Faking it: homework hell

Books and stationary on a school desk


It’s every parent’s dilemma. How do you help them get their homework done while encouraging them to do it on their own? And how do you get it done without the usual last minute rush on a Sunday night? Working mums provides some tips.

It’s been all over the news this week. Do children get too much homework? Should primary school children have any homework at all? While everyone else debates the pros and cons, you are having to get on with the business of fitting homework coaching into an already packed schedule. How do you provide the calm and reassuring guidance they need when getting to the end of the week in one piece is a minor miracle? Workingmums gives you some tips on how to fake being a good homework mentor.
1. Homework Routines
Establish some sort of routine – or at least that’s what all the books say about every childcare issue so who are we to swim against the tide? If homework is a weekly thing, set a day to do it and stick to it. Alternatively, if your life has nothing in it which could be called routine and you have to allow for emergency trips to the GP/vet/walk-in centre plus assorted parties, outings to relatives, sporting activities, premieres of Camp Rock, etc, you may want to basically try to get it done more or less on the day it is handed out or you will forget about it till Sunday night at 7pm and have to help someone small do an entire project on the eating habits of sharks in 20 minutes flat.

2. Being Positive

Try to sound upbeat about homework, no matter what kind of sinking feeling it inspires in your heart. Sprinkle every second sentence with helpings of ‘great’, ‘fantastic’, ‘wow’, etc. Try to sound sincere even though you are desperate to collapse on the sofa and watch Eastenders.

3. Prepare for projects

Assemble a stock pile of magazine cuttings, postcards, etc for use in the dreaded “projects”. Get an encyclopedia out of the library and keep renewing it for ever. Buy a wide selection of top trump cards – a fantastic source of handing information [particularly on sharks]. Consult Wikipedia on just about everything. Beware: teachers like to think they are being creative by giving projects and tend to provide a longer deadline on this. Ensure that you mark the deadline a week early with a red cross on your calendar or you could be forced to help your child squeeze a four-week project into two hours on a wet Sunday afternoon.

4. Literacy

This has a special category all of its own. If you have more than one child you will have been through each reading scheme several times. This means the punchline of every Floppy book [‘Oh no’ said Kipper] will no longer hold a thrill for you. You must seek your enjoyment elsewhere. While we would like to say that teaching your child to read is a highly emotional and fulfilling experience, this is not always entirely accurate. Particularly if it is 7pm at night, they are knackered and moving into the manic stage where they refuse to read the book unless they are upside down or saying the words backwards, and you are dreaming of dreaming [if only you had time to dream…]. You could spice it up by thinking of ever more devious questions to ask which are loosely based on the text or get older children to share the load. Mentoring is very in these days.

5. Maths

At primary stage, at least reception age, this should be easy to coach. Try making it easier still by using bricks or coins so they have to add and subtract real things. This will not work once they get on to multiplication, unless you have a very big purse. As soon as geometry enters the picture you may have to refer to professionals or do some homework of your own.

6. Older children.

This is a category all on its own. Do not pretend to be all-knowing, but similarly do not admit your ignorance. Clothe yourself in mystery and talk up the importance of homework having to be done by the student alone. Talk up also the fact that the syllabus has changed radically since your day. Do not give an accurate picture of your own attitudes to homework, but instead present it in some new Labour, eager beaver kind of light as something that encourages enterprise, industry and will ultimately lead to Britain being a leading economic force in the world.

7. Pretend to be super organised

Do not in any way give the impression that you always leave things till the ultimate deadline and then rush them, even if this is your customary style of working.

8. Hover

Adopt an encouraging yet distant presence during homework sessions with older children. Once a time has been established to do the homework, saunter into the room and drop encouraging ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at appropriate moments during the proceedings, issue a time check [20 minutes till bedtime] and withdraw before being asked too many questions about the solar system when you can barely remember the names of more than three planets.

9. Get help!

Rope any unsuspecting adults in, particularly favourite relatives. Invite them round for a cup of tea during the scheduled homework period and scarper.

10. Secret stash of stationary

Always ensure that you have a set of crayons or felt-tip pens stashed away somewhere high so that you can find them at any given moment when there is a sudden emergency. Ditto rubbers and pencil sharpeners.

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