Helping your primary school child with homework
Teachers design primary school homework to be relevant, rewarding and even fun for your child. A little preparation and planning can make it even more beneficial.
Input from parents and carers is crucial to learning outcomes, and homework is also a great opportunity for this to occur.
However, families are busy and having the right structures in place helps keep it from becoming an additional source of stress. Below you'll find tips, information and resources to achieve this.
At a glance
- Homework is usually revision of concepts already covered in class.
- Get into a routine of doing homework at a set time.
- Ask your child to tell you about their homework.
- Don't jump in and give them the answers. Homework is also about teaching kids to be independent learners.
- If your child is struggling with homework, talk to their teacher.
Video: Helping with homework
Aims and benefits
Homework is effective when it reinforces content already covered in class, which is why it often takes the form of revision.
But it's not meant to be dull and repetitive, learning by rote. Quite the opposite, it's intended to help children retain new information by revisiting similar material in a different environment.
Homework brings children's school experience into the home, allowing families to understand their progress and engage more closely with the curriculum.
What if there's a problem?
If your child is struggling, try to work out if it's a time management issue or something to do with the content:
- You can address time management by following some of the advice below.
- If it's related to content, discuss it with their teacher. They'll be able to offer advice, or perhaps recommend an appointment with your GP to check for hearing, eyesight or other potential issues.
Right time, right place
To get them started it helps to create the right environment.
We can't expect perfectly quiet homes all the time but we can minimise distractions by switching off televisions and music and asking children to put devices aside.
For older children the best place to work could be their bedroom or some other quiet corner of the house but younger ones may be better off with parents or carers nearby.
Wherever they are, ensure they have access to all the right equipment such as:
- scrap paper
- internet access and a printer (but only if required by the task).
Deciding when and how to structure homework time is important too. Does your child work best straight after coming home or after they've had a chance to wind down?
Younger children can only sustain relatively short bursts of concentration, usually about 15 minutes. Those in Kindergarten aren't necessarily expected to fully complete all their formal homework. They may only need to read books.
Even older children often need breaks. It's okay to allow these but try not to let it interfere with the workflow - suggest a few neck stretches or finger wriggles, for example. If there's no homework assigned, encourage them to read.
Learning good habits
However homework is structured, it's important to be consistent. Students with a regular routine are more confident and achieve better results.
It's inevitable some disruptions will occur and when they do it helps to keep track of things by staying organised.
You can help children learn organisational skills via the various homework planning apps available or by downloading our term planner (DOCX 47.04KB).
It also helps if they start work on tasks as soon as they?re assigned, giving them more leeway for unforeseen delays and avoiding the prospect of night-before meltdowns.
How much help is too much?
Once children are settled and ready to begin, it's time to grapple with the content itself.
While it's true parent and carer support helps, this has to be balanced against the fact that homework is partly there to let children develop independent working habits.
There's a danger of parents or carers effectively completing tasks themselves, negating any educational benefit for the child.
This has the added disadvantage of obscuring learning gaps that may need to be addressed in class by the teacher.
In the end what it means is that parents and carers have to be prepared to see their children fail sometimes.
Today teachers view mistakes as an important part of the learning process, and they try to help children to see it that way too.
Support, encouragement and a positive attitude
Achievement should always be recognised and praised but it's just as important to focus on effort.
The best thing parents and carers can do is provide encouragement, a positive attitude towards challenging tasks and the right environment.
Talk to your child about what is being asked to do and try to help them come up with a solution themselves.
A few tips for reading, writing, spelling
The following can help your child become a more effective reader:
- Predicting - use information from the text, images or your own experience to try and predict what might happen next.
- Questioning - ask and answer questions about the text to help children understand it.
- Monitoring - if something doesn't make sense, stop, reread and think or discuss.
- Visualising - it can help to paint a picture in our head of things being described or explained.
- Making connections - compare what you're reading to something in your own life, another text or something happening in the world.
- Summarising - notice the most important things in the text and use your own words to describe it.
Help your child think about who they are writing for and why. For example, there's a difference between writing a letter during a holiday and a tourism brochure or story or film set in the same location.
Read your child's writing or have them read it to you. Praise them for trying new words. Encourage writing at home by:
- asking your child to keep a diary of special events
- having them label photos or pictures with captions
- writing notes, letters and stories regularly.
When your child asks how to spell a word, encourage them to have a go first, then discuss their effort. If you are using an online dictionary, make sure it is Australian. The same goes for a spell check on the computer - check language is set as Australian English.
Look, say, cover, write, check
The following can help with difficult words:
- look carefully at the word
- say it aloud
- cover it
- write from memory
- uncover and check spelling
A few tips for maths
Maths today is about understanding number patterns, not learning by rote. See our maths A to Z for a comprehensive glossary of terms your child might encounter.
Consider the following when helping your child:
- Stay positive and try to avoid lowering expectations by saying, "I was bad at maths too."
- Don't jump in with the answer.
- Ask: "What is the question asking you?" or "How should we go about working this out?"
- Practise times tables. Children who know them are more confident with maths.
- There is always more than one way to get the right answer.