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Oh my God, the homework traumas

(28 Posts)
manchestermummy Fri 25-Apr-14 13:48:58

DD1 (yr 1) is a bright girl - the considered opinion of her teacher - but it is not possible for homework to be completed without some sort of strop and/or trauma. She will not think for herself and puts in the absolute bare minimum. For example, if she has to write about her weekend, unless I sit with her, all she would produce is "I went swimming". Nothing else. If she has to colour something, she scribbles everything the same colour. Maths homework is always the same: just guesses answers. At school, however, her work is very different and her teacher says she works hard.

This all means that work that should't take long is taking far, far too much time. I know she's only six, but I want her try her hardest. It's funny because I read so many threads that say the dc is reading Shakespeare at home, but is only on yellow level books. In our house we seem to have the opposite!

I was never pushed at primary school by my parents (mum didn't see the point) and by the time I left I was way behind in many areas. I pulled myself up in high school and have done well since then

Besides being some sort of Tiger Mum, how can I ensure DD1 at least tries to make an effort? She sells herself seriously short with what she does at home at the moment.

redskyatnight Fri 25-Apr-14 14:00:58

My first suggestion would be not to bother at all - I know you want her to make an effort, but at this age there's probably no particular benefit in the homework and it's probably not worth the aggro (DS was the same).

If you do want to encourage her to try more, I'd suggest setting one target - an approach she should be familiar with as they do it at school. So if she is just writing "I went swimming" , then maybe suggest that she includes an adjective in the sentence or tries to extend it. Or has to write a minimum of 3 sentences. (If it makes you feel better, DS is now Y5 and would still write "I went swimming" in response to a "writing about the weekend" homework. I have given up arguing. I figure he writes better at school and if his teacher is happy with that then who am I to argue?)

PastSellByDate Fri 25-Apr-14 14:04:39

Hi Manchester

Just a Mum and no expert but have you considered just leaving your DD to it and let the chips fall where they will.

I suspect your DC works hard at school because she likes her teachers and wants to please them. I suspect that a teacher seeing a poor effort will say something or write a comment (i.e. What happened here? This isn't your usual effort?) and perhaps that will give your DC the incentive to take homework seriously.

Having said that I have two DDs and DD1 is very much like your DC - queen of the bare minimum and DD2 is more like me and really enjoys a good homework assignment and can't wait to get stuck in. So we're in the bizarre situation of having to seriously support DD1 (age 11) and can leave DD2 (just turned age 9) totally to it.

Not sure that's a lot of help - but hopefully some teachers or other parents will be along soon.

MrsRuffdiamond Fri 25-Apr-14 14:09:14

I've always found that the dc work far better for other adults than they ever would for me!

Could you and her teacher devise a strategy between you? Let your dd hand in what she thinks is appropriate (i.e. the bare minimum) for a while, and perhaps her teacher can indicate it isn't really sufficient, and ask her to do some further work on it in class? It may encourage her to do a little more work at home, so she doesn't have her time taken up at school, when the others are doing something else.

MrsRuffdiamond Fri 25-Apr-14 14:10:58

Oops! x post with PSBD. Great minds, and all that!

manchestermummy Fri 25-Apr-14 14:14:28

Good suggestions. I must come across as a complete loon, wanting my 6 year old to put in some effort sad.

NeverQuiteSure Fri 25-Apr-14 14:17:17

DS (reception) can be a little like that. I try, as much as possible, to make it fun for him. It helps me to think of the homework as having a particular purpose; e.g. DS also has to draw a picture and write a sentence each weekend in his homework book - the purpose is (1) to link home and school and (2) to practice fine motor and literacy skills. I then find ways to achieve some/all of those goals in a way he'll enjoy more. DS has no interest in drawing/writing about what he did, but he'll take photos which I print out for him (home/school link) and will happily make 'books' which involve him writing and drawing pictures. I scan these and send them in.

Obviously year 1 will be stricter than reception, and they'll have to learn to knuckle down and do it eventually, but might be worth chatting to DD's teacher and seeing how much leeway they'll give her with her set tasks?

