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Calmer Easier Happier Homework - Q&A with author Noël Janis Norton - ANSWERS BACK

(73 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 07-Feb-13 12:09:32

'I have to sit next to her the whole time or she just stares out of the window'.

'He says it's too hard before he's barely looked at it'.

'Trying to cope with three children's homework is driving me mad. They all need me at the same time'.

'He keeps telling me there's no homework, but that can't be true'.

If you identify with any of these problems, then you may wish to join our Q&A this week with author Noël Janis Norton, who claims ''Homework doesn't have to be a hassle or a conflict!' Her latest book Calmer Easier Happier Homework offers practical strategies to parents with school children aged 5 - 16.

Noël is a former teacher and an internationally renowned authority on the learning and behaviour of children and adolescents. She also offers classes and consultations at the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Centre in London. She joined mumsnet last year for a webchat about Calmer Easier Happier Parenting.

Post your questions to Noël before the end of Monday 11th February and you'll be entered into a draw to win one of ten copies of her Calmer Easier Happier Homework. We'll post up her answers on Monday 18th February.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 12-Feb-13 10:36:31

We're having big problems.

I'm makng good progress with ds (year 4)who used to have total meltdowns. He needs a lot of 1:1 support and the same is happening in school too. he is clever but procrastinates.

however the biggest problem is dd (year 6). She's got away with murder as we have spent so much time with ds and being called into school about him that we have assumed all is well with dd.

The big problem is she lies about having homework and acts dippy. Last week I asked her every night what homework she had and set aside time. She told me none except history research which she supposedly set about doing having taken books from the library. i found out yesterday there was a specific list of questions she was supposed to answer which she had ignored. She tried to tell me she didn't know she had them.

She tells her teachers she has done homework but left it at home and they beleive her, she charms them. I've tried threateing her with activities - she dances and acts so has to sometimes have time off school to perform and the conditions of her licence means school work is supposed to be kept up with and school permission sought. She blamed her last escapade on having to go to a piano lesson (at school) so missed the sheet. i found the sheet this morning and threatened to cancel piano. She just nodded and said yes.

I've tried all sort to help organise her. she "forgets" to write in her homework diary or bring it home so I can't see the teacher comments. Before Christmas she was made to miss an end of term dance club performance because she had detention over a piece of English homework that had gone on over 3 weeks.

She goes to high school next year how the hell can I make her buck her ideas up?

OddBoots Tue 12-Feb-13 15:25:04

_Short version_: Compulsory reading aloud at home has turned my bookworm daughter off of reading for pleasure, should I tell the school that she will no longer be doing it?

_Long version_:

My dd had to read at home in YR to Y2 but when she got to Juniors it became optional.

She would pick and choose when to read to me but always had her nose in a book, she very rarely read to me but would chat to me about the books and ask for help when needed and discussed subjects that came up, it was a happy time. She was and is a confident reader and frequently did the readings at church taking even the complex words in her stride.

Now in Y5 the school have suddenly decided to bring back formal reading to parents each night, within a few days of this all reading has become like work to dd, she has stopped reading for pleasure and the reading aloud has become a battle.

I hate conflict with the school, the only time I have battled them was over a serious safety issue but I'm wondering if I need to rebel on this one, I would value an expert opinion.

gazzalw Tue 12-Feb-13 16:14:32

Ha OldBoots, we have had the same problem! Our DD was so into her books when little and the compulsory has really turned her off reading by herself....

I was all for the DCs doing homework but after nine years of battles I've gone off it with a vengeance - GRRRRRR...

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 12-Feb-13 21:01:35

When dd's school did this in year 3 I just lied. I wrote down the none of whatever book dd was reading at the time and pretended she had read to me.

Paddlinglikehell Tue 12-Feb-13 23:42:42

Me too. Supposed to do 10 mins of reading. Dd reads it and I write the page down with the the usual note 'excellent reading, fluent and expressive' which she is on the occasions when she does read to me.

