As a teacher and a parent, I have mixed feelings about homework if I am completely honest. I can see the value of homework. Homework has to be of value though. As a teacher there never seems to be enough hours in the lesson; especially when it comes to exam classes. Homework is great for consolidating and extending class work, finishing the bits that didn’t get done in class. As a language teacher, it is a godsend for learning all the vocabulary that is so important.
As a parent, however, I can definitely see the other side of the homework argument. O has always done his homework, he sees it as part of his studies and has never questioned it which has been lucky. He may not have always put in the maximum effort, but I haven’t had to stand over him in order to make him do it. That is certainly not the case with the younger two. R and L are not fans of homework. Homework time in our house is usually a Sunday afternoon. The boys don’t have a huge amount of homework yet. They are supposed to read every night and they have a set of spellings, a numeracy and literacy homework each week. I know that some children their age have more, but that is more than enough.
L in particular struggles with homework of any kind. Not because he can’t do it, more that he can’t be bothered. The minute you mention anything, he starts huffing and puffing and unless it is something that he really takes his fancy, it is an effort to get him to do anything. R often surprises me. In school, he is the one who works the hardest, he loves school and often works his socks off. Homework though makes his squirm. At home, there always seems to be a hundred and one things that he would rather be doing.
Noël Janis-Norton, a former classroom teacher herself offers strategies to help parents tackle the subject of homework in Calmer Easier Happier Homework. The title of the book certainly resonates with me. Homework is certainly not something that is calm or happy at the moment. Aimed at parents of children from 5 – 16 years old, Noël Janis-Norton offers chapter by chapter advice to help parents establish good homework habits by establishing a set of rules and routines for homework which in turn will change your child’s attitude and attention when it comes to settling down to do homework.
It is a fascinating book to read. I have to admit that I am a little cynical when it comes to books that offer strategies to change things for the better, but even the first couple of chapters made me realise that I was approaching homework the wrong way and that my children’s attitude towards homework was largely down to me. As the author herself says; “Homework is one aspect of children’s schooling that parents have the most access to and the most influence over. Therefore, it makes sense for parents to be proactive and to harness the huge potential of homework to improve academic learning and sensible work habits.” I’m probably not the most enthusiastic when it comes to homework and what sort of example am I setting by not prioritising homework and by not showing more of an interest.
I can see that taking a more proactive approach to your children’s homework can help in two ways. Firstly, it is setting a positive example. If you are interested and engage with them about the homework, it will have a positive effect on them and they will appreciate the time spent and interest shown in them. Secondly, it is the only chance that we have as parent to really see what they are doing and capable of doing first hand. We really should be encouraging them to take pride in their work, whatever it maybe, rather than letting them hand in any old rubbish simply to get it out of the way.
The main thing that I have got out of Calmer Easier Happier Homework is that a homework routine is a really good thing. Many of the elements of the book will come in more useful in a couple of years, when the children have more regular homework, but the principle of doing homework at a set time every day, before the many other distractions get in the way is a good one. Whilst our children might resist the idea at first, “if we persevere, staying friendly and firm over time, and sooner than you might think possible, resistance fades, the rules become accepted and even appreciated. The rules then gradually become routines, habits.”
I have gradually implemented this as best I can around clubs and my job, but I definitely find that the boys are now more willing to accept that after school, they come in have a drink and a snack and then settle down to practise spellings or do reading. It is half an hour of calm before the electronic devices or football takes hold. I sit at the table with them and we talk about the work or books if necessary and I am certainly enjoying that time with them even if they aren’t.
Calmer Easier Happier Homework is a great book. I have certainly taken a lot away from it and whilst it is quite prescriptive, I do think that you can take elements away from the approach that will help even if you don’t see yourself following the guidelines completely. I would recommend this to any parents of school aged children to read, whatever the age of the child and I am now keen to read Noël Janis-Norton’s previous book,Calmer Easier Happier Parenting.
I was sent a copy of Calmer Happier Homework for the purpose of this review.