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The Homework Debate: how to successfully avoid it while also avoiding issues

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At Sinews, we advise parents to put themselves in the shoes of a coach. A coach doesn’t participate in team matches, nor does he follow the same diet as his athletes, and of course, he doesn’t suffer the same injuries as his athletes. A coach has two responsibilities: to organize his team and provide it with the right guidance and advice, with the objective of bettering the team’s overall performance.    

 

The concept of enhancing performance is very important.

 

In this country, a big issue we face is the one of lack of productivity, and we can begin to solve this problem starting with education and its efficiency. It’s not better to dedicate most of your time to your work than to do it in less time.

 

It is so important that we begin to adopt different, maybe even crazy ideas, such as telling certain parents to not oblige their child to finish their homework if they have already exceeded the time they should have finished. At SINEWS, we are against children not being able to have free time to play and enjoy their free time as they wish, but above all, that they don’t get too used to always spending time in their “homework chair.”

 

A few mistakes we tend to make during homework time:

 

  • Sitting at our children’s side (this gesture sends many negative messages to our kids: you don’t know how to do it on your own, let me do it for you, it’s not your responsibility, it's our’s, etc.) As the proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

  • Correcting exercises and worksheets at home. It has been proven that we, as humans, learn from our mistakes. The objective homework isn’t to bring perfectly and correctly completed exercises back to school each day, it is to try them and be aware of our difficulties and potential weaknesses. The teacher will always dedicate time in class to correct homework, in which our kids have to be present, and this is the best way for them to learn.

  • Allow children to spend their entire afternoon studying and doing homework

 

But let’s take a step back to the role of a coach mentioned earlier. This concept marks the difference between completing homework with or for our children, versus simply supervising and ensuring they complete it.

 

When children are in the process of learning a language their parents don’t fluently speak, this idea of children studying and doing homework independently gives them a better chance of actually becoming bilingual. We don’t need to know how to speak German or French because we are not supposed to be doing the homework with our kids.

 

A few guideline to help us follow this model:

 

  • The almighty schedule: we get our kids used to having a school agenda or planner that is always placed on their desk to note specific studying and homework times, projects that need to be turned in, test dates, etc.

  • Allow them, as often as possible, that after school they have time to rest. Even more so if it is time with friends in a park where they can move around and be active for some time (this helps children to concentrate more when they arrive back home). This can even be an extracurricular activity or school sport.

  • Set conditions: just like kids don’t practice soccer while wearing skates, or after having eaten a large meal, in order to effectively learn and study it is necessary: to do so in the child’s room or a space in the house that is not a common space and to turn off phones and social media. This will allow children to finish much more quickly and leaves time afterwards to enjoy our electronics.

  • Organize our work: upon arriving home, we go over what our child needs to complete and how much time they think they will need to complete each task (for example, math homework: 10 minutes, read a prompt and complete a writing assignment: 20 minutes, etc.) A clock or timer placed on the desk will help kids to control the time.

  • Decide, in what order to complete the homework. Start with something more simple and that will be quick to complete as a warm-up, and then continue with more complicated assignments. Then as the last task (before resting and upon finishing) save something for them to do that is more light and entertaining.

  • Also establish breaks. Knowing when to take a break will allow our children to complete their tasks without having to have a long stretch of work and continuous effort. Just for reference: it is not possible to maintain focus uninterrupted for more than 40 minutes.

  • Supervise the child and encourage him, or her. It is more about facilitating the homework process for your child and helping them stick to the “homework schedule” they have created for themselves (for example, we stop by their room and ask how things are going, if they have any questions, we ask if it is better to ask the teacher or try to solve things ourselves, we let them know that ten minutes have passed, etc.) also, checking if they have completed their assignments effectively (without correcting them!). At times we should also review that they have corrected their homework in class from the day before and ensure they understand the mistakes they might have made.

  • We both encourage and reward their effort and efficiency, just as a coach would, giving them the confidence and letting them know they have the ability necessary to complete their work. We then play with them for a while, whether it is their Xbox or Playstation, we allow them to reach out to friends, or watch tv for a while.

 

In order to do all this, it is not necessary to understand Spanish or German, or to have high school level math skills.

 

Of course things get a little complicated when our children have learning difficulties and are being schooled in another language. They might need extra help and we might not always have the right knowledge to be able to help them. In cases like these, it would be ideal to have a tutor or some kind of help to assist our children in their studies and help them in the language they are learning. At SINEWS, we offer psycho-pedagogical home tutors in various languages such as English and German.

 

 

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