Homework Helpline: Top tips to keep kids and parents sane (and on speaking terms)

Homework Helpline: Top tips to keep kids and parents sane (and on speaking terms)
As another school year begins and our wee (and not so wee) ones’ academic careers roll along, so too does the homework. Sigh. As many parents know, it’s not only their’s, but ours, too. Young parents yet to experience such joy… just you wait. Softly, softly it starts with Biff, Chip and Kipper, then swiftly segues into handwriting, spelling drills, times tables, curriculum projects, book reports, essays, exams and so on. Tackling this bete noir has the capacity to sour the best of moods and turn home-time into a blood-boiling battle of wills. (What torment awaits with GCSEs and A-levels… I shudder.) So it got me thinking, what words of wisdom might I impart to parents both in the trenches and those about to approach the front line of the homework battlefield to help ease the burden? How can we achieve that elusive homework nirvana?
Regrettably, there’s no panacea, but after some years waging the war here are a few tricks of the trade to make the after school ‘witching hour’ a little less stressful.
6. Don’t underestimate downtime. Whether it’s Lego, dress-up (embrace it, it goes so fast) or (whisper it) that of which we do not speak– screen time, school days are long and like us all, kids need to decompress. We have Merlot, they have Minecraft. Carve a bit into your routine and a little can go a long way.
5. Set aside a study-time ‘sanctuary’. (Work with me, here.) A designated desk or cleared spread of the kitchen free of clutter, food, toys and other distractions can work a treat and reminds them it’s ‘heads-down’ territory. Groundbreaking, right? The kitchen table is our preferred spot, one side for spelling drills, the other for alphabet soup. Simples.
4. Help, don’t hover. Ahh yes, a big challenge for the Man and I suspect many others. Those damn rotating blades of the helicopter parent can be hard to halt, but they take us nowhere and only stir up resent and bad hair. With Haley Joel Osment-like sixth-sense perception my 8yr old just KNOWS when I’m peering over his shoulder watching him scribble his chicken scratch– and gives me a bollocking for it. Quite right.
3. Don’t expect perfection. It’s homework, not the Great British Bake Off, so the odd mistake is OK.  And BREATHE. There is always going to be someone brighter, cleverer, harder working and able to pass the Bar Exam age 9. We forget this in Alphaville, where our quest to mould our alpha offspring can overshadow the necessity for an actual childhood. Praise good work and resist the need to caveat it with endless corrections. It’ll all come out in the wash.
2. Make it fun. Hang on… Nope, got nothing. Moving on.
1. Pick your battles. Newsflash: Kids don’t like homework. It’s entirely reasonable there will be times it doesn’t get done. Relax and make them know it’s their responsibility entirely to explain this to their teacher. This can strike the fear of god into my eldest. Or not. But either way they have to learn the consequences for themselves. And they will… eventually.

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