In the higher grades of primary school, when a child moves to a subject system, each with a different teacher, homework increases. The level of expectations is also rising. More and more often there will be situations when a child doing homework is not only supposed to consolidate, but also expand his knowledge and deepen his skills. Should we help him in this? If so, how?
The transition from early childhood education to a class with subject-based education can be difficult for children for a variety of reasons. The difficulty for all is the transition from one teacher, who was the mainstay in all troubles, to learning divided into subjects and different educators who have different approaches, including for homework.
Teachers usually do not agree on the number (and quality) of homework assignments, so the child often has to deal with a large amount of homework. It is imperative to observe how the child is coping with the growing demands and to talk about it often. The principles of early childhood education still apply: to help only when the child asks for such help or when we observe the child’s discouragement with an excess of tasks. Rule Two: Praise for any progress, without comparing it with others. At this stage of education, children with school problems usually already see in which areas they are not keeping up with their peers. If the parent stresses this as an accusation against the child, the problem will only get worse. A more effective way is to praise the progress and keep in touch with teachers who can and should support the child in learning difficulties.
If the parent has so far supported the child in building independence, in grade IV it is enough to support them in planning the day and organizing the types of tasks during the preparation for homework: first the more difficult ones, requiring more intellectual effort, then the easier ones and those which make the child more enjoyable. The role of the parent still remains to ensure adequate meals and a sufficient dose of sleep, as well as a good atmosphere at home while doing homework.
Grades V – VI
This is the time when they should be able to perform their duties independently, organize the place and plan their work. This does not mean, however, that it will always be able to cope with the task. He may then turn to us for help, and we will not be able to help him. School knowledge is fleeting, we do not necessarily remember all the intricacies related to solving tasks in physics, chemistry or biology, and the grammatical complications of the language have long ceased to bother us. But even in such a situation, you can help your child by considering ways to find help. We can refresh our knowledge and then help (but it takes time and our effort). Or maybe invite home a friend or classmate of a child who is good at dealing with these issues? Maybe Aunt Kasha graduated from biology and can help you solve the problem? Or maybe the Internet resources will support you in doing the exercise? Seeking help like this has a huge impact on the child’s thinking: I don’t need to know and know everything – it’s important that I have an idea how to change it if I want to. Watch out for easy exits: getting the job done (it’s not only unethical, but above all it teaches you to avoid challenges and destroys the parent’s authority) or immediate tutoring (a signal to the child that someone else will do the job). What if we don’t find a solution? The contact with the teacher remains (it is better if the child asks the teacher for support, but if this does not work, the parent has the right and even the obligation to support the child in obtaining help from the school teacher).
A teenager in grades VII and VIII should already have developed a sense of responsibility for doing homework. He should be able to cope with the school reality to be able to organize his day in such a way as to find time both for his own work, for extra-curricular activities and for pleasure. It happens that parents stop talking to their children about school. They are limited to perfunctory questions: How is school? And they please the casual one as well: Cool.
What builds relationships is the way we communicate. Teenagers are very sensitive to the way they are treated. They absolutely reject all forms that suggest they are children, they are manifesting their maturity. At the same time, they feel the loss of their childhood painfully and have very strong emotional needs. They need a bond, a sense of support, while ensuring security and respect for their autonomy. So helping to cope with the multitude of homework and school burdens is a parent’s continual reassurance that they are accepted and loved as they are. Communications directed to the child about his efforts and achievements: I saw that you were working late yesterday on a project. Do you still have a lot of work with him? Kasha, how did your chemistry test go? You spent a lot of time preparing. Such formulated messages give the child information about our attention, willingness to support, and appreciation of their effort. And even if Kasha replies: And what was the effort for? I only got three! – we still have the opportunity to support saying: I’m sorry you feel disappointed. Can I help you? Maybe she’ll tell us that she can do it, maybe that she needs to meet Weronika who will help her, and maybe she will go to additional chemistry classes to improve her grade. But she can also say that it is difficult, her plans for the future do not include chemistry, so she only needs three per certificate. It may be difficult for a parent, but then it is worth considering whether we want to fight our child or we want to offer support. Just talking about the fact that a certificate with a stripe at the end of school is important, may not be convincing for a girl embittered with failure. So maybe a conversation with a chemistry teacher? Or maybe with the tutor? And certainly the conversation with Kasha herself will be decisive here: I feel your bitterness. I saw how much effort you put into preparation. Maybe let’s postpone this conversation until tomorrow. You will think, and so will I, how these troubles can be remedied.
A few words about tutoring
As the media constantly reports, tutoring has become very popular, and in the face of a double year in secondary schools, tutors experience a kind of siege. Does this mean that there is a remedy for school problems? Are they sure they will make the child better prepared and increase his or her chances of achieving educational success? I think both yes and no. The effectiveness of tutoring will depend on diagnosing the child’s needs and adapting the type of help to them.
Tutoring can be an effective form of support for students whose knowledge, skills, and ambitions are greater than what the school can provide. Then the tutor focuses on developing the child’s areas that will not be developed at school. This applies to students who are very gifted or gifted in areas that are hardly present at school. This may concern, for example, new technologies, astronomy, issues related to the departments of physics and chemistry absent from school programs, or learning foreign languages. The more individualized the classes are, the greater the chance of a young person’s success. It is important for the child to make the decision about this type of development himself, knowing how much effort and time he can devote to these activities, while taking care of school duties.
Unfortunately, the most common reason why parents pay for tutoring is because their child has real (or subjective) difficulties in mastering the knowledge and programming skills. If it concerns a child with various developmental problems, who the school really cannot help, and the parent feels helpless, then individual support from a tutor can really be helpful. However, many students go to tutoring to do their homework, consolidate knowledge that has been discussed at school and for which enough time has been devoted, but the child – for various reasons – has not acquired this knowledge. Such organized tutoring causes that the already developed dependence is even more permanent. The solution may then be an individual tutor who will gradually familiarize the child with taking responsibility. But that’s not the role of the tutor. This is the role of the parent. If your child is in trouble at school, maybe you need to start with a joint analysis of the loads during the week? Perhaps you need to postpone the activities that are developing and enjoyable (football, playing an instrument, art classes in the community center, etc.), but take the time needed to meet the school requirements.
Decisions can be very difficult. However, before we pay for tutoring, maybe you need to consult the teachers teaching, talk to the teacher or school psychologist, with the tutor? And most of all with your own child.