Homework – Happiness or Hell?


Are you one of those fortunate parents whose children love homework? Then this is probably not for you.  If homework is a problem then maybe you’ll find something here to improve it, even if only a little!

After years as a teacher, despairing over undone student tasks and targets, years as a nagging parent, then watching my own grown-up children struggle, I now have two young grandchildren who actually get very upset if they can’t come to my ‘Homework Club’.

Homework Club is where they always get a treat they love – hot chocolate with melted marshmallow. It is a relaxed atmosphere and they choose which tasks they want to do. They help set their own targets and get stars and little rewards for each achievement. There’s a tub of Plasticine to make models at the end, which they enjoy. I write and read back to them very positive reports about their work each day. Lots of laughter, some fooling around, but we get lots done.

Now your response to what you just read will perhaps say something about your own attitude to homework. Take a minute to ask yourself – it could be revealing! Did you hate it? Did you leave it till zero hour? Were you a whizz at it? Were you dutiful? Are you against homework on principle?

This is important. My experience is that parents absolutely want the very best for their child’s education but often base aspirations and expectations on their own experience. I achieved so she must achieve, I didn’t achieve so he must achieve!

The truth is that pleasant learning is effective learning. When legendary language teacher, Michel Thomas, successfully taught French in five days to Sixth Form students, his first action was to strip the classroom of desks and bring in armchairs for a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Rewards are effective when learning alone is not a goal for the child. They must be rewards that the individual child desires. Forget the word ‘bribery’ and substitute ‘aspiration’!

As to what rewards, you know your own child best. I gave an incredibly reluctant eight-year old a tiny Napoleonic soldier for every five words he wrote. This child went on to win an essay competition at 13! A special box with lots of small change means they can earn a couple of pence for completing a question, totting up how much they can earn in the hour. I know a very successful tutor with a drawer full of little toys she’s bought at boot sales etc. so they can choose their own prize.  You’ll be surprised to see that the need for rewards lessens as the subject itself becomes interesting and your child’s confidence and enjoyment grows.

Most importantly, perhaps, your child is receiving positive attention from you. The beneficial effects of that cannot be over-estimated. Nothing should interfere with that. Keep it separate from other concerns. Don’t punish misbehaviour elsewhere by taking away their special drink for example.

To sum up. Try to establish a peaceful, happy homework time with its own special atmosphere, treats and rewards. There are some fun reward quizzes that your children might enjoy. Remain calm and cheerful, listen to your child, negotiate targets, focus on the positive and praise with abandon!

It works – it took my grandson less than two months to go from reluctant reader of five pages a session at 5p per page, up three levels Free Reading to tossing off 58 pages in one session. He’s now half-way through working to earn a cinema ticket for reading a thousand pages!

If you have any questions about parenting or education, then you may find the answer in our Knowledge Bank. It’s a collection of informative articles which aim to help parents through the challenges of child raising.

reward-for-homeworkGuest Blog by Cathy Bird


Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.

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