To do or not to do it? How much? These questions have been a thorny issue for years and the jury’s still out on the answers.

It’s an age-old debate that has been discussed endlessly — how much homework should children be doing and when? The answer, according to RIC Publications director Chris Carter, lies in direct communication with a child’s classroom teacher.

“Different schools have different programs and policies, so before parents go off and do their own program, they should really talk to the teacher about how they can work together in setting homework, ” Mr Carter said. “In the younger years, kids are learning the basics, so homework should be about reinforcing and practising what has been learnt in the classroom.”

Mr Carter said before the ages of eight or nine, children did a lot of their learning through play, and exercising life skills and developing social skills were crucial parts of the learning process which should not be underestimated.

“Children younger than Year 3 are already at school from 8.30am to 3pm, so parents need to be asking themselves if they really want to add another formal learning environment every day after school, ” he said. “If a child is falling behind, then the teacher and the school should talk to parents about developing a program to help.”

Mr Carter, whose company publishes more than 1200 educational titles, said his 15 years teaching primary school had taught him that children learnt and developed at very different rates.

“Children in the same year at school can actually be two or three years different from each other in a learning sense, ” he said. “There were many times in my career when I thought a child would need a lot of extra help, and then the light switch would come on.

“If parents can be relaxed, comfortable and confident in forming a partnership with the classroom teacher, it will go a long way in assisting their child to learn at their own rate.”

Meanwhile, high-school students would benefit enormously from always taking notes, said Elevate Education State manager Mike Honiball.

“We say that students in Year 11 or 12 should hit the ground running at the start of the school year, ” Mr Honiball said. “Parents can help by being aware of the course outline and helping students become familiar with what they need to be covering from weeks one to 11.

“Encourage students to make notes on everything they are learning. If they are not making notes, this should be a red flag, because it means they are not retaining the information.

“If a child is falling behind, talk to their teacher to find out where they need to work harder.”

Tips for planning homework:

•Understand the assignment —write it down and ask questions.

•Got a spare half hour at school? The more work you get done there, the less you’ll have to do at home.

•Develop a schedule —especially important if you have a lot of sport or other activities.

•Find a quiet place —not in front of the TV or in a noisy room where brothers and sisters are playing.

•Make yourself comfortable —make sure all the stuff you need is within reach.

•Take a break —even 15 minutes can help you refocus.

•Put it in your bag —the only thing worse than not doing your homework, is doing it and leaving it at home.


© The West Australian

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