As the seasons change from summer to autumn, so the new school year is well underway. At the start of September it was a pleasure to see students at my school return after the summer holidays: new students with wide-eyed wonder as to what their new school held in store and returning students picking up friendships as if they had never been apart. A new year at school is, indeed, an opportunity to celebrate optimism for the future along with embracing the potential it undoubtedly holds.
Yet how to realise this potential? How to get the best from the new school year both in and outside the classroom and make sure that the great intentions held on the first day of term are kept alive in the dark days of November? One of the battlefields that quickly emerge is around homework with parents finding motivating their children to ‘hit the books’ at the end of a school day an increasing challenge as the term progresses. Some pupils are naturally disposed to getting down to homework without demur; however this is not universal by any means. Some need a bit of carrot, others a bit of stick – or probably a combination of the two.
Work outside the classroom can equate to the equivalent of an extra year’s teaching over the course of Year 7 to Year 11, so there are compelling reasons for persevering if your child is reluctant. Some schools refer to homework as ‘prep’ or ‘preparation’. This is a good way to regard it – not as an end in itself, but as a way of consolidating prior learning and getting ready for what is to come. And it need not be an arduous experience either for the young person or their parents. A few basic tips that might help: try to create a quiet, uncluttered space away from distractions like the television, or a younger sibling; aim to set a routine – same time each day if possible – and chunk the time up. Nobody can concentrate for two hours solidly, far less at the end of a busy day at school, so aim for blocks of around twenty minutes with breaks for a snack or to stretch legs.
Keep in contact with school. Most schools will have homework diaries, pupil planners, or even a parent portal in which students record their homework. This should be seen as a shared resource forming an ongoing dialogue between school and home that parents should feel able to review with their child and make comments to go back to the relevant teacher if necessary. If there are swathes of blank pages, get in touch with the school – usually through the tutor or register teacher – to enquire why. It may be that your child needs support in recording their homework accurately. And finally, recognise a job well done. If your child develops good study habits at home reward them – a pizza on Friday night, extra screen time, a trip to the cinema – perhaps something the whole family can enjoy.
IWK – October 2015