Homework vs. work and home: Who picks up the slack?

There has been a fascinating shift in the way education is being viewed and applied worldwide. Spearheaded largely by the studies and findings coming out of Nordic countries like Finland, homework is one of the old methods that are falling by the wayside.

But like all new systems, the new trend is taking a while to reach every corner of the globe. So, for the foreseeable future, South African children will be expected to do homework after school hours.

The why

It can be frustrating for parents who are familiar with these new trends, but it’s important to remember that pedagogical changes take time. Lobbying the school board and educators can go a long way to change the status quo but, in the interim, children still risk getting into trouble if they don’t complete their homework. There are also some kids who simply need more attention in certain subjects.

In a class of even 20 kids, teachers do not have the time to spend an extra half hour with an individual child, who may be struggling with certain concepts. This issue is even more important in the foundation phase of learning (Grade R – Grade 3), when children learn the basics of reading and arithmetic. If we want to give our kids the best possible chance at acing their school years, we need to step up at a time when they need it most.

“If you loved mathematics and science in school, you should be the one helping your child with these subjects … Your passion for the subject can make all the difference whether or not your child ends up loving these subjects themselves.”

child doing homework writing

The when

For working parents, the “when” can be a hairy subject. Although many aftercare centres, au pairs and housekeepers may be requested to supervise homework, not everything gets done. Most kids are not self-starters when it comes to anything tedious, let alone more schoolwork when they’re finally tasting freedom. So, when is the best time?

Although long-term projects and speeches can be shifted onto weekends, true success comes from a daily routine at approximately the same time. Whether kids have a lot of homework or none at all, insist that they sit with an open book and complete “homework time” while you’re cooking dinner, just before bedtime or as soon as they get back from home – depending on your and your child’s energy at any given time.

Tip: After bath-time is a good rule of thumb, as it guarantees that your child is warm and relaxed.

The who

It would be easy to pin this on whoever’s available, but that’s not really fair, is it? It’s like basing the criteria of your child’s homework partner on whoever happens to be near them when they open a book. We suggest the following three steps:

1. Play to your strengths

If you loved mathematics and science in school, you should be the one helping your child with these subjects, and not just because you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on. Your passion for the subject can make all the difference whether or not your child ends up loving these subjects themselves. When they see their parents enjoying and solving complex equations, it shows them that it can be done and it can be pleasant.

2. Don’t take over

For Grade 1, it will be extremely frustrating watching your pride and joy struggle to read basic words. But resist the urge to keep reading it for them. Your job is to help them follow the instructions. When you begin to take over and do the job for them, they’re not really learning anything at all (and their teachers will almost certainly spot your handywork if you keep giving answers).

3. The thing about maintenance

Doing regular homework with your child may not make a massive difference to their overall academic performance. Some kids just aren’t that focused on these things. But you’ll never know what an impact not sitting with them might have had, and it shows them that you’re willing to spend time with them.

Whether you or your partner decided to take turns or divide up the subjects; whether you choose to do it the moment they get home, or just before bed-time; whether you spend hours on it per day or limit the time to something reasonable – the long-term mental and emotional rewards of spending time with your children cannot be quantified and homework is a strangely good excuse to do it daily. It is worth it!

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