Helping your kid with homework is not always easy. We ask experts from some international schools on how to navigate this minefield…
Homework has been a topic of much heated debate in recent years. There’s the pro homework group that believes more of it attributes to academic success, while the anti-homework group argues giving kids additional work adds to the stress of school life.
Homework today isn’t what it used to be. A decade ago, kindergarten was all about learning basic shapes and colours. Kids today? They’re learning how to spell eight-letter words!
As parents, we can all vouch for the daily struggle that is homework. Often, kids don’t want to do it and we’re stuck ‘helping’ them with it, which is not ideal in the long run. Also, how much is too much homework? Do you feel like your children are drowning in it the minute they get home? HoneyKids takes these pressing questions and more to the experts at some international schools in Singapore.
Clarissa Lim, Principal, Hillside World Academy
“It’s the redirecting and encouraging that helps.”
What is your view on homework?
Predominantly, at Hillside, homework is used to assess and reaffirm a student’s understanding of lessons taught in class. There is no need for parents to be sitting there and guiding the kids each step of the way. Instead, parents should provide support and redirect the kids to reflect back on the questions. From here, they can assess if it’s a comprehension issue or conceptual understanding. More often than not, the kids may just need to read the question slowly, comprehend it, and usually, they can answer it on their own. Whether it’s language or concept, it’s the redirecting and encouraging that helps.
Should parents employ a tutor?
To employ a tutor is a question of need. Is it necessary? Parents must evaluate this question honestly. Is it merely doing what other parents do, or is it a must? Having a tutor can solve immediate problems, but can it train the kid to approach questions via application effectively in examination? If a child demonstrates learning difficulties, they should approach the teacher, so the teacher can coach and guide with consistency. Conflicting teaching could confuse the child.
Michelle Dickinson, Head of School, One World International School
“Learning at home should never be a battle and if it is, we would question the values of that learning at home.”
What is your view on homework?
Children should not view anything to do with their own learning as being work. Therefore we avoid the term ‘homework’ and refer to it as ‘learning at home’. We try to encourage children to enjoy their own learning so much that they want to share their learning with their parents at home. There is no research or evidence to suggest that enforced or compulsory homework has any positive impact on academic success for young learners. Rather, we believe in providing opportunities for learning at home that encourage discipline, self management and enable students to share their learning with their parents.
How can parents make sure homework doesn’t become a battle?
Learning at home should never be a battle and if it is, we would question the values of that learning at home experience. At OWIS, learning at home is fun, engaging and embedded in real life experiences through directed play.
Amy Paul, Assistant Head of Elementary, Australian International School
“Be supportive of all attempts by your child to research topics of interest and to devise their own ‘homework’ tasks.”
What’s your view on homework?
At AIS, homework is given over a two week cycle to allow time for students to complete it alongside other commitments they have. It is revision and consolidation of learning – no new information or concepts are given in homework tasks. Homework begins in Prep (6 years old) with 10-15 minutes per night and continues throughout Elementary school to approximately 40-50 minutes per night in Year 5. Prep begins with sight words and reading. From Y1 to Y5, homework includes reading and some mathematics.
How can parents make homework time easier on their kids?
We neither expect, nor wish parents to do their child’s homework for them. However, there are some things that you can do to make things easier:
- Take an interest in their reading each night and talk about possible ideas for related activities
- Help them to plan and organise their time
- Encourage them to work reasonably quickly and efficiently. There is no point in continuing if they are frustrated or tired
- Encourage them, and express approval and satisfaction
- Be supportive of all attempts by your child to research topics of interest and to devise their own ‘homework’ tasks
Brian Ó Maoileoin, Primary School Principal, UWCSEA Dover
“Nothing is so educationally valuable that it should spoil your relationship with your child.”
What’s UWCSEA’s approach on setting homework?
Our children’s days are like adult working days time-wise – on the bus at 7.00am; often home at 4.45pm. That they have deadlines to meet beyond that is cruel and unusual punishment for some children; others take it in their stride. As parents, you know best when it comes to making a decision on completing homework. If it’s an awkward week, just be open with the school and explain courteously that you need to be a parent, not the homework police.
How can parents balance home life and homework?
There is an ongoing debate about the usefulness of homework. It is an educational debate and, for me, there is one unassailable truth, nothing is so educationally valuable that it should spoil your relationship with your child.
As their parents, you know best when it comes to making a decision on this kind of thing. Be open with the school and, if there are other pressures at home that week, explain that you needed to be a parent and not the homework police. Since we set homework, it would be a disservice to students if we were to permit a casual approach to submitting it.
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