How can we create a productive space for the whole family to work from home? Maintaining your child’s education, your ability to be productive in the workforce and your family’s financial stability has never been so challenging.
Many more parents are working from home alongside their children. Quirky Kid has developed our Top 5 Tips to help families prepare, adapt and conquer working and studying from home together.
Tip #1: Plan a daily schedule together
Routines are essential for children’s growth, development, and sense of normality. To help with creating health routines, each night, sit as a family and map out a schedule for the following day (and support all family members to stick to it!). We prepared a quick fun video to help you create a visual schedule that actual works.
Include tasks for the whole family and allow all family members to contribute ideas to the schedule. Use visual images and/or colours to make the schedule fun and accessible. For two parent households, alternating ‘work shifts’ may be helpful.
Tip # 2: Include varied activities in the family’s day
To make the most of focus and motivation while working from home together, start the day with cognitive stimulation. This will help siblings get along and adults to be more patient. Some ways of doing this include:
Complete academic activities first: Adults and children are more able to sustain effort and achieve desired outcomes earlier in the day. Parents may need to work before dawn to meet deadlines before children wake up. It may also be helpful to speak with your child’s teacher to access more online learning options. Check in with your young person every 10-15 minutes, depending on their attention span, to praise their ability to work independently.
Find fun ways to teach new concepts: YouTube science tutorials are a great way to inspire young scientists to conduct experiments at home. Baking is another way to teach children about measurement and timing. Folding paper planes and using a tape measure to record their top 10 distances is also useful to develop fine motor skills. There are many more examples.
Keep Social: Support all family members to remain connected with each other and the outside world. Family mealtimes and scheduled breaks are an opportunity to take part in a video call to grandparents or school friends. If social skills need refreshing, Quirky Kid is offering The Best of Friends and Basecamp program online. Sign up here.
Plan ahead:Parents need time alone too! Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign and explain the rules and reasons for this boundary in advance. Rewards for respecting boundaries are recommended. Think fun family activity over food rewards.
Tip #3: Proactively manage conflict.
With family members in such close proximity, conflicts may arise.
Create a calm zone under a table or inside a cupboard with quiet music, pillows and picture book. Your young person might like to make their own cozy space behind a lounge or up a tree. Encourage creativity and a Plan B for wet weather.
To reduce sibling rivalry, create separate workstations featuring a long-term project for each individual, such as a complex puzzle, Lego build or similar.
Quirky Kid recently published Siblings – a book about appreciating all our brothers or sisters have to offer.
Tip #4: Have a definite start and end to the workday!
To reward your child for their focus throughout the day, try to end your workday at the same time as they end their school day. This will prevent children from feeling frustrated by parents who continue to work when they’re ready to play. Pushing back on your work commitments may be required for the good of your own mental health.
Suggesting alternative work hours, such as 1-9 pm, may suit your situation better and your workplace may be more accommodating than your children.
Tip #5: Support the emotional needs of the whole family
During these periods of uncertainty, supporting the emotional needs of the whole family is important to ensure everyone continues to thrive. To help support your child:
Take care of your own mental health! Children are highly perceptive to the emotional states of their parents.
Some children may find it difficult to articulate how they are feeling. Play-based activities such as ‘messy play’ (eg; slime, playdough, water-play) and art tasks (eg; drawing and painting) may help children express themselves and process how they are feeling. For more information on the power of play, see this podcast.
If you would like further advice about how to support your child during this difficult time, our team at Quirky Kid has well-established telehealth options for our clients during social distancing and isolation. To schedule an appointment with one of our friendly psychologists, go to our website, or to find out more please contact the QK reception on 02 9362 9297.
The word ‘homework’ for many teenagers and their parents evokes feelings of dread, frustration and sheer agony. While most teens and parents understand the reasons for being given homework, namely to help develop sound study habits, to foster learning outside the school environment, consolidate the learning undertaken in class and foster independence and responsibility, homework time can quickly become a battleground in which family tensions can rise to boiling point. The debate surrounding homework and its benefits have been ongoing since the early 20th century.
