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Homework guide
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Reference
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How parents can help
Let your children do their own work
Let your children do their own work
Photograph: Guardian archive

Being a parent or caregiver is an extremely diffucult job.

  • When you come home from a hard day at work, the last thing you want to do is to become an unpaid teacher.
  • You will be given conflicting advice, from schools, from teachers, from other parents and of course from your children. But unlike teachers you are free to decide which view you agree with.

Ask any two adults about their views on homework, and you can start a debate. Their differences of opinion are not really about homework in isolation - they come from different ideas about school, education (not the same thing) and society. For some, school is a preparation for work, while for others childhood is a special and precious time.

Here are a few pointers to help you get it right.

Being a role model

Try to set an example - don't feel you are not good enough. If you are reading this, then you are obviously trying to help. A few hours of individual attention can make all the difference to your children.

The age of the pupil

How much you help a child with homework will depend very much on his or her age. As time goes by children should become more independent. In fact, you may worry that they are not asking you to help them. Assist with homework where appropriate. If your child is having difficulty understanding their work or what is required, explain the work to them patiently. If you are unable to assist them yourself, refer them to an appropriate source e.g. the Internet, books or a friend who might have insight into the work required.

Talk to the school

Most schools welcome parents taking an interest in homework. Find out the policy, let your children work without distraction, and contact the school if you think your children are experiencing difficulties with school work.

Let go of your children

The teacher's assessment of learners' work is not a judgement on you. If you do their work for them, then your children will not learn much. And sooner or later the teacher will notice the difference between work done at home and work done in school.