Happy Homework Hour: How to Organize, Support, and Encourage Your Child’s Learning at Home

As children move from primary to secondary education, their school life undergoes many changes. One of the biggest changes for teens is the volume and quality of homework they are expected to complete and turn in.

Here, I outline 10 key strategies to help your child organize and show how you can support their learning. With effective support and interest in his learning, your child will be motivated to put more effort into his schoolwork, which will lead to an overall increase in the level of learning and achievement.

1. Let him show you what has been established: Often times, students receive a daily school diary, in which they write down the set homework and project due dates, and so on.

2. Discuss each task and what it will entail – ask your child what he thinks is being asked, for example, does he need to respond to an established text, or do research, or write short answers, or even design and make a poster? As the exams approach, teachers will set review assignments. Make sure your child knows and understands what the teacher expects of him for each assignment.

3. Help decide which one has the tightest deadline: This is called prioritizing, something many parents have to do every day, for example, make dinner before sitting down to watch TV or pay the monthly electricity bill before the quarterly water bill. Your child will benefit from learning this skill early in life. Homework due tomorrow must be completed before tackling a project that is not due until next week.

4. Assign a time interval to complete the task; here you need to ask your child to estimate how long the working set is likely to take. This type of goal setting allows you to understand how much weight to put on the task and the speed at which you should be able to complete it. For example, designing, making and coloring a science poster will take between an hour and an hour and a half, while writing a sentence explaining the meaning of 10 keywords in science will take about 20 minutes. If an assignment is taking much longer than expected to complete, you can verify that your child is still on track – that is, they are handling the assignment at an appropriate and expected level of detail. However, it is best to be flexible and allow your child to learn that it is okay for an assignment to take longer to complete than initially estimated. In the long run, your child will learn to estimate the time required more appropriately, an excellent life skill for adulthood.

5. Provide the necessary resources to complete the task: A plumber, doctor, chef or electrician cannot be expected to deliver a task on time to the required standard if they do not have the tools of their trade. By the same logic, a student cannot produce a quality assignment without the necessary resources, for example, dictionary, atlas, cardboard, scissors, glue, Internet connection, etc.

6. Provide an appropriate environment for your child to study: a comfortable chair and table in a quiet place is fine. Dining tables are ideal if your child doesn’t have their own room or desk space in their room. Some people find it helpful to have some background noise while working, eg radio or mp3 player; others prefer to work quietly without visual or audible distractions. Find out what works best for your child and try to eliminate distractions or provide the mood-setting element to help calm him down.

7. Check your progress regularly – Every 10-15 minutes ask or (discreetly) look over your shoulder or sit next to you for a minute to see if you are struggling, that is, if you are struggling or find it easy or interesting , etc.

8. Stay but stay busy – Your physical presence will help your child in two ways: i) it shows that you are interested in their learning and the learning process and ii) that you are there to support them if needed.

9. Support him, but don’t do it for him. It can be tempting for understanding parents to complete homework for the child, especially if it is difficult for them; Note that you will not do your child any favors if you i) take away the opportunity to learn through experience, ii) do not allow them to risk failure, iii) take away the opportunity to be responsible, and iv) eliminating the opportunity for him to succeed.

10. Congratulate him when he completes his work properly. This is enough encouragement for you to take on more responsibilities next time. In fact, it will eventually start homework time without you having to remind it. And ultimately, that’s what you want for your child: a responsible and confident approach to tackling any task head-on, knowing that their efforts will be supported and rewarded.

Key concepts:

  • Help him get organized by prioritizing and setting a target time in which to get each job done.
  • Provide the necessary facilities and resources to allow the task to be completed successfully.
  • Support and encourage his efforts, but don’t do it for him, so he can learn from his mistakes and enjoy his successes.
  • Celebrate and praise their achievements and efforts by acknowledging what they have done well before criticizing their shortcomings.

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