A parents’ guide to homework

Why do we have homework? How long should it take? How involved should I be in helping my daughter?

What is homework for?

Homework tasks are usually set in order to consolidate or extend what your daughter has learnt during a lesson. It might be learning vocabulary or formulae, it might take the form of wider reading or further research, it might involve practising further and more complex examples to reinforce her understanding of a new topic. It should not be a series of “finish off what we started in the lesson and did not complete”.

How do I know what homework my daughter should be doing?

It is important for you as a parent to understand what your daughter’s school’s policy on homework actually is. Unless you know what she should be doing and why, you will not be able to support her. Most junior schools, or prep schools for girls up to the age of 11, will not set huge amounts of homework each evening. Usually younger girls will have spellings to learn each week, reading to do, some maths to practise or times tables to learn and some writing for English or topic work. As your daughter becomes older, more homework will be expected from her, perhaps an hour or more each night in Year 7, increasing to up to two hours per night once she starts on her GCSE, AS and A level, IB or other advanced courses. Each subject she studies will have specific allocated time slots each week.

Most schools will issue parents with a homework timetable and a home-school diary for you to sign or write comments in. As your daughter enters adolescence, she may well become reluctant to share her diary with you or let you see her homework. Try to show your interest without it becoming a battleground. Make sure that you are kept informed by the school if your daughter is not completing her homework satisfactorily – it is too late to discover this from her end of year report.

How do I ensure that my daughter spends the right amount of time on her homework?

Daughters appear at both ends of the spectrum: those who spend far too long on their homework, never satisfied with their efforts, writing it up again, yet more neatly, and generally trying to make it perfect and those who spend as little time as possible on it and often deny its very existence. Girls from both these groups can also fall into the habit of not actually handing their work in to the right person or place at the right time so that it can be marked.

Try to identify the best times for your daughter to do her homework. Often girls benefit from a break and a rest when they return home from school, but if your daughter arrives home quite late because of sports or music activities, you need to ensure that she is not working too late at night and missing vital sleep. Often schools will allow girls to complete some of their homework in the library or a study room during the day, but don’t fall into the trap of accepting, without checking, that your daughter has already finished all of her homework and can therefore spend the evening in front of the TV or computer or on the ‘phone.

If your daughter is spending far too long on her homework, there may be two quite different reasons. One is that she is constantly distracted by her phone or computer, so she is not actually concentrating on her work, but enjoying the social scene. The other is that she has perfectionist tendencies; in this case, it is important that she learns to recognise that homework can be “good enough”, she must learn to stop and move on to the next piece.

How can I help my daughter with her homework?

Often you will not be able to help, or you will not be allowed to help! It won’t benefit your daughter in the long run if someone else does her homework for her. However, you can offer to test her on spellings, vocabulary or tables. But the best thing you can do is to offer her support and encouragement, provide a suitable study area, set clear guidelines for her as above and supply her with drinks and healthy snacks while she is working.

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