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  • Ms Bridget Young

Homework... how best to support your child

Thoughts on Homework by Ms Young, Head of Upper School

The definition of school is an institution for educating children. The definition of home is relating to the place where one lives. Therefore homework is not an idea based on logic. The whole idea stinks of neurotypical nonsense. There is nothing worse than being told that you have to work when all you want to do is live.

How can someone possibly complete a maths worksheet when the PlayStation is in the same room? It can be hard to understand how to fit working into an unstructured home schedule. A whole day of social interaction at school may cause our young people to be emotionally exhausted once they finally make it home. Maybe there’s no special desk with visuals like at school.

If the home/school dynamic is really difficult to comprehend; challenging behaviours may result. Wouldn’t it be better to just complete the work at school and save home time for relaxing?

Unfortunately, the curriculum (especially at KS4 and above) requires us to jam a pretty extreme amount of information into the brain. Even for gifted students it takes work. In order to succeed you have to constantly be learning and revising and unfortunately there is not enough time in the school day to do that.

The other thing is that in order to get good at something, you have got to practice. Homework is an act of practice in two ways- first you are practicing the knowledge learned that week and second you are practicing how to become very good at studying. The better you get at studying the more successful you’ll be. It doesn’t really matter the subject, because in the end you’ll be able to learn just about anything with those study skills.

Autistic students need to get better at doing homework if they want to succeed in the neurotypical education system but this is not going to happen organically. Just like you would teach anything else, in order to teach autistic students how to do homework you need to be explicit, break it down into steps and explain the relevance. Having a structured and specific space to work at home with timers and few distractions may be just as important.

If a student isn’t doing homework, they need supportive motivation from those around them. Even if a parent doesn’t fully understand the work (we’re not all maths teachers), being there to prompt will make a lot of difference.

Then, maybe the most difficult part, is to slowly pair back the support given so they have to problem solve and complete tasks on their own. That’s what should be happening at school and if it is, it may not automatically be generalised to the home setting. Of course the reverse may be true too, where students who work better at home can’t manage the same at school. But this is where we have to work together to ensure best practice. It’s a great idea for parents to be a united front with the teachers so the student knows that the expectations at home are the same at school.

If after trying all of the strategies, homework is still causing challenging behaviours or having an impact on mental health, just be done with it. School for work and home for life. But don’t just subtract it without adding in something positive. Find a motivating project, a special interest or a series of books to read. You never know what catalyst will be the one to spark genius.

Thank you for your recent feedback about homework. I will be sending out the newly revised Holmewood homework policy in the coming week.

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