If I sat her down and demanded she read out loud every night, she would soon switch off. She reads much harder books at home, but we have to complete the reading scheme.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 13-Feb-13 12:45:21

The Q&A is now closed and we'll be sending 20 qs over to Noël later today. We'll link to her answers next week.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Feb-13 12:03:03

Noël Janis Norton's answers are now back and we're going to post them up. We'll announce shortly the ten winners of Noël's latest book, Calmer Easier Happier Homework

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:10:14

gazzalw

This is very timely. We have a bright DS who is at a super-selective grammar. He has always been a tike about homework, even at primary school, but we had high hopes that the routine of must-do, assessed homework at secondary school would make a difference. The problem is that he doesn't get enough homework to have made it a routine, daily activity. He still thinks that "his time" is play (Minecraft) time and that homework is some type of adjunct to this rather than the other way round.

Do you have a solution that will be easy to impose without too much pain? It's also having a knock-on effect on his younger DD (who currently is more receptive to hers but I fear that big brother's attitude may well rub off).

Thanks and accepting that there may be no conflict-free answer to this one!

You’re right that without daily homework your son is not likely to get into a reliable routine. That’s one reason why in my new book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework”, I recommend that children and teens have homework six days a week, even if the school has not set any that is due the next day. Your child can work ahead on homework that is due in several days, or he can practise some microskills he is having difficulty with (microskills are smaller skills within a larger skill). Don’t make this optional. Routines reduce resistance. You may not believe this, but homework really can be enjoyable as well as productive.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:27:25

PolkadotCircus

Is it mean to insist it is written and presented beautifully,apparently it is and nobody else has to?hmm

Children and teens need to be taught attention to detail because it rarely comes naturally. Attention to detail is about accuracy, thoroughness and presentation. The best way to teach this is by dividing each piece of homework into three stages. Stage One is the “think-through”, during which the parent asks leading questions and the child answers.

The types of questions you ask will depend on what your child needs to improve. For example, you might say:

“How long does this essay have to be?”
“What do sentences always start with?”
“Where should you put the carry number?”
“If you’re not sure how to spell a word what should you do?”
“If you’re not sure how to answer one of the comprehension questions what should you do?”

As your child answers the think-through questions he is visualising himself doing it right. The questions bring back into his short-term memory the things he needs to pay attention to in order to do his best.

In Stage Two your child is on his own. He does his homework without any help. Anything that you think your child might want help with in Stage Two, make a point of asking questions about that in Stage One. You will find that children are more willing to tackle their homework in Stage Two after having answered the Stage One questions because now they know what they are doing and how. This leads to a better quality of work, to increased confidence and eventually even to enjoyment of the experience.

Stage Three is the improving stage. Because of the think-through questions you asked in Stage One, you will find that there is a lot less that needs to be improved in Stage Three. But there will probably still be plenty. Start Stage Three by noticing and mentioning a few things that your child has done right (or at least better than in the past), and have your child also mention some things he did right. Don’t rush this because children learn more from a discussion of what they have done right rather than from a discussion about what they have done wrong. Next you and your child each notice two things that your child should improve, and then he improves them.

The idea of dividing each piece of homework into three stages is probably new to you, so you may have lots of questions. In my book I go into detail about this very effective strategy for teaching children to do their best.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:31:33

JenaiMorris

How on earth do you convince that "good enough" isn't good enough?

I'm not that pushy but Y7 ds does the bare minimum when it comes to HW. They are told what they need to do to reach level 3, 4, 5, 6 with all of their subjects and this is very clearly spelt out when they get extended pieces of HW to do but as far as ds is concerned once he's done enough to get a L4 (for example) he's apparently finished hmm

Drives me nuts!

Please see the answer to Polkadotcircus.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:37:59

JenaiMorris

How on earth do you convince that "good enough" isn't good enough?

I'm not that pushy but Y7 ds does the bare minimum when it comes to HW. They are told what they need to do to reach level 3, 4, 5, 6 with all of their subjects and this is very clearly spelt out when they get extended pieces of HW to do but as far as ds is concerned once he's done enough to get a L4 (for example) he's apparently finished hmm

Drives me nuts!

