First of all, consider these questions before you put your child through the homework mill:
1. How old is your child?
If he or she is below 7 years old, homework is not necessary. A daily dose of play, exercise, cooking and baking, and creative activities is recommended. And read-aloud sessions of stories that bolster creativity and satisfies the curious minds!
2. What is the purpose of the homework?
If the purpose is to learn numbers or mathematical concepts, or even language skills, consider hands-on methods first. Use materials found in the house. Play card games, board games, traditional games…. Learning through play is always more fun and effective!
3. Is your child ready for homework?
How would you know if your child is ready? First, ask him if he would like to start doing homework. Some kids are very eager to start because they have seen school-going kids do them, and somehow they too want to start. (Amrita is one of them!) Some kids need to be encouraged to do some sort of practice that involve reading and writing because they take more effort and time in doing them. Yet they need the practise, and so, with patience and perseverance, we sit with them to guide and encourage them. (Our son Arian is in this category). And then, there are those kids who, despite all efforts of cajoling, bribing and even threatening, just absolutely refuse to do them! (Yes, we are talking about Sam!) For these kids, it is best to let them be. They will learn at their own time and on their own terms! Don’t worry. Be happy. (Make that slogan your daily recitation for your own sanity!)
Here are some tips on doing homework:
1. Make it short & simple – do not try to do too much. A little at a time with focus and concentration is better than trying too hard with little or no focus.
2. Make it fun – use stories and games or other things that interest them.
3. Make it relevant – Try to relate them to everyday life so that they can see the relevance of their learning.
Arian asked this while doing his writing homework: “Why is writing so difficult?” I thought for a while and offered my answer: “Well, it’s because writing involves fine-motor skills.” The moment I said it, I knew I just opened the floodgates of questions! And here they come. “What is fine-motor skills?”
Me: “Well, when you play football and such, you use the gross motor skills that involve the bigger muscles to work. But when it comes to writing, you use the finer muscles. It can be more difficult but with practice and training, you can improve!”
Arian: “Oh! Like in Pokemon? We need to train them so that they can fight better?” (His sister Sam, had recently introduced him to the world of Pokemons and they have been watching the series on YouTube from episode 1 onwards!)
Me: “Right! That’s why you need to train your fingers so you can write better!”
And if your child accepts that, then all is well and fine. For Amrita, who is taking her O levels course, homework is doing pages and pages of biology, physics and essay-writing. She likes her work neat and tidy, clean and organized. She is a good student and she loves homework!
But if your child is like my daughter Sam, who had since young refused and rejected all forms of homework, all is not lost. Just focus on other ways of learning that appeals to your child, even if it does not fit into what you normally expect or accept. As long as your child is happy and motivated to do or learn something, he or she is learning. For Sam, she hates anything that involves having to write on paper. She loves her homework from dance class: researching various dance forms online and doing skills-specific trainings at home. That is her perfect kind of homework!
1. Each child is different. Adjust, adapt and abandon if you have to!
2. Focus on his strength, not harp on his weakness. You don’t expect a penguin to fly even though he is a bird! But put him in the water, and he swims better than the duck!
3. Adopt a learner’s mind. Be curious. Be inquisitive. Be excited!