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Homework: being a supportive parent

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Helping your child with their homework and revision can often be a huge benefit when it comes to exam day.

Here Dr Nick Smith, Courses Director and founder of Oxford Home Schooling, part of the Oxford Open Learning Trust, offers his top tips for doing it well.

Children are more likely to perform better at school if they are supported by parents and other family members with their homework. Family involvement with homework can also help your children see that school work is important and that you take an active interest in what they do at school. It’s also a good chance to spend time with your child - and you might even learn a thing or two.

A recent study by Oxford Open Learning Trust in partnership with YouGov found that parents struggled more than non-parents when it came to remembering basic principles learned in the classroom. Despite often needing to lend a helping hand with homework, the research found that some parents are rusty when it comes to their maths skills, with 37% admitting they don’t remember how to work out the median, compared to 24% of non-parents.

The curriculum has changed a lot since we were at school and the way children are taught is changing too. By keeping ourselves up to speed, we will have a greater understanding of our child's education and will be better placed to support their learning.

Perhaps most importantly, helping your child with their homework and revision ensures they are learning at a pace that suits them. If your child is struggling at school, individual support can improve the situation, as special needs are often more difficult to meet in a classroom environment. This frequently applies to children with learning difficulties such as Aspergers, ADHD and Dyspraxia.

If your child is an overachiever, you can always introduce them to more advanced concepts, giving them a head start in their education.

Helping your children with homework takes patience, enthusiasm and organisation. Here are our top tips for ensuring time spent helping your child with their homework is as effective and enriching as possible:

Block out time for studying

Structure is important for you and your child when it comes to homework and revision help. Try to book out an hour or so of study time for your child each evening at a time which works well for both of you. Remember, the minimum time your child should be spending on homework and independent learning will vary by age. Socialising is just as important to a child’s development, so try to help your child find a good work-life balance.

Get to know your child’s teachers

Speak to teachers and find out where your child is doing well in school and which subjects they may need particular help with, including going beyond the occasional parent’s evening interaction. Email has made it much easier to build a rapport with your children’s teachers - you might also be able to use your school’s website or social media accounts to keep track of upcoming projects and activities. Knowing your child’s teachers also means you can point out any areas where your child might need extra support. It’s important to be considerate of teachers’ time and resources inside and outside the classroom, but if you’ve noticed your child struggling with certain concepts, it’s worth letting their teachers know.

Remove distractions

A quiet and calm studying environment will yield the best results for your child. Although some find that music makes homework time more enjoyable without being disruptive, television and video games should be saved until later. It’s just as important to consider any noise you may be making that could distract your child. You might want to set up a time to go off and read for a bit while your child gets on with school work.

Google is your friend

With the answer to most school problems just a click away, don’t fret if you can’t remember how not to split an infinitive. Independent learning and revision will always be more effective than relying on a Google search, but the digital age has made it easier than ever before to find a solution to your homework conundrums or simply brush up on unfamiliar concepts of school days gone by.

Check online for a reliable source to your problem and make sure you can translate this to your child’s learning level. Course materials and textbooks are a better port of call for the right information, but using the internet can sometimes be easier and more convenient. The information age is upon us – so make sure you and your child are taking advantage of it!

Enjoy yourself

You’ll be amazed by how much you will learn by helping your child with their homework – and the part you can play in their personal development is simply invaluable. Whether you’re really confident about maths or might need to brush up a bit, it’s worth seeing how you can help your child.

Test how much you remember from your school days with the Would You Pass? quiz from Oxford Open Learning and share the results with @OOLTrust 

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA_CEOP.

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