Please see the answer to Polkadotcircus below.

Paddlinglikehell

DD 8 (y3) gets homework every night, supposed to take no longer than 30 mins, but if she hasn't completed something in class, she has to finish it at home. I try to encourage her to do as much as she can at school, but I think she gets distracted, so it ends up coming home.

Firstly when is the best time to do homework? I find if she comes in, has a drink and snack it is hard to then get her to start homework, but it seems mean to do it as soon as she walks in the door. Weekends the same, she argues about it and I end up getting cross. If she doesn't want to do it, should I just leave it for her to take the consequences at school, or made her sit down and do it? which ends up with her being in a huff, bashing things about and generally messing about, so I get cross again!

Stupid thing is, that more often than not, she is quite capable of doing what has been given.

I need to break ths cycle!

Thanks.

As I mentioned earlier, doing homework six days a week very quickly reduces resistance, assuming of course that the homework is not too difficult. The best time to do homework during the week is right after a healthy snack and an active break. At the weekend homework should come after breakfast and before fun. Don’t allow any electronics until the homework has been completed to your satisfaction because screen time saps enthusiasm for any other activity. You may like this idea but not know how to make it stick. I address the issue of cooperation in my new book and also in my previous book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”. I don’t recommend letting children avoid homework in the hope that the consequences from school will motivate them. Sometimes that works, but often the school’s consequences are inconsistent or ineffective. The child may learn she can get away with not doing it, or she may end up feeling like a failure.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:41:04

TantieTowie

My question is: how can I set up good homework habits - and what should those habits be?

The background is that homework is kind of elective for my DS (6, year 1) We read with him, but there are also very optional options to extend his learning with spellings, maths etc. After school I tend to play an educational game, listen to some reading with DS, or recently write some thank you's (for Christmas and birthday) before his sister comes home from nursery. But should I be pushing the spelling, for instance, more? He seems to absorb what he learns at school very easily. I don't want to over pressure, or understretch him - how much is the right amount?

Challenging your child is not the same as pressurising him. As before, have daily homework sessions (six days a week), and keep them short (remember the timer). Homework does not have to be long to be useful. It needs to be at the right level, just challenging enough that your child is having to think.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:42:16

Donki

What is the evidence that homework in Primary, and particularly learning spellings for tests, has any benefit whatsoever?

(Reading with your children is a different kettle of fish. And if I could be arsed to look up the research has been shown to be beneficial

Research indicates that most homework does not add to attainment! This is mostly because children are not taught how to do their best so they end up practising their mistakes. Another reason is that quite a lot of homework is not fit for purpose. Sadly, in teacher-training college very little time is spent on how to set homework, how to teach children how to do their best with homework and how to mark homework. For these and other reasons, one of the first statements I make in my book is “Our children’s education is far too important to leave up to the schools”. The most effective type of homework is microskills practice. That does result in huge improvements.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:44:15

PopMusic

Ok, my boy is only in reception but as a teacher I am concerned that he does not want to do any reading at home. He refuses to read his reading scheme books and even bribery does not work. I know he is young but I am worried that its setting the pattern for the future. By the way, he won't even let me read to him!

You are right to be concerned. There is always a reason why children refuse to read. Often it is because they find some aspect of learning to read more difficult than their peers do. Whatever the reason, part of the solution is to have short, daily homework sessions that are at his level, regardless of the level of the other children in his class. Use a timer, set for maybe five minutes, to show your child that this activity he is dreading will soon be over. When the timer goes ding, stop in mid-word so that your child trusts that you mean what you say. It concerns me that you say he won’t let you read to him. That sounds like he is in charge and you are not insisting. As above, the solution is to read to him in very short bursts, even if he complains. Stay calm, and keep smiling. Routines reduce resistance.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:46:03

ThreeBeeOneGee

My children generally have quite a good homework routine and do most of it independently and unprompted, but my eldest (Y8) occasionally has a big project or long essay to do and he finds it difficult to plan and even harder to get started with the first paragraph. How do I teach him the skills he needs to break the task down into manageable steps?

