhaps they've brought home some geometry to master. See if they can show you how to calculate the area of a circle or the volume of a cylinder. You can even play dumb and pretend you don't already know these things (what, you do remember, right?). You can then work through real examples as set out in the homework. Let them read out the first question to you and, when you struggle to answer, they can show you the working. The you-be-teacher game can give the student a new confidence in their abilities, which they can then use to complete the rest of their work.
Perhaps the one thing parents do more than any other to goad a student their child into doing homework is to say "you won't get X until you do it". X might be a favorite TV program, a sweet treat they'd been expecting, pocket money, or some other desirable. This might work, some of the time, with some kids. However, it's just as likely to lead to argument and resentment. A more constructive approach is to frame it in a positive light, with rewards for good behavior. "You can have an hour on the iPad once you've finished your homework," for example, or "I've got a bit of a surprise for you once you've got your assignments out of the way". (Though, in the second case, you better actually have a surprise lined up!) The downside to this approach is that it can lead to the expectation of a reward for every task you assign, so use it sparingly.
Do you ever put off doing a task because it all seems quite daunting, but then when you finally do it you discover it wasn't so bad? It's the 'barrier to entry' phenomenon, and it's a common motivational problem with homework. You can help your child lower that barrier to entry by gently and subtly easing them in to the assignment. Find out what the homework is about, then say "Oh wow, I remember doing that at school. I'd love to see how you learn it these days". This could spark a useful conversation which encourages your child to show you more. You might try diving into YouTube and watch a video about the subject, or even find an educational game, which might then motivate them to get started on the assignment proper.
Older high school kids can receive quite meaty chunks of homework from teachers, especially in the run-up to exams. Some will simply dive into study under their own steam, but others might feel crushed and not know where to begin, believing they have simply too much homework to be able to make a start anywhere. A simple schedule is one way to make things better. Break learning down into easily digested fragments and plan them into time slots over the coming week(s). Invest in a whiteboard or some other way of tracking study time. And be realistic about what you can fit into the hours available. A task that might look like it'll take a couple of hours might stretch longer with toilet breaks, interruptions and unexpected difficulties.
The problem with homework is that it's called homework. We tend to associate related words like 'work', 'task' and 'job' with negative experiences, or at least those parts of life that are not as much fun as 'play'. We need to make homework feel like something your child will want to do, something desirable. So have a think about the language of homework, and try alternatives. 'Home learning' is one, more positive alternative. 'Bonus think time' might be another.
The problem might not lie in the homework as such, but in the wider school experience. Perhaps your child is having difficulties in the classroom. They may feel like they're not as smart as their friends, for example. They may have issues with self-esteem, fitting in socially or feel generally overwhelmed. A cry of "I hate doing homework" or even "I hate my teacher" might be related to complex underlying factors. It's important to have regular conversations about school life in general. We all ask our kids how they got on in class, but such generic questions are usually shrugged off with one-word answers. Better to ask specific questions, like "Did Mrs Storey like your essay?" or "What did you cover in history today?". Then use the answers to develop the conversation into other aspects of school life. Taking a regular interest like this can diffuse some of the ill-feeling towards doing school work at home.
Why are video games so addictive? The best ones give you frequent micro-rewards. 10 rubies unlock a new badge; collecting dragon eggs advances you up a level. We can take a similar approach to education and particularly homework. You can draw up a chart of levels for them to unlock (and couple them to rewards if you like). So, for example, if they can complete all homework on time for a week, then they unlock a certain reward; do it for a month and they get a special reward. You could also tailor the approach to individual assignments. For a 2,000 word essay, say, you might have tick boxes for for finishing the background reading, for getting a plan of paragraphs worked out, reaching every 500-word mark, and for doing a final read through and spellcheck. These strategies probably won't be sustainable in the long term, it can be quite an effort for parents to plot out the reward system, but can be a short-term help for students who need a bit more motivation.
It helps, a lot, if homework has its set place in the home, and isn't done ad hoc on the sofa or bed. A dedicated desk in your child's bedroom is the best solution. It gives them a quiet, private space to get homework done, which they can arrange and decorate as they wish. If space is at a premium, then any table will do, so long as it's distant from distractions. Some students might prefer to work in a library to get the peace they need, worth suggesting if they haven't already tried it. A set time for homework is also a good idea. Late afternoon or early evening is often best, giving them chance to rest a bit after school before getting stuck in. We are all guilty of leaving things until the last minute, but working late into the nights or on the last day possible should be avoided where possible.
One barrier to doing homework is its seeming futility. "I don't want to do my homework. I hate homework. It's just repeating what I did in class. What's to learn?" Students do get a lot of hidden benefits from doing homework. They might not be learning anything they didn't already know, but the reinforcement of ideas they learn in class is priceless. Working beyond the classroom also teaches them skills like self-motivation and structured planning. Take the time to sit down with your child and explain the reasons why homework is given. Study time might detract from play time but it gives a boost to their education that'll see them good for life. Explain the downsides too, that we'd love for them to have more time to explore other areas of life, play sport and see their friends. Getting homework done is a balancing act, and one all children must master.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at 13 Essential Tips To Create The Perfect Home Study Space, or What Words Have Your Kids Taught YOU?
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