Our education expert Richard Smith offers 10 helpful tips on tackling homework during the holidays.
Teachers and educational researchers continue to debate the importance of homework. You and your child probably do too. No doubt that it is constantly difficult and frustrating to manage, especially over the holiday breaks. Some teachers see long breaks as an opportunity for a child to spend time with their families. Others, however, see holidays as a prime opportunity for students to prepare for major exams, to finish projects, or for writing extended essays. There’s a third category of teachers, typically for primary ages, which use holiday homework as a tool for you to offer your child some attention and care. Whether or not the homework is actually useful in achieving either purpose is still up for debate. Have you ever needed to trace your hand to make a cutout Turkey as an adult? Me either.
One thing that researchers and teachers can agree on is that students who spend more time doing homework have better grades in school. This may not seem particularly illuminating at first, but the reasons why are probably not what you’re thinking. It turns out that homework mainly works to help kids to develop three core attributes of becoming successful adults: 1) Working towards a goal 2) Cultivating intrinsic motivation and 3) Delaying gratification.
Homework is a chance for kids to teach themselves how to manage their time, how to cope with frustrations, how to focus, when to ask for help, and so on. In other words, kids who complete their homework assignments are not successful because they did their homework, but rather because they were able to set a goal, cultivate internal motivation bigger than external obstacles, and enjoy the work just as much as the outcome. As such, homework over the holidays should be dealt with just like homework at any other point in the school year. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s worth banishing a child to a desk during family gatherings. At their core, kids really need to be recognized, understood, and to feel loved. Don’t let their homework stand in the way of that.
So, how do you balance family time with that book, essay, and major science lab? Here are ten tips to help.
Ten Pro Tips:
- If you’re going away, talk to the school, or the teacher, and let them know your plans. Good teachers will help make the work manageable.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Complete the assignments early, especially before the friends and family arrive, or before you leave on vacation. If the relatives have already arrived, help your child to find a regular time each day, in a spot away from distractions.
- Only give your child the work and materials that they need. Their phone, laptop, notebooks, and other assignments are probably making them feel overwhelmed or acting as distractions, or both.
- Help them understand why they need to learn the subject. If you’re not sure, talk to them about the qualities of successful adults mentioned above.
- Set homework goals and work towards them in frequent, short bursts. Research shows that frequent and shorter assignments are the key to learning.
- In between the work, take active breaks. Playing outside is a good idea, but watching TV or playing online is not.
- Do the easy work first. Create a homework checklist that organizes the assignments from smallest to largest amounts of time and tackle the smallest first.
- Check in frequently and offer specific praise. Avoid statements like “good job” or “that’s correct” and instead use statements like “I admire your hard work” even when the answer is incorrect.
- Keep Santa out of it. Use the external rewards as little as possible. A big part of the learning process, and of life, is finding the internal motivation to do the things that we’d rather not do.
- When all else fails, hire an academic coach. This person would help your child with organization, planning, and most importantly, with understanding why the work matters.