The requirement for our children to do homework has been an infamous debate among teachers, parents, experts and students for quite some time. However, with the benefits of homework established, especially for senior students, the skill set of an independent learner is one that parents can help their children begin to develop from a young age, through the routine of study and homework.
Despite the student workload increasing with age, the key to students completing and benefitting homework can be summarised into a few valuable points that all parents should know. Firstly, it is important that homework and study is explained as a practice of tasks, a review of key ideas, a retention of important information and ensures that classroom learning does not go to waste. It is almost impossible for information to be retained by most students after being exposed to it only once, hence, homework consolidates learning and transfers it from short term memory to long term memory.
There exists a wealth of online and digital resources available to help you, parents, identify ways to support your children at every level of learning. In this article, we offer advice for parents on developing skills – from a young age – which as they are practiced, will improve your child’s ability to undertake self-directed study as they progress from primary and into secondary and senior school years with confidence and ease.
Create an Environment that Encourages Focus
Allocate a dedicated study area that has all the resources your student needs at hand. A place in your home, often their room, that is free of social (friends and family) and digital distractions. Some senior students may find having music helps them to focus and so parents and teens should discuss what works and be willing to give it a try. Parents can intermittently monitor the study environment to ensure that it achieves the desired result of helping your teen to focus. If music, digital or social interactions (including you) become a distraction, it is in your teens best study interests to try a different approach.
Set SMART Goals
Goal setting is a simple and highly effective life skill that will help students focus their effort, track their progress and build confidence in their ability to achieve whatever they set their mind to. As parents, you can work with your children and teens to help them articulate SMART goals:
Creating goals create a roadmap towards what your child is trying to achieve and converts wishful thinking into a course of action.
For instance, if your teen says that they want to “pass math this year” you can help them define a SMART goal to achieve this outcome, along the lines of… “I want to achieve a C+ Grade in Math in the mid-term exam by studying math for 20 minutes every day.”
Time Management and Planning Ahead
The secret to successful time management as a senior student is beginning to practice and develop good study habits from young. By understanding what study behaviours work and don’t work for your child, you can ensure that by the time they are in High School, they are more familiar with the study environment and behaviours that encourage them to be the most productive.
For students new to planning this may begin with simply making a list. Parents can help prioritise tasks either in order of deadline or where task priorities compete (or are not evident) start with the tougher subjects first because it is human nature to want to avoid the tasks, we find more difficult.
A planned approach to any workload will help people progress and overcome challenges and subsequently reduce any psychological stress associated with difficult subjects. Encourage students to start working through the plan well ahead of deadline, as the best-made plans go out the window once they run out of time to achieve them.
Create and Practice Routine
Help your teens estimate and then schedule the time needed to complete their planned study. Scheduling time each day during the school week will help. Consider the size of assignments and once a task is estimated to take an hour or more it is a good idea to break the project down into several smaller chunks.
A growing body of research supports the idea that 20 minutes is about the optimum length of time that we can continue to absorb new information, so schedule work in 20 minutes blocks and encourage students to take a “brain break” – drink some water, stretch, get some fresh air and relax – for five minutes before returning to study.
Creating a routine and sticking with it helps to develop the discipline required to take on and work through challenges and is both a study and life skill. Once your child has established a working pattern, help them maintain it. Routine builds confidence and improves overall results.
Balance is Key
Completing study and working all the time is not part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is really important that students have time to relax with their family and friends and do the stuff that they love. School work should be intertwined with hobbies, sport and fun to ensure that our children’s physical and mental health are looked after. Sometimes parents will need to encourage their kids to study more, however, you may also find that you need to encourage your kids to go outside with the dog, finish that painting they started last week or take a break on the piano for 20 minutes to provide that well needed break from study. Let them know that their health takes priority over study. Being healthy includes: –
- Sleep, lack of quality sleep is known to impede cognitive function.
- Staying hydrated, lack of water is known to impede cognitive function.
- Eating well, making nutritious food choices.
- Exercise is known to support cognitive function.
- Take time to relax.
How much homework should my child be doing?
As parents, a solid understanding of what is required by your school will help ensure you set realistic expectations of your children and/or teens. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each grade level.
Kindergarten students are not expected to complete formal homework.
In Years 1 and 2 some formal homework may be set such as reading and writing, spelling and mathematics, approximately 10 minutes per subject.
In Years 3 – 6, homework may be varied. There is still no conclusive evidence that homework provides learning benefits for kindergarten and primary school children so remember that Albert Einstein said, “play is the highest form of research”. At this age, simply helping them to establish a routine will begin to develop the self-discipline required of independent learners.
The volume of your child’s homework can be expected to increase from Year 7. Homework for Years 7 and 8 may be set across the curriculum to include tasks that require investigation and preparation for examinations and assignments. At this age, formalising a routine of 60 – 80 minutes will further strengthen their ability as independent learners.
For secondary and especially senior students research evidence shows that homework can help students learn. Homework for Years 9 and 10 can include practice that builds upon learning in class, assignments, and preparing for assessment tasks and exam study. By now students could realistically study more than one subject across 90 minutes or more.
By years 11 and 12 students are expected to complete homework independently, across all subjects, varying according to individual learning needs. Senior students will be expected to prepare for school assessment tasks and study for exams and may spend more than two hours a day studying multiple subjects. Any time management skills and study routines that you have helped them to develop during the earlier years will pay dividends for them now.
Teaching your children and keeping them on top of their school work is no easy task, so don’t be afraid to seek assistance from professionals. Tutoring centres, such as Maths Words not Squiggles, specialise in helping students understand their homework, manage their time effectively and develop good study habits that encourage them to achieve their academic goals while enjoying the process.