How to build a homework culture at your school.

Homework blues

When poor schools build a homework culture at their schools, they add another effective learning strategy to help improve and strengthen their children's learning abilities. 

We know that all children can learn. The challenge is to win the parents over to help the school create these learning opportunities at home. Given all the parents' issues, they may see the homework as a minor matter. Schools need to become advertising agencies, promoting homework creatively until parents become the advocates of homework themselves. Think of the Coke adverts. Which person doesn't recognize the Coke slogan, the Coke colours and other Coke branding? 

Here are four benefits that regular homework will have:

  • Parents and their children will have a structured activity to complete together.
  • A homework routine will help to establish a culture of discipline for both the parent and the child.
  • The child will develop study habits.
  • Over time, the parent will become more actively involved in the child's learning.

Be prepared to invest hours in establishing a homework culture 

We know that relationships and new habits take time to develop. This would apply to schools that want to nurture a homework culture. The homework routine needs to be drilled until the parents are familiar with the homework programme of the school. Schools should persevere and use creative ways to keep the parents informed and motivated.

Think of the flywheel effect that researcher, Jim Collins, talks about. Initially, you need to push very hard to get the flywheel moving. Then more effort is needed to keep the wheel turning. Eventually, with continuous pushing, the wheel will start rotating on its own. Then only will you be able to sit back and enjoy the spinning wheel. This is what your homework flywheel is going to do if you continue pushing and persevering.

 I know it is tough,  but poor schools have to continue pushing the boundaries, especially with regard to homework and reading.

Tips to build a homework culture at your school

1    Consider  the type of homework that is set. 

The focus of the homework activity is critical.  When you are trying to bring parents on board, you want to set a homework activity that serves to revise work that has been taught. You want the child as well as the parent  to feel a sense of achievement. Homework that requires repetition, memory or spelling drill exercises are ideal. 

2   Take the home circumstances of the family into account.

You don't want to set a homework piece that requires learners to do research. You already know that poor parents don't  have access to the internet or there won't be magazines and newspapers in those homes. If you set such a task without providing the necessary support, you may be setting up the children and their parents for failure unintentionally. 

3   Homework activities should be short

The 10-minute rule is usually applied to guide the length of homework a child should be given. Multiply the grade the child is in by 10. If a child is in grade 1, the homework activity should not take longer than 10 minutes. If a child is in grade 3, the homework activity should be about 30 minutes long.

I often hear teachers complaining that parents are doing their children's homework. Could it be that parents are not able to devote the time to mediate the work with the children and thus resort to doing the exercises themselves?  Are schools finding out why parents do this?

Teachers also mention that they provide enough time for the children and their parents to complete the work. Does it really make a difference to give a child a fortnight or a month to do a task when we know that the resources and parent commitment are wanting? These are the kind of questions we have to ask ourselves so that we can manage homework programmes more effectively.

It is reassuring to know...

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Excellence demands a heavy investment of time, patience and single-mindedness.  Over time, your efforts to establish a homework programme at the school will pay dividends. 

Just hang in there!

Do you have ideas about homework that schools can try?


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