Mashabell Fri 25-Apr-14 15:22:11

Six hours at school is a lot for a 6-yr-old who works at hard all day.
In most of Europe they don't start formal lessons till 6, in some countries as late as 7 and get no homework at all (e.g. Finland), yet perform better than Anglophone children.

Here the little mites are totally shattered by the end of the day and get homework as well. It's child abuse.

The earlier start in Anglophone countries is due entirely to the inconsistencies of English spelling which make learning to read (an - ^any, apron^) and to write (bed - ^said, head^) exceptionally difficult and time-consuming. But putting young children under so much pressure is counter-productive for many.

manchestermummy Fri 25-Apr-14 15:59:10


I know you aren't, but accusations of child abuse are not helpful. And my DD was demanding we set her homework at 3. Yes, it is too much and yes, it pisses me off but she is set homework by her teachers and I sm not going to teach her that it is okay not to do something because I don't agree.

PastSellByDate Fri 25-Apr-14 16:23:39

I also agree with the point Mashabell is making in that ages 4 - 6 in many other countries are still in 'pre-school'/ 'kindergarten'/ 'nursery school' - however these early years environment also include learning alphabets, early reading/ maths skills and often learning foreign languages.

However I believe the English system is historically skewed to getting strapping youths with small fingered lasses into the workforce by age 16 to help progress the industrial revolution. That's changed now - children are to be educated to age 18 by law ( But it remains the case that the English national curriculum starts in Year 1 - and at some schools (not all) homework will start.

Now Mashabell - for my DDs all the way through homework has been given in small doses at both schools (so given on a Thursday/ Friday to be returned on a Monday/ Tuesday) and there is plenty of time and space (if you're organised) to do it in nice small bite size chunks. For DD1 however, homework has been a kind of on again and off for months thing. First term Y5, DD1 had no homework at all - apparently because the school was aware many children (that would be 12 out of the 30 in the cohort) were preparing for the 11+. When we parents raised our concerns at a public curriculum meeting with governors present homework was suddenly reinstated (for which read once in every 3-4 weeks/ about 2 assignments per half-term).

Some schools go in for reading daily (10 - 15 minutes) in Year R (ours did for both DDs + a weeks maths game - usually shape puzzles) - and frankly that's the most formal homework they ever had from the school. DD1 is in Y6 and on average homework does not account for more than 20 - 30 minutes each week and no books are allowed home (even from the school library - apparently too many books lost/ not returned) - and frankly I think that's more damaging. Unfortunately for DD1 she has one of those mothers that helpfully suggests she reads a book whilst waiting for her sister or me to finish something before setting off somewhere and fortunately for me usually DD1 is happy to do so. DD1 also now is in the habit of reading before bed.

I'm presuming - but don't know - that the homework manchestermummy is describing is indeed set over a weekend - where there is plenty of time to fit in 10 - 15 minutes on a task, here and there.

Call me a radical - but I actually adored homework as a child. I liked the challenge, I liked colouring in a map, building a model or finding 10 facts on a subject (in those days we talked to parents and used encyclopedias -maybe even visited the children's section of the local library - but then this was when dinosaurs still roamed the earth) - but with the internet it's so easy to achieve this now at home or a local library. I also adored reading. I liked learning new things/ new words and looked forward to each new assignment.

Today kids have other passions. Video games being the most obvious - and of course there's nothing wrong with that - but some good old fashioned homework and a bit of play in the fresh air, maybe even forcible baking with Mum or grandma won't hurt a child's character much I suspect.

I do get your plea Mashabell to let children be children - but I also think that developing a habit of doing assigned homework, maybe even learning to enjoy the task (bending it to your interests/ chosing topics that interest you/ doing extra art work for it/ etc...) is also good for young minds. DD1 is at a school where there have been whole months with no homework at all and now very late in the day a grammar workbook from a popular publisher (photocopied in its entirety, which one presumes violates copyright law), a spelling workbook (also photocopied), a maths workbook (? from TES) and a creative writing workbook (looks to be borrowed from TES) have been sent home over Easter with a note urging parents to make that final push towards SATs success - very late in the day, not differentiated in any way - so a challenge for children struggling to attain L4, I suspect tricky in places for L4 pupils but a good review, a little to easy for L5 and not of much use if preparing for L6.

