Homework. It’s a word that’s often met with groans and frustration from parents and children alike but it shouldn’t be that way. Taking these simple steps to create a positive learning environment can turn those groans into grins.
Creating a study space
The first step is to create a physical environment that’s conducive to learning. Distractions are everywhere and children don’t need any extra excuse to lose focus so try and keep the space clear and noise level low. Apart from ensuring the table and chairs are comfortable and at a suitable height (their feet should be able to touch the floor when sitting) it can be good to add one underrated piece of technology – a simple clock. A clock helps children to see small 10-15 minute blocks of homework instead of a never ending pile of it! These manageable blocks of time can be slowly increased as your child builds his or her powers of concentration.
The apple never falls far from the tree!
Secondly, take a closer look at your attitudes towards homework. When your child has trouble with maths homework, do you tell them lengthy stories of how you struggled with maths or do you encourage them to keep trying and praise them for their efforts?
Many parents openly admit their maths shortcomings and in some cases, even brag about struggling with maths when they were at school. A 2015 study by the University of Chicago found that a parent’s attitude towards maths homework quickly rubs off on their children which can lead to everyone feeling nervous when the calculator comes out. So what’s the solution? It’s best to take your personal experience out of the equation and try to see homework as a learning opportunity. Talk to your teacher about how to make use of maths apps, books or games or research learning programs for an extra helping hand.
The three hardest words
The next step is to see learning opportunities as they happen and take full advantage of them! In a world where knowledge is often at our fingertips and children look up to us for answers, the three most difficult words to say have become ‘I don’t know’. Instead of seeing this phrase as a failure, the next time you’re stumped by a primary school geography question, embrace it by cheerfully admitting you don’t know and asking your child to teach you when they find the answer or, if time permits, find the answer together. This is a great way to lead by example in showing your child the enjoyment that can come from learning or discovering something new. To further increase the effectiveness of this step, allow your child to make some mistakes along the way and praise them for their persistence rather than their answer.
Spotting the differences
And lastly, learn from your child and your child’s teacher. While you may work best at night, your child may be a morning person. While you may work best alone and in complete silence, your child may like the background noise of people being nearby. The perfect homework formula may never be found but with these tips, we’ll all be getting a lot closer.
Kumon Australia and New Zealand
Kumon is a home-based learning program specialising in maths and English
This article was published in Issue 14 of our print magazine, February/March 2016.