As regular readers will know, our son was a summer baby and started school shortly after he turned 4. This has meant that school has been a struggle for him and homework is no exception to that. In the early primary years, and the start of juniors in particular, homework would result in tears almost every week. While there is plenty of research to suggest that homework is of no benefit in the primary years, for the moment its’s still set at most schools. Here’s how we are now get primary school homework done each week without tears.
Is Primary School Homework Compulsory?
The short answer is no. Children are not legally required to complete primary school homework and if you feel strongly about it, I would suggest speaking to your school about the possibility of not doing it. Having said that, there is research to suggest that the practice of reading, spellings and timetables at home does have value so it may be worth focussing on those things.
Homework in the Infants School Years (Reception to Year 2)
Children are usually encouraged to read with their parents at home right from the start of school. Some schools will set homework from the reception year too although this is usually something fairly relaxed like looking out for numbers on their walk to school.
Once they are in year 1 and 2 homework may become slightly more formal but will still often just be the suggestion to practice the class work at home. If your child is happy to sit down and do this in a “homework session” then great. If not, I’d suggest working it into everyday life. For example, cutting food to practice fractions. Sharing out play food at a teddy bear’s picnic to practice division or collecting 10 toys they are allowed to bring with them on holiday to practice counting.
You can encourage writing at home by asking them to write out birthday cards or messages to friends and family members. If you want to get them thinking about different types of word then pretend you’re stuck. For example, “I can’t think of a different word for big, can you?”
If the homework set is too formal for this approach but your child is unwilling to sit down and complete a worksheet I would suggest talking to the teacher and explaining that you’ll aim to cover the topics set with a less formal approach. Teachers understand that some children of this age are less ready for formal learning than others.
Junior School Homework (Year 3 to Year 6)
Once junior school begins the homework quickly becomes more formal. Children are generally required to read for 10 minutes a day, learn a list of spellings and practice their timetables as well as completing some other work. In our school we tend to have a rotation of an English worksheet, online maths and topic work.
Essentially the homework is still an extension of class work but with a more formal method of recording it. It can be a great chance to see where your child is struggling and give them some extra support if necessary, and perhaps even consider a tutor.
Tips for Getting the Reading Homework Done
For some children reading for 10 minutes a day is a pleasure, for others it’s a chore. I have a whole post on tips to help reluctant readers but I’ll summarise a few here.
While the homework might say 10 minutes a day you don’t have to stick to that exactly. If ten minutes is too long then do the length of time you can do without your child getting upset. We want reading to eventually become a pleasure so the last thing we need is for them to create negative associations with it.
You might want to alternate so that you read a page and your child reads a page. This can break it up for them and also make them more able to understand the story which will in turn make it more enjoyable.
It’s best to have a plan to read at the same time everyday. While bedtime, when they are already tired from the day, might not be ideal, it might realistically be the only tike you can fit in. Experiment and see what works for your child and your schedule.
Tips for Spellings Homework
It’s hard to make learning spellings exciting. Memorising involves repetition which is by its nature boring. Like with reading, it’s useful to have a set time each day when you practice. For us, this is while I make the breakfast every week day apart from Friday (when the kids go to before school basketball club).
The most common method for learning is “look, cover, write, check”. I do this by writing out the spellings each week and cutting them up, the children then look at the spelling, turn it over, write the word and then check it’s correct. It’s an effective learning method, if not the most exciting. There are some other methods you can try if you want some variety, I tend to stick with look, cover, write, check because the kids can get on with it while I make the breakfast.
Tips for Timetables Homework
This year the Government has introduced the year 4 timetables screening which has made timetables homework more of a focus than ever before. My older child was the last year to not have he check and if I’m honest I almost wish he had. I’m seeing how much of the maths they do in year 5 relies on a sound knowledge of timetables and it’s made me realise how important they are.
Because my oldest doesn’t yet know them off by heart and my youngest is just starting her timetables journey in year 2, practice is still part of our daily routine. I’ve found that letting them do this on a screen makes them more willing to get on with it so I’ve gone with that. Boy child has access via the school to the TT Rockstars website and so practices there. Girl Child uses the Squeebles apps which are really great. There is one for timetables and one for division facts, they cost a few pounds each but are definitely worth it. Check out 50 ways to teach your children Times tables for more ideas.
Worksheet Based Homework
Homework is often set as worksheets in the primary years. These are usually a continuation of something that’s been done in class. I would suggest you focus only on getting down answers to the questions and, as far as possible, ignore issues around handwriting and spelling. I’ve found that asking them to get everything right at the same time always leads to tears. As long as the teacher can read it, it’s fine (and you’ll be amazed what teachers can read).
Its a good idea to read through the worksheet yourself before they start to make sure you understand it and will be able to help them if they need it. I quite often have to google the meaning of things like “fronted adverbial” for English homework.
For maths its a good idea to check you know what method is expected for the work. Most schools will have information their websites, if not, sites like The School Run will show what the current method is.
Topic Based Homework
Depending on the topic, your child may well be raring to go when the homework is a something that’s caught their imagination. If it’s something they are less keen on, see if you can focus on a part of its that interesting to them, for example, battles in history homework, links to food in science homework etc.
You can also bring it to life by visiting local museums that have displays of relevant materials or even by just visiting the library to find some books about it.
How Much Should You Help With Primary School Homework?
This depends very much on the child’s age and ability. My year 5 child is now sitting down and doing his maths homework by himself but still often needs me to sit with him for English worksheets to answer questions.
It’s important not to do homework for them. One of the benefits of homework is that it gives teachers a chance to see if your child is struggling with something. If you need to give them a lot of help to complete the work, it can be worth noting that for the teacher so they know your child might need some extra help in that area.
Once they are in secondary school they’ll have much more homework so if you can start making them responsible for getting it done themselves now, then all the better.
General Tips for Managing Primary School Homework
- Have a set time when it gets done every week – eventually your child will accept that it’s homework time and may even become keen to get it done so they can move on to something else (it’s take us two years but we are there now!)
- It’s also good to have a set place where homework is done, somewhere comfortable, without distractions
- Make sure you understand the work before you ask them to do it, with maths check that you know the current method
- Don’t worry too much about spelling and handwriting if that isn’t the focus of the homework, it can lead to extra upset
- As they get older, try to be close enough if they need help but let them get on with it on their own
- If getting homework done is causing real issues, talk to their teacher, they can be flexible
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