DD1 and I have been working our way through this pile of review materials - putting in 30 minutes a day since we broke up for Easter. We are on target to finish everything off by Sunday. DD1 also informs me that many of her friends simply threw the study packs out as they left school. Somewhere along the way a school rarely sending home homework has taught a lot of kids that homework doesn't matter and there's no point. And Mashabell that is a very bad thing going forward to life at senior school


manchestermummy Fri 25-Apr-14 16:54:17

Interesting, I ask for practical advice for an issue I cannot change and it political grin.

Yes, it's homework at the weekend. It should only be a case of 10 minutes here and there, but due the trauma, is a horrific hour on a Sunday. I see her friends bringing in their efforts on a Monday and I feel utterly embarrassed if I'm honest: I feel I will be judged by the school by not being supportive enough.

MrsCakesPremonition Fri 25-Apr-14 16:58:22

Just do the 10 minutes. Tell the teacher that your DD worked for 10 mins and that she will be handing in the result. There is no point in trying to disguise your DDs limitations (which aren't really limitations because the majority of parents will be having the same issues). The school won't judge you and I'd bet my bottom dollar that the children ostentatiously waving their homework around on Monday morning are the ones where the parents have done the work themselves.

allhailqueenmab Fri 25-Apr-14 17:06:03

If dd puts in so much effort at school, then maybe that is why she is so sick of it all at home.
I have days at work where I think I am going great guns - what looked like insurmountable piles of work in the morning are disappearing - I am coming up with great solutions to hard problems. When it's time to leave I am almost regretful as I am doing so well, yet there is still so much to do, but tell myself I will crack on at home once the dcs are in bed.
Then I never want to. I feel sulky, cross, and exhausted. It's a direct reaction to having been "on" all day. And I am 42!

Littlefish Fri 25-Apr-14 17:47:37

I'm a teacher and agree with the others who have suggested that you set a timer and just let your dd do 10 minutes and then stop. By all means talk it through with her first so she knows what she's got to do, but then just let her get on with it.

Speak to the teacher and let her know what you're doing so he/she is in the loop.

It's really not worth the stress and trauma. smile

DoItTooJulia Fri 25-Apr-14 17:54:25

Well, I will tell you what worked for us in the same circumstances (bright ds, worked well at school, trauma over small amounts of homework).

I chatted to ds about it. Too tired on a weeknight to do it, so we agreed the weekend. We wrote a charter.

Homework to be done on Sunday.
No tantrums.
Neat writing.
Chill time immediately afterwards.

And I kid you not, it changed the whole homework situation overnight. It takes the normal amount of time instead of an hour of hideousness. He does it in the kitchen while I'm cooking or cleaning usually, doin around to keep an eye on him, but not sat opposite him in a battle of wills.

I also think age has something to do with it. At 6 ds was at his worst about it all.

Good luck

PastSellByDate Sat 26-Apr-14 08:00:27


For DD1 (admittedly a lot older -she's Y6) our solutions has been homework is done first then you can do fun stuff...

No watching your tv shows until homework is done/ When homework is done no limits on tv watching at the weekend (unless fine weather - in which case we tend to get them out into the fresh air one way or the other).

No 'treats' until homework is done (juice/ water/ healthy snacks provided during homework time if 'famished'). [We find 'I'm famished' is usually offered up to delay/ defer starting work just as she sits down at the kitchen table/ she's also the queen of let's have a heart to heart with Mum or Dad and discuss my troubles/ friends troubles instead of doing homework].

We have literally gone outside with DD2 & enjoyed the fine weather whilst she sat sulking about 5 maths problems (which in the end took 5 minutes to do and were all correct when I checked).

DH and I moved toward this policy with DD1 about Year 4 when we realised that she had a tendency to fritter away the weekend 'having fun' and we kept having post 8 p.m. crises about unfinished homework on a Sunday night. Not a great way to conclude a weekend. We've now moved her into a habit of doing homework on Friday evening, whilst having an afterschool snack before going off to swimming lesson. She usually gets most if not all of the work done and can then be free to thoroughly enjoy her Saturday & Sunday.

