Educational methods and schooling priorities change greatly over time. It’s almost guaranteed that you wouldn’t recognise some of what your child is doing at school compared to your own school experiences. There’s a gap, therefore, between what you think is happening at school and what is actually happening, and it helps when you act to bridge that gap as parents. Here are some tips on this:
1. Know what your child is studying.
If your only way of establishing what is being studied is through your child’s own feedback, you may get a wrong impression of where the school’s priorities are. Attend Parents’ Evenings as a basic, so that you can get feedback directly from teachers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to get something clarified. The more you know about what your children are doing and how they are doing at it, the better equipped you will be to help.
2. Help them with organising things.
One of the biggest things that schools run into throughout a child’s education, all the way from Infants to the Sixth Form, is an individual child’s ability and willingness to get organised. By statistic, the better performing students are the ones who have a better sense of time management and priorities. Even academically challenged children do better when they plan their time effectively. But many children are not naturally organised and need assistance, mainly with time management. Setting up a workable timetable is a big step forward; getting it adhered to is even better progress. The trouble is that children tend not to think in terms of products or end results, and thus don’t plan to use time effectively. Adults usually have more experience and better estimation in terms of planning their time to get something done. Use this to help children get better control of their schedules.
3. Give them a space.
Similarly, children tend to clutter their spaces and not make best use of them. Encourage children to have a space and to set it up for the work that is demanded of them. Clear a desk or table and set it up with pens, paper, dictionaries, a computer if needed and other resources. If possible, locate this space somewhere where the child won’t be interrupted or distracted -interruptions and distractions being the primary enemies of getting homework done!
4. Limit electronics.
One of the biggest distractions in this day and age for children is the range of electronic devices available to them. These are so easy to use, child-friendly and within reach that it is a wonder that any work gets done at all. Your child will get far more work done if there is some agreed limitation placed on these things, including internet and social media access. When a whole world of interesting interactions is literally a finger-twitch away, this can be a struggle, so it’s important to get agreement and establish some goals and potential rewards with children if they abide by agreements and get work done.
5. Be ready to spend time with them.
The trouble with homework is that it is, by its nature, a ‘foreign body’ in most homes and is naturally resisted by many individuals as well as by the family’s normal routines. Other demands -social engagements, family interactions, leisure activities- lay a powerful claim to a child’s attention and energy when the whole edifice and agreement that is ‘school’ is not present. The best way to overcome this is to be inclusive. You can not only attempt to involve the family in the homework demands by building a need to get it done into the after-school routine at home, but also break down the barriers between ‘homework’ and ‘home’ by spending time with a child to understand what he or she is working on, what the expectations are, and what you can do to help. This can range from actively contributing to the child’s work to giving the child the time and space to do it.
It’s natural enough for schoolwork and the life of the family at home to be separated, but this can lead to a child feeling isolated and perhaps even abandoned to study on his or her own. Offering your help in the above ways can really support a child to do better with studies, no matter what the subject.