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Five Easy Ways to Get Through Homework Time

How can parents and students approach this extra schoolwork time and minimize the related hassle and anxiety?  

Rare is the person who can look back upon his or her school days with fond memories of homework time. Chances are, upon returning home after a demanding school day, the comforts of kicking back on the family sofa and watching your favourite TV show, or settling down to lunch, made the already really hard task of getting back into “school mode” to complete homework even harder.

As students, we are told, and grudgingly accept, that it is work that has to be done, to get the grades, to pass the year, to pass the exams, to get the certificates and the acceptance letters…. but, is that necessarily the case?

Consider that the education system in Finland, for instance, which has been undergoing a major overhaul since the 1970s, has done away with the drudgery of homework as part of a strategy to produce all-rounded and less stressed-out students. In 2016 Finnish school students ranked first in the world for achieving the best overall test results, according to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), coming in sixth for reading and 12th for maths.

Naturally, it is not just the elimination of homework that has projected Finnish schools into the upper league tables. Student to teacher ratios are lower than most countries, fewer tests are meted out to students, and all teachers are required to have completed a Master’s degree, with their profession accorded the prestige that it deserves.

So while the jury is still out on the true productivity of homework, and bearing in mind that an education is a privilege still in many parts of the world in the 21st century – how can parents and students approach this extra schoolwork time and minimize the related hassle and anxiety?  

Establish a routine

As a parent, or student old enough to take responsibility, a home routine should be established which apportions appropriate time enough to rest, eat, and enjoy time on the internet/phone/TV, before settling down for a suitable amount of hours to complete homework. A routine works much like a body clock once the routine has been put into practice for a little while. Knowing what to expect once you get home and that there will be time to recharge your energy, a scheduled start and finish to homework time, as well as making time to wind down and relax in the evening, can help ease the pressure of tackling homework.

Find a workable space

Assigning a particular environment or room for homework is so important in creating a space to focus and concentrate on work. This space should be as removed from the hubbub of the home as much as possible and distractions such as mobile phones, televisions, and social media turned off. For children this is especially important, although many older students are able to work with some background noise such as music or the television, for others however even the internet needs to be disabled! Try and understand yours or your child’s tolerance levels regarding possible distractions and place boundaries accordingly.

Work towards breaks

Short breaks are required to rest the mind, encourage clearer thinking, and provide a reward of sorts. Apportioned breaks every hour, of 15-20 minutes, could serve as a time to allow for checking social media, making a quick phone call, pouring a drink or grabbing a snack. It has been said that 90 minutes is the time it takes to become fully absorbed in any task carried out, in which case a break may not be needed until the student finds a “natural” break in the work at hand. However, for younger schoolchildren a break can provide more focus and serves more as a reward to work towards.

Rewards

For younger children who can be extremely undisciplined when it comes to completing homework, short-term and long-term reward promises from parents (that must be kept!) can provide the impetus and incentive to make them sit down and do the necessary assignments. Short-term rewards could range from allowing them a sweet treat to eat once the homework is completed, or to watch a film, TV show, play with a friend, whatever it is that you know the child would be happy to work towards. Long-term rewards can motivate children to concentrate over time to achieve academic goals, knowing that there will eventually be a big reward sometime in the near future. Perhaps a visit to a theme park or the purchase of a new video game or toy they have asked for.

Support

Support comes in many forms. Whether it is a caring parent or guardian who will sit beside a child and offer help or encouragement, a study group of friends who will exchange notes with each other and foster a fun working environment or, where more discipline is required, a hired tutor can reassure a student of their abilities and aid in raising their level of achievement. The best support of course comes from within. If a child or student can be inspired to find the capacity to learn more, be curious, believe in their capabilities, accept mistakes and failure, but strive to do well, then the sting of homework can be lessened considerably.

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