Xihha Sat 26-Apr-14 13:21:46

I got DS's teacher in year 2 to ask him why his homework wasn't as good as his school work and talk to him about how important it is to try your best which magically worked because the teacher had said it, not me, with DD the only thing that works is bribery and constant nagging.

Mashabell Sun 27-Apr-14 19:06:01

Pastselbydate: ^Somewhere along the way a school rarely sending home homework has taught a lot of kids that homework doesn't matter and there's no point. And Mashabell that is a very bad thing going forward to life at senior school^

I disagree. I don't see that pushing kids to work at home, in addition to spending more time at school than elsewhere in Europe, is a good thing.

Teachers often set homework to please parents - not for the good of the children.

PastSellByDate Mon 28-Apr-14 09:50:01


I think in an odd way we probably agree that doing more at home (more reading, puzzles, brain teaser games, etc...) are helpful.

DD1 is at a school that has NEVER given homework over holidays and over Easter Break sent home photocopies of KS2 SATs buster works in all areas (SPAG/ English) and resources for KS2 SATs off TES (esp. Maths/ Science). Children were told to do a little each day. We spent 30 minute a day on it. I thought that was a fair balance.

We barely finished all this work doing some each day.

I kind of would have preferred a few worksheets a week since September then a blizzard at Easter.

I'm also pretty clear that no parent was expecting this from the school - we all were surprised since the school's official policy is homework is of no value to pupils and 'they do not recommend pupils use workbooks'.

If this is information the school feels my child should be practising - forgive me for feeling that small chunks of practice throughout the year is probably preferable to a wadge of 200 pages of worksheets over Easter (and I'm not exaggerating - 200 photocopied pages were sent home).

slowcomputer Mon 28-Apr-14 15:22:02

Sorry, haven't read the whole thread but I have always found sticker charts very helpful, with a challenging but attainable target and something she really wants as the prize. just a thought...

rocketjam Tue 29-Apr-14 17:47:48

What worked with my two boys was a timer and a schedule. They picked which day they wanted to do homework, and we got one of those 10 minute giant egg timer. So it was 10 minutes of maths on Tuesdays, 10 minutes of other homework on Wednesday. None on Fridays, and 10 minutes on Sunday to revise/finish. And a biscuit at the end! It might be a pretty basic tip and a lot less political than the other posters, but it worked fr us, gave them some kind of 'control' over when to do the homework, and they expected it/knew which days they had to do what. They are now in year 2 and 3 and we still have a similar schedule, without the egg timer

shebird Wed 30-Apr-14 21:42:47

You cannot expect too much at this age and after such a long school day. I've learned this through many similar battles. I am certain she will not be the only one in her class struggling with homework so I would back off to avoid it becoming an issue. I agree about having a set time and if all she produces in 10mins is one sentence then so be it. Perhaps some positive praise for what she has done might encourage her to do another sentence.

ShoeWhore Wed 30-Apr-14 21:51:41

I could never get ds1 to do his homework until I implemented a new very simple rule - no screen time at the weekend until homework is finished.

Now he is VERY keen to get it all done on Saturday mornings grin

I also think though that the teacher could be more specific about what they want. Ds2's teacher often asks them to write something but she will say she wants x paragraphs and is looking for them to include y (eg connectives or wow words or whatever they have been talking about that week)

ShoeWhore Wed 30-Apr-14 21:52:18

We only get weekend homework, btw, we rarely attempt much beyond reading midweek.

PinkSquash Wed 30-Apr-14 22:04:16

We also do no screen time until all homework is compete. DS1 is 7, he has reading, and spellings daily and maths weekly.

We get in, have a drink, snack and chat and plow straight on. We had huge hour long tantrums from DS1 which are awful, he was never that bad as a toddler.

He gets all his work done within half hour (on a maths night) and is then allowed complete free time to do as he wishes, obviously within reason.

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