During the 1940’s homework was given less emphasis as schools moved away from utilising rote- learning and memorisation as a key teaching focus to a more skills-based problem solving approach to learning. Again in the 1960’s, homework was given less emphasis as concerns were raised about it’s detrimental impact on children’s social and recreational activity time. Nowadays, there appears to be a more balanced approach with a recognition of the importance of children enjoying recreational time as well as time engaged in more structured homework activity.
Benefits of Homework
Research is clearly telling us that homework can have significant benefits for a child. Generally speaking, studies are showing us that academic achievement is improved for children who partake in some homework (Cooper, Robinson & Patall, 2006). However, there are additional factors which appear to influence the positive relationship between homework and academic achievement. Firstly, the relevance and applicability of homework appears important, with homework that has clear, specific learning purposes having a stronger positive relationship with academic outcomes.
Additionally, the time spent on homework does not simply have a linear relationship with academic outcome. Interestingly, research suggests that there is a point at which too much time given to homework can be counterproductive and fail to enhance academic achievement for children. Lastly, the amount and type of parental involvement can moderate the benefits of homework. Parental involvement in homework which is over-structured, controlling and negative can diminish the positive effects of homework on achievement for children.
Where should our focus be?
While there are a multitude of factors which may impact on how children respond to homework tasks, such as the family environment, their relationship with the school and teacher, personality factors and learning strengths and weaknesses, children’s organisational skills play an important role in how they achieve academically. Organisational skills are skills that relate to not only a child managing their own belongings and materials (for example, transferring their homework into their diaries and bringing the diary home), but also their ability to plan and allocate time to tasks such as homework (for example, breaking down projects into manageable sections and allocating time to each section accordingly) (Langberg, Epstein, Becker, Girio-Herrera & Vaughn, 2012).
For children in their teens, organisational skills appear to play a significant role in predicting children’s academic achievement (Langberg et al., 2012). The difficulty is, the teen years, particularly those around the transition into high school are a time when children’s organisational skills appear to be most compromised, given the changing environment associated with high school (for example, multiple classroom and teacher changes), increased demands on children to be independent and greater amounts of work (Langberg et al., 2012).
So how can parents help?
Research and clinical experience tells us that parents play an integral role in helping their children manage their homework tasks.
Evaluate your own attitude: Look closely at the messages your child hears or sees from you about homework. It is likely that if you have a negative attitude, your child will also. Reframe homework as a task that is part of every child’s schooling life and focus on the benefits it can bring, such as greater academic confidence, a sense of achievement and important life skills.
Establish a routine: work with your child to develop a shared structure of when and how they will do their homework. Empower your child to be part of the process and let them make some of the choices around homework time. Try to have family routines set, so children can plan homework and other activities around family time such as dinner. With your child, also establish some boundaries, such as charging their phone in another room at homework time and having the TV off as well as an appropriate timeframe for homework completion.
Set the scene: make the best of homework time and ensure your home environment is set up to help your child focus and feel comfortable. Set children up in a quiet area and ensure your child has appropriate seating, lighting and other things necessary for homework, such as pencils, snacks and water. It can also be helpful to look at your child’s goals and focus on how homework may help them achieve those goals (for example, how maths can help them in opening their own cafe).
Natural consequences: rather than engaging in a battle about homework, it may be appropriate for your child to learn the consequences of not handing in their homework given by their school. This may help to develop your child’s sense of responsibility and ownership over homework completion and relieve some of the pressure parents may feel with homework tasks.
Communicate with your school and teacher: find out from your child’s teacher your role in their learning and homework and what added supports you may need to provide for your child. Communication with your child’s teacher on homework tasks can also help you to support your child’s organisational skills, ensuring they are managing their time and on task for homework deadlines.
Timetable relaxation time with plenty of options: exercise and relaxation time are well established to not only be beneficial for our stress levels, mood and physical health, but also for our concentration and attentional abilities. Scheduling time off will help your child develop their own hobbies, skills, gifts and talents and support their learning.
