How to help your child with their homework

Dad doing homework with his children
Homework is the bane of many parents’ lives. Whether it’s getting your child to sit down and get on with it or knowing how to help them, Camilla Chafer finds out how to get good homework habits in place.
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Where should my child do homework?

Your child needs a space that is free from distractions. So TV, computers (unless needed for research) and noisy siblings are best avoided. If you have the space for a desk in a family room, that helps reinforce the working message. A desk in a younger child’s own room can make them feel isolated from help and can also be distracting if surrounded by toys and possessions. If you don’t have room for a desk, set up some space on the dining table. They should have enough room to spread out books.

What equipment do they need?

It’s a good idea to have all equipment ready before starting the homework. This ensures time isn’t wasted searching for items and that your child doesn’t get in to the habit of procrastinating.

You should assemble pens, pencils, colouring pencils, rulers, sharpeners and a calculator. You might also need a dictionary, an encyclopaedia or a PC with internet access for homework that involves research.

When should homework be done?

Most schools set homework to be done on the night it is issued while the topic is still fresh in your child’s mind. You could try sitting down and doing the homework as soon as your child gets home from school so that you can ‘get it out of the way’. Or, you might like to give your child some downtime then approach the work after tea. You might need to experiment to find out what works best for your child and you.

How much should I help?

It can be tempting to take over and do your child’s homework, especially if it is challenging or your child is unenthusiastic. However, your child will not learn anything if they don’t do the work.

If you can, be on hand to talk through the piece of homework. Also be available to answer questions and explain how to find answers if the question has stumped you.

I hated homework, how can I stay positive?

If you have a loathing of homework left over from your own school days, try not to let it seep into the way you talk about homework. Avoid negative speech such as “I could never do that” and “I’ve always hated maths”.  Instead, try to say, “I’m not sure of the answer, let’s work it out together” or “This looks like an interesting topic”.

Many parents find the volume of homework off-putting, especially if their child is reluctant to do it. The easiest way to combat the inertia is to make homework time into a fun, sociable activity. Make both of you a warm drink, get some snacks and use it as time to help you both understand what the school is teaching.

How much homework will my child get?

The government has guidelines on how much time your child is expected to spend on homework. They are:

  • Reception – practise reading the book sent home by school
  • Years 1 and 2 – one hour per week
  • Years 3 and 4 – one and a half hours per week
  • Years 5 and 6 – 30 minutes per day