Does your child find homework too hard?
There are all sort of problems which can arise if your child finds their homework too hard.
Left undealt with, difficulties with homework can leave your child feeling like a failure, which in turn can cause poor motivation and eventually lead them to give up on their studies.
They can also become anxious about getting told off for poor marks, which could put them off wanting to go to school and even lead to truancy.
It needs nipping in the bud.
Reasons why your child might find homework difficult
If your child finds their homework too difficult it’s usually for one of the following reasons:
- your child has been away and missed some of the prep work
- the teacher hasn’t prepared well enough or given clear instructions
- the work is at a level your child finds too difficult
How absence affects homework
If your child has been away, then it’s obvious that they will need time to catch up. If homework is set that they cannot do because they have missed the prep work, then contact the school and ask if you can help your child do the catching up for homework instead.
Often, homework is an assessment of how well students have learnt something in class. Catching up on their learning is more important than doing an assessment of it. A teacher will realise this and should help out by providing you with the work your child has missed.
Lack of teacher preparation or unclear instructions
Classrooms are busy places and it’s all too easy for time to slip by and leave the teacher rushing to give the homework out at the end of the lesson. When this happens it’s much more likely that clear instructions might not be given. Even if the teacher has prepared well by creating a resource sheet with all the instructions, they might not have had the time to ask the students to read it and ask if anyone had any problems.
Obviously, this causes difficulties for the child at home. If it is happening regularly and your child is persistently struggling with unclear instructions, then you need to let the teacher know. They might not be aware of it themselves and just assume that their students know what they are doing – especially if most members of the class are too reticent to ask the teacher to explain the homework.
The actual work is too difficult for your child
If the level of work is too difficult for your child then ask the teacher to set work at a more appropriate level. Don’t see this as any kind of failure – because work is set at different levels all the time in lessons, depending on the abilities of individual students. It even happens even in classes with only the brightest students. Teachers call this differentiation.
Too often, however, teachers don’t differentiate homework tasks and this can leave some students finding the work too difficult. There is no reason at all why teachers can’t differentiate homework too – in fact, they should. The only way a teacher is going to find out that the homework they set is too difficult is by speaking to them and then getting them to speak to your child about their difficulties.
Remember, though, homework is meant to challenge. There is no point setting easy homework as it’s not going to help your child progress. As a parent, you need to ask yourself whether the homework is difficult or too difficult. Difficult is good – they will struggle with some of it, but in doing so will stretch themselves, even if they make mistakes and don’t get it all right. Too difficult means they are unable to struggle or they don’t even know where to begin or how to make progress. It can be a fine line and sometimes teachers and parents can have different expectations of what they expect children to be able to achieve.
Things you should never do
The most important rule you should follow is: never do your child’s homework for them. Teachers learn a lot from analysing a child’s homework and often plan their next lessons based on the things their students are struggling with. If you do it for them, your child’s real educational needs won’t be apparent to the teacher and this could lead to your child not getting the right level of support in class.
In the long run, it’s better for them to get a poor mark and better help in class than a high mark and no help in class because they teacher is under the impression they can do the work when they can’t.
It is okay to help your child with homework, but parents should limit themselves to asking questions to prompt them or to get them to think about the way to solve a problem. Don’t answer the questions yourself or solve the problems for them.
How to solve homework problems
As I’ve mentioned, the solution to all these issues is the same – talk to the teacher concerned. They have the same goals as you: to see your child make progress and succeed and should be very willing to listen to your concerns. Discussing homework difficulties early will quickly get your child back on track, feeling less anxious and improve their motivation.
Another vital thing you must do is to speak to your chilD: reassure them, let them know that it is okay to find things difficult and that both you and their teacher are working together to help them. For children who feel anxious about their homework, an excellent resource you can give them is Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick’s funny book ‘How to Do Homework without Throwing Up (Laugh and Learn)‘ which will teach them to undertake homework in a less stressful way.