A good homework routine – Stage 2: Defining the rules in a mature way.
Basic rules are key to success
It is likely that you, like me, have been in a very different homework routine for a few years. Any significant change will challenge your children’s sense of safety. It might even challenge their perception of how much you care for them. It will definitively challenge their desire to have you near by every time they ask or look around.
For these reasons it’s very important that you define the approach and share it with them, and any other adult involved, clearly.
Here are the basic rules:
– Define when the homework will be done. Try to make it the same time every day or, at least, the same routine. This could be just as they get home, or 30minutes after being at home or, in the morning. It doesn’t really matter. You can even ask them for their preference. Once it is agreed, minimise the exceptions. I always suggest to do it within 15minutes of being at home on Mondays to Fridays. This creates a powerful routine and frees family time for the weekend.
– Define where and how. Another part of setting the routine is to ensure the place and conditions are as similar as possible every day, specially in the first few weeks, It is also important that they have the right environment with the right equipment and minimum disruption. For instance doing the homework in the kitchen while mum/dad is preparing dinner will create too many distractions.
– Set up a clear time plan. Talk with the teachers and estimate how long it should take them on average. Give them a bit of time extra (ie. 40 mins instead of the 30 recommended). If you have children in different year groups, ensure each one knows their time. For those with less work, prepare a book or other quiet activity to do while their older sibling finishes. This will help them prepare for when they need to do longer work.
– No extension (officially). Let them know that, when the time is up, there is no more time. They’ll have to go with the homework as it is. I always advise to be flexible with the time in the first few days but not telling them. If you allow them 40 or 45 minutes, keep it to yourself.
– On the day: take 5 minutes with them to clarify what they have to do. Let them decide the order in which they need to do it. Ask them to prepare the materials they need accordingly. Depending on the maturity of the children, call our time every 10 or 15 minutes. This allows them to understand their progress and time remaining. It is also important they realise that if stuck in a question, they need to move onto the other.
– Question time. It is possible that they have a few questions. I advise to allow them to ask you up to 3 questions maximum. The first few days it will be chaos and quickly they’ll learn which questions they can work out and which they need help with.
– Review work.Ensure they always allocate time to review their work. Afterwards, for the first few weeks, you need to review their work. If they haven’t got everything right tell them in generic terms (ie. “I think you need to review your math” or “review this page of maths”). If they still don’t get it right, after one or two tries, point them to the exercises they need to review and step back. Let the get it right by themselves. Little by little they will get better at reviewing and you can start pointing out to the questions they need to address.
– Additional support. It is possible that your child really doesn’t understand a topic or the basic knowledge are not strong enough to comprehend it. If you feel you can explain it calmly and constructively, spend a bit of time over 2 or 3 days explaining the topic and maybe doing a few trial exercises with him/her (there are loads of resources online). It is important that you limit this approach to a few minutes and a few days. Afterwards they either should be able to do it by themselves, or you will need the help of their teacher to reinforce those concepts.
The most important part: the reward. Ensure that they can use all the remaining afternoon/evening free time for play or doing fun stuff. This is the biggest reward they can get. This will be their main motivator in the short time.
All the rules above have to be shared in a positive way with the children. Let them express their views but be clear on the fundamental approach.