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When homework hurts

Homework can be a really challenging issue in many families and can bring about difficulties within the relationships between parents and schools. It can be even more challenging for children with additional needs, such as those whose executive functioning is impacted by early life adversity or exhaustion from the long school day.

It is important that the parents/ school partnerships works together to best support the needs of the child. Homework is an important aspect of school life, but it should not be done if this is detrimental to the quality of family life or the emotional and mental well-being of the child.

To better support a child in completing homework, it can be helpful to approach the task more creatively by considering the following:

  1. Identify the problem: Can the child do the homework? Is the content differentiated to their learning and attainment levels? If not, don’t ask them to do it. Look for homework the child can access.
  2. Is the method and outcome differentiated to their literacy levels i.e. can they read the instructions and information, and can they write and spell their responses? If not, consider alternative ways for the child to access the material and accomplish the task. Can you or someone else be the reader? Can you or someone else be the scribe? Can they draw their ideas? Use google images to show what they know? Create a powerpoint slide and present it to the teacher or class?
  3. Does the homework make sense to the child? If not, what does the child need as a ‘hook’ to put the work in context? Does it link in with classroom learning which the child missed because they were out of class or preoccupied or distracted? Do they need a reminder of the key learning outcome from the lesson? Do they need a workbook?

Tips to support parents with homework

  • Be supportive (we learn from our mistakes). Rather than simply giving children the answers, support them by guiding them through their work. This may include interpreting the task they have been given.
  • Establish a homework routine. Choose a consistent time each day that works for your child. This does not have to be immediately after school, as some children may have after-school commitments or need time to unwind. If afternoons and evenings don’t work, consider trying homework in the mornings, especially if your child is an early riser.
  • Establish a suitable time and a place to do homework ideally where there are no distractions and interruptions are at a minimum. Prioritize the availability of that space during study time.
  • Organise the equipment and stationery that might be needed, such as pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, gluesticks, a calculator, etc. If you don’t have a permanent workspace, store items in a small box that can be easily used and then put away.
  • Place a box somewhere near the front door for all the equipment that needs to go to school the next day – bags, lunchboxes, PE kits, etc. – and ensure that completed homework is put in there as soon as it is finished.
  • Strike a balance between schoolwork and leisure. Pinpoint how much homework they are given and how much time should be allocated. Try where possible not to exceed the expected time so that they get the homework done and it doesn’t become a daunting task
  • Use additional resources and support. Does the school have an after school homework club that your child might benefit from? Is the homework achievable and at a level you can support comfortably?

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s teacher or other school staff. As part of your partnership with the school, it’s helpful to have conversations to ensure they are aware of any issues your child may have in completing homework. Remember that while homework is important, it should not be to the detriment of your child.


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The BRIGHTER FUTURE project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.