Homework struggles - FAQs for parents

MANY parents hope and expect their children to independently take homework seriously as part of their daily study routine. However, multiple distractions in the home environment like extended family engagements and the inevitable work commitments, busy parents may well overlook or even ignore necessary monitoring of homework diligence until the arrival of poor test and examination results.

This is a compilation of common homework-related problems that a parent could possibly face as they raise their child; we hope that these suggestions would be useful to assist our onSponge community to cope with homework struggles. We encourage you to add to this discussion by recounting your own experiences and remedies that could enlighten others.

How can I make my child see homework as a positive activity?
  • If you want someone to be positive, you yourself must show a cheerful and positive outlook on life. In addition, take an active interest in your child's school work, ask about what happens in school each day, check on how they feel.
  • A learning environment at home helps a great deal. Have daily quiet reading time. Perhaps this could be time for your own studies if you are on a personal interest course or continuing education programme. This impresses on them the importance of education and continual learning.
  • Try to ensure a quiet, comfortable study area with good lighting; it could be the dining area that automatically can assume a priority setting for homework, study and reading at certain times. Maybe space could be limited but how you arrange for this environment shows the importance you place on education.


Should I allow my child to do homework while listening to music or watching television?

Some students can work with a radio or stereo on, while others must work in silence. However, television which commands both visual and audio faculties can be a serious distraction. Yes, television can be a learning tool but schedule it for a different time. Don't mix it with homework which requires quite a bit of visual concentration on its own.

How much help should I give?

Depending on your child's school level and study habits, extra homework help is probably needed when they are younger. No escaping the need to sit with them, directing, explaining, watching and checking their work. Be encouraging, and be quick to praise when they get it right, and show patience when needed to correct mistakes. But don't do your child's homework for them to avoid making it difficult for teachers in school who need to see your child's problem areas. But if both parents work, it is common for many children today to do their homework before their parents come home. In such an event, ask to see your child's homework and discuss it with him. Ask questions and be supportive. Yes, all this calls for much effort in spite of weariness after a day of hard work in the office but this reflects the value you personally place on their education, a critical point that will be noted and appreciated by your child.

I don't understand my child's homework. What can I do?

Such non-comprehension is often a reality! Remember the body of knowledge has grown much since your own schooldays, along with with new methods of learning. Also, what you learned at higher levels before may now appear to be taught at an earlier stage today. Another stumbling block could be subjects that you never had or that you didn't like when you were in school. However, you can still help your children by praising their progress, getting help from a public library, talking with their teachers, or getting the help of another trusted and qualified adult.

How to talk to my child's teacher about my child's homework problems?

Schools encourage parents and families to be involved in their children's education. Your child's teachers can offer their own homework tips and ideas on how you can help your child to learn. So make it a point to meet each of your child's teachers and ask what kind of homework will be given, what books your child will be using, and what kinds of assignments will be given. For specific problems, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss them. Both of you should work out a plan to meet your child's needs, and make regular follow-ups on how your child is doing.

My child appears bored by homework. Is this normal?

Yes, this is normal. Just think back to your own childhood unless you belonged to the rare breed of enthusiastic learners! But if your child appears particularly bored or unhappy, talk to your child to find out the reason. Then talk with the teacher to come up with a solution. As teachers want students to learn from homework, feedback helps them to match homework with student ability and maturity levels.

How do I make sure my child is really doing his work?
  • This is related to the question on cultivating a positive feel about homework time. Homework must be seen as part of studying and while a normal child may not exactly look forward to it, it must be ingrained from young as a positive habit, a daily activity enhanced by your own participation if able. By having such a regular time, even if there is little or no homework as can happen sometimes, your child will go on to use that set time to review past lessons, read a book, or work on assessment books that you may have bought for them.
  • For younger children, you can check their homework and, if there's no objection from your child's teacher, sign it, and date it. Some schools post their homework online so you can check whether there's regular homework given.
  • Make it known to your child of the daily study/homework time, that you will not tolerate irresponsible behaviour about study or homework. Don't wait until poor examination results start to indicate a serious problem. For those needed extra monitoring, you may need weekly contact with the teacher about your child's progress.


How can I reward my child for doing their homework, doing their best or for getting good results?

Parents' approval and praise is critical for a child growing up. This is especially true in learning. So praise your child's work often. Show pride when they do their best, no matter what results they get. However, try to avoid giving money or gifts as rewards which tend to centre on self. Instead, consider shared activities as your child's success or good effort should be seen as an occasion for family rejoicing.