My 11-year-old son has just started high school and already we are finding homework is a much more ferocious creature than it was in primary school.
Just this morning, he and I were up early at the kitchen table grappling with the challenge of finding another example of when he had used literacy in school. And why were we doing it bleary eyed amid the toast and cereal? That’s a very good question.
Being in Scotland, our kids went back to school a couple of weeks ago. Just long enough for the teething troubles of the new homework regime to have started to draw blood.
We’re on a steep learning curve with, I fear, a long way to climb yet, but here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Sooner is always better than later. Kids are encouraged to put the homework task on the homework diary day it’s due in. This is to make sure they know when they have to complete the piece of work, but for my son it created the illusion that he had plenty of time to get it done, therefore he wouldn’t bother tonight. We’ve started making a virtue of finishing homework tasks well ahead of the deadline.
A quiet place isn’t always the answer. Before high school started we cleared a space in my son’s bedroom and created a workstation complete with a selection of pens and pencils. At first he was vanishing up to his room to ‘do his homework’. Only I soon realised that, without encouragement, he was distracted by Lego, Airfix and other temptations. Now homework is done at the kitchen table where it’s easier for me to keep him on task.
Timing is almost everything. The step to high school is a huge one – suddenly children are expected to take responsibility for so much more, soak up a huge range of new subjects and cope with a very stimulating environment. Most kids love it and thrive, however, it still takes it out of them at first. My son was exhausted by the time he got home for the first couple of weeks. I learned that he needed a little down-time before we tackled the homework, but not to leave it too late or the need for sleep was overwhelming.
Mum’s help will be essential again. For the first time in years, I’m having to be really engaged with my son’s homework. At primary we had become used to the routines – he knew what to do and just got on with it. This is different. It’s hard going for him and he really needs my help. I’m sure that, in time, new patterns will become established and we’ll be able to relax a bit more, but, for now, it’s nice to feel wanted again.