Creating a time and place for homework

A mother helps her teenage son with his homework. Photo: Designed by Bearfotos / Freepik

The average Australian parent spends about 4.4 hours a week helping their child with homework – so it’s no wonder it can be a contentious topic for busy families!

Ensuring your child tackles everything on their homework to-do list can be daunting, but our experts said that by re-framing what studying looks like, creating a space specifically for school-set tasks and having reasonable expectations, you can remove obstacles and make learning at home a much smoother process.

The right time

Sydney Catholic Schools Assistant Director: Teaching and Learning Iris Nastasi encourages families and teachers to ditch the idea that more homework is best, and broaden the kinds of activities they think of as part of a child’s education.

She prefers the term home learning to homework, as it better encompasses activities like raking the garden or watching an educational video as well as specific curriculum tasks.

You can highlight pages for hours, or you can actually apply what you’ve read.

– Iris Nastasi

As a school principal, Ms Nastasi said she often asked how many hours of external work a child needed to do each night to succeed. She said that though some schools will offer guidelines that parents may find helpful, there’s no one correct amount – even for Year 12 students. What a child has learned and applied during time spent studying is a much better guide.

“There’s this awful idea that kids have to spend a certain amount of time on homework every night and it’s very rigid, and I don’t think that meets their needs,” she said.

“You can highlight pages for hours, or you can actually apply what you’ve read and create a critical piece of writing or a narrative. That’s much harder – and obviously a deeper form of learning.”

She encourages parents to know their own child and their tendencies. Perfectionists might need to be discouraged from spending too much time on presentation or smaller tasks, while other children will require help managing their time to understand how to break up large assignments.

Keep up to date with your child’s homework diary if they have one, and speak to their teacher if it seems they never have tasks to do at home or do hours of additional work every night.

A great space

Having a space available at home where your child can work with minimal stressors or distractions is a great way to ensure they enjoy their time studying or completing home-based tasks as much as possible – and as with timing, it’s best to be flexible.

Let your child help you set up their space, and check in with them regularly to see if they still think it suits them. By creating the right environment, you encourage children to enjoy their space and build positive associations with their learning.

Some children work better if they are able to move around while reading, memorizing, or being quizzed.

– Anna Novak

Principal at Galilee Catholic Primary School Bondi Anna Novak suggests you choose a spot you can supervise, ensure children have all the necessary materials, and be flexible to your child’s needs – if getting them to sit down is a struggle, maybe they don’t need to,

“Some children work better if they are able to stand or walk and move around while doing activities such as reading, memorizing, or being quizzed,” Ms Novak said. “Try it out, see what works!”

Did you know:

  • The average Australian parent spends 4.4 hours a week helping children with homework
  • 13% of Aussie parents say they spend 7 hours a week or more
  • 27% say they spend no time at all

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