Help your child develop their organisational skills: Helping children become better organised not only enhances the possibility of homework arriving home, but also of it being completed on time! Develop an organisational system to help children remember to write down their homework and bring it home (for example, develop a colour coded timetable for each subject or a checklist for what they need to remember to pack before home time). Visual reminders with pictures of what a child needs to remember can be helpful. Additionally, when your child receives an assignment help them break it down and plan out how they will approach it. It is often helpful for children to work out what is most difficult so they can work on those tasks first when they feel more alert and focused.
Set an example: children will generally find it difficult to go off and start their homework if the rest of the family is enjoying a TV show. When your child is doing their homework try and engage in a similar activity, such as reading, completing your own work or household chores. This demonstrates to your child that you too have discipline and responsibility and that you are respectful to the effort they are putting into their work. Being interested and helpful without being too interfering or directive will also help develop your child’s sense of responsibility and independence in homework tasks. Praise your child for effort and commitment and utilise rewards that are unlikely to compete with homework activities, such as verbal praise and time with you rather than extra TV or iPad time.
Develop incidental learning experiences for your child: take opportunities to learn outside desk-based homework time. This will help foster your child’s enjoyment in the learning process.
Recognise when things are difficult: Some children find learning more difficult than others and may find homework tasks overwhelming and deflating. If you are concerned your child is having significant difficulty with their homework tasks, consult with their teacher and utilise resources that may be available, such as homework club, learning support or tutoring. Most schools have a homework policy which may be helpful in reviewing homework for your child.
While homework can be a tricky time, particularly for teens and their parents, supporting children in developing their organisational skills, sense of independence and responsibility can help foster a sense of achievement and confidence that will help set them up for future success!
1. NSW Government Education and Communities Public Schools NSW Fact Sheet: Homework: a parent guide http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/homework/index.php
2. Langberg, J., Epstein, J., Becker, S., Girio-Herrera, E. & Vaughn, A. (2012). Evaluation of the Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention for Middle School Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as Implemented by School Mental Health Providers. School PSychology Review, 41 (3), 342-364.
3. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.
4. Knollmann, M. & Wild, E. (2007). Quality of parental support and student’s emotions during homework: Moderating effects of students’ motivational orientations. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XXIII (1), 63-76.
Naturally, parents want to help their children and to see them succeed, but where do you draw the line with regards to their homework?
Parents often assist children by sitting down to help with homework, sometimes checking for mistakes, and occasionally completing entire projects.
Some research shows that helping with homework can be beneficial for children’s performance at school. However, other studies show different results about helping children with homework.
The Quirky Kid clinic suggests that the difference between parental involvement being beneficial or not is dependent on the type and the amount of involvement.
By constantly cutting in on the job your kids are doing, you may risk undermining their confidence. This may make them feel inadequate when it comes to completing tasks on time or may inhibit them from developing the knowledge and skills to do it themselves.
Tips to assist your children with homework.
It is best to establish a routine for homework at the beginning of the year. Decide with your child when and where homework should be completed. Creating a homework schedule together is a great way to discuss this, and put down in writing what you agree on.
You can make homework something children will look forward to by making it special one-on-one time with you. But remember to let children keep most control of it – make sure the pencil is in their hand, not yours.
To help children focus at homework time, set some boundaries, ensure they have a clear work space, and establish some goals, such as a time limit. Additionally, by placing a clock near their work space children will be able to monitor their own time.
Provide your children some wind down time after school. Allowing them to play for a while and have a healthy snack, will help them to concentrate when they start their homework.
Many schools have implemented a homework policy. If you think your child is receiving too much homework, or it is too difficult, get in contact with the school to discuss your concerns.
Most importantly, by allowing children to complete homework themselves, they will have greater sense of achievement. Additionally, providing parents with a legitimate reason to pile on the praise. Remember to always praise effort rather than intelligence.
Need more help?
The Quirky Kid Clinic provides private consultations and a range of resources to assist with homework challenges and performance. Please contact us to make an appointment or visit our resources page.