We should not let children put off big projects or long essays. The longer they put it off, the harder it is for them to get started. You need to insist that he does a bit every day. If you’re not sure how to insist, I recommend that you read my previous book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”. Each day, sit with him and ask think-through questions that will get him thinking about the many small, simple steps that make up a long or complicated piece of work.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:47:15

aristocat

The latest for my DS (yr 6) is spellings and their meanings Such a good idea and I cannot think why this is not done anyway. Is this the same at other schools - that spellings are taught but pupils may not know what the words actually mean!

Personally I dont think that he gets much homework. Literacy, Maths and spellings weekly (probably one hours work in total)

My question is would you say its easier to do the hardest homework first or leave it until last? I suggest to DS that he tackles the hardest homework first but he always saves that until he has completed everything else.

Thank you.

Bizarrely, many schools don’t make sure that pupils know the meaning of the words on the weekly spelling list! Always have your child tackle the hardest homework first, while his mind is still fresh. You will need to insist on this because most children naturally want to put off the hardest until last. If you’re not sure how to get your child to cooperate, please read “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:48:16

Firewall

How do you make homework fun for younger children?

How do you draw the balance between making sure children do some extra work to help them improve but not putting them off education?

The way to make homework enjoyable for any age is to keep the sessions short (use a timer), to keep smiling, to make sure the work is just challenging enough and to focus on microskills. I talk more about this in my new book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework”.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:49:17

nevergoogle

I have an 8 year old son who is brilliant at reading, making up stories, drawing very detailed pictures. He can tell you huge amounts of information about professional cycling or formula 1 or world war 2.

Put maths homework in front of him....not a clue.

I mean really, NOT A FLIPPING CLUE!

and he's trying bless him, but it doesn't make any sense to him.

for example. the following recipe makes a batch of 12 cupcakes, you need to make 96 cupcakes, how many batches do you need to make?

er 96?, er self raising flour?, er birmingham? Really, NOT A FLIPPING CLUE!

Help!

What your son needs is short, daily maths homework sessions that are pitched at his level, regardless of the level of the other children in his class. Start from the point where he is competent and confident, and build from there. Focus on the microskills. Be willing to go slowly, with lots of repetition. He can learn!

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:50:55

KumquatMae

Very good timing! Homework is a nightmare here. Ds1 is eight and very capable, but every time he gets homework (thankfully only once a week) we have the same stresses. He looks at a question once and says "I don't know how to do it." so we explain it. He then goes through the rest of the questions, sometimes doing them right and sometimes wrong, guessing a lot of the time. When we.check it, if any are wrong he instantly.throws his.hands up and shouts that he.will NEVER get it right, it's too hard for him, he shouldn't be in the top set etc. We.explain it to him again and because he's already worked.up it doesnt sink in and he makes silly mistakes, which we then point out and he.gets MORE.cross. We have had meetings with his teacher where he has.expressed no concern at all, told us ds is very clever and hardworking, and if he didnt feel he.shouldnt be in the.top set he wouldnt be there. It's all very stressful, and by the end of it all of us are emotional and worn out.

Unfortunately, the more we are willing to re-explain and re-teach, the more we will have to re-explain and re-teach because children will develop “learned helplessness”. Instead of explaining, divide each piece of homework into the three stages I mentioned above. In Stage One, ask think-through questions to get your child thinking. In Stage Three, remember to emphasise what he has done right. As you say that your son’s teacher is not at all concerned, it sounds to me as if your son doesn’t behave like this at school. It is quite possible that this is attention-seeking behaviour. Children need, crave, deserve and thrive on our positive attention. But it’s easy for children to get into the habit of going for the negative attention. Perhaps that’s what’s happening here?

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:52:07

DameMargotFountain

do you not think by giving homework to younger children has the reverse effect of getting them into good habits?

i do

if a parent isn't engaged with what the child has been set, or if the child has SEN (i'm thinking ASD here), then the battle that ensues will set them all in good stead for a fight the whole of their school life

As you can see from my earlier answers, all my experience has shown me that homework can be very beneficial at all ages, as long as the sessions are kept short, parents keep smiling and the work is not too difficult. If you follow these guidelines, and others that I mention in my book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework”, homework will not be a battle. In fact, homework will be enjoyable as well as productive.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:52:47

InMySpareTime

I have found the biggest barrier to calm homework is the DCs sport/social/scouting commitments.
How can I arrange homework so that they can get it done and still go to sewing club/scouts/brownies/drama/drums/guitar/rugby/football?

It is not possible for children to do everything in the same week. As parents, we need to decide on our priorities. When children sit down to their homework already tired they won’t be doing their best so they won’t be learning much. As I said earlier, they’ll be practising their mistakes. That’s not just a waste of time; that’s actually counter-productive. Let’s remember that children have many, many years ahead of them in which to explore all of the wonderful activities that life has to offer.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:55:12

Picturesinthefirelight

We're having big problems.

I'm makng good progress with ds (year 4)who used to have total meltdowns. He needs a lot of 1:1 support and the same is happening in school too. he is clever but procrastinates.

however the biggest problem is dd (year 6). She's got away with murder as we have spent so much time with ds and being called into school about him that we have assumed all is well with dd.

The big problem is she lies about having homework and acts dippy. Last week I asked her every night what homework she had and set aside time. She told me none except history research which she supposedly set about doing having taken books from the library. i found out yesterday there was a specific list of questions she was supposed to answer which she had ignored. She tried to tell me she didn't know she had them.

She tells her teachers she has done homework but left it at home and they beleive her, she charms them. I've tried threateing her with activities - she dances and acts so has to sometimes have time off school to perform and the conditions of her licence means school work is supposed to be kept up with and school permission sought. She blamed her last escapade on having to go to a piano lesson (at school) so missed the sheet. i found the sheet this morning and threatened to cancel piano. She just nodded and said yes.

I've tried all sort to help organise her. she "forgets" to write in her homework diary or bring it home so I can't see the teacher comments. Before Christmas she was made to miss an end of term dance club performance because she had detention over a piece of English homework that had gone on over 3 weeks.

She goes to high school next year how the hell can I make her buck her ideas up?

Children continue to lie when lying works. It sounds as if lying has worked too often to get your daughter out of doing her homework. One part of the solution is to have a daily homework time, regardless of whether she brings her homework home or not. Take an executive decision, and set the same amount of work for her as the school would require. If you’re not sure how to make her sit down and do the work, that is a cooperation and respect issue, rather than purely a homework issue, so please read my previous book, “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”. I’m sure you’ve discovered that threats don’t really work. Instead, make clear rules with clear rewards and consequences, and be willing to follow through, even if your child becomes upset. Let’s remember that upset is temporary, whereas good habits last a lifetime.

NoŽlJanisNorton Tue 19-Feb-13 12:56:30

gazzalw

Ha OldBoots, we have had the same problem! Our DD was so into her books when little and the compulsory has really turned her off reading by herself....

I was all for the DCs doing homework but after nine years of battles I've gone off it with a vengeance - GRRRRRR...

Start with very short, daily reading aloud times. Use a timer so that your daughter knows that the activity she is sure she is going to hate will only last, for example, five minutes. Two strategies that I teach would be very useful here, Descriptive Praise and Reflective Listening. If you’re not familiar with these strategies, I talk about them briefly in “Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework”, and I explain them in depth in “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”.

gazzalw Tue 19-Feb-13 15:27:27

Thanks for the tips. They seem quite easy to instigate and non-confrontational! In theory anyway. Half-term this week but will see how it goes next week!

Paddlinglikehell Tue 19-Feb-13 23:10:19

Thank you. I have downloaded the Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework and have been doing the descriptive praise. It really is making a difference and I am only a few days in.

However, I am working away and left dd with OH, goodness knows what they will be getting up to together, he is also doing the homework this week (phew!).

I was pleased to hear that homework set correctly isn't a bad thing!

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