Finding time for homework when it feels like there’s none

Kinderling News & Features

My daughter’s school has a very light homework policy. In her first year of school, it was doing one reader a night. Now it’s readers plus a little spelling, and some maths for those who are more diligent than my husband and I.

It’s only 15 minutes but do you think we can find the time to fit it in?

The mornings don’t work, as I’m trying to get two children out the door on time to get to work. In the evening we don’t get home before 5.30pm, and then it’s dinner, bath and bed.

Any time we have is spent doing the necessities, like eating, bathing and sleeping.

Should we scrap homework altogether?

Research says that homework in the early years doesn’t have a significant impact. But “what the research says” feels empty when children in the same class are doing their homework and are several reading levels higher.

When I speak to other parents whose kids are doing the maths homework (and learning several instruments and languages) I start to twinge.

Maybe our family isn’t committed enough. Being tired at the end of the day isn’t an excuse. Either that or we need to get up earlier. I need to prioritise! I need to find my inner tiger mum!

But as soon as I think that I deflate a little.

I’ve tried getting up earlier, and it’s nigh on impossible. I’ve tried doing the readers in the evening, when she’s tired and it takes 30 minutes to do what should take 15.

None of it feels like the perfect solution.

“I love doing homework with my kids” said no parent. Ever.

It turns out homework is just as painful as a parent as it was as a kid.

My friend Kristen Toovey has two boys at school, she says “I find listening to two home readers at once and being kind, useful and supportive extremely wine inducing.”

I saw one mother walking to school with a cardboard box painted like a ship the other day and I thought, “Oh god, one day there will be projects?? What kind of hell have I entered??”

I’m not saying that everything in life needs to be Wizz Fizz and jumping castles, but it’s definitely more challenging to fit in homework no one likes doing when you have no time to start with.

Homework induces stress and parental guilt

When I asked my fellow working parents for advice on how they fit in homework, most responses included feelings of stress and guilt.

Ping said, “We find homework just an added stress to an already crazily packed week. Just another source of (seemingly unnecessary) tension.”

Christine admits she gets “the mum guilts” about homework, and Katherine says her son is so tired from school, “I feel like I’m flogging him. Poor kid”.

Finding time when it feels like there’s none

Still. All is not lost. A few people have found ways of making homework a part of the daily routine.

Jason says that he and his wife split homework. When one is cooking, the other is with their son going through readers and spelling. And when they can they do more in one night, for those afternoons when there is more going on.

A mum at school suggested doing all the homework on one day of the weekend. Even though the school recommends no more than 15 minutes a day, putting aside one hour and getting it all done worked for her. I can see how this would work for our family as well.

Regina uses a more creative approach, “We might not actually do the writing of the homework but I look at what it is in essence then work it into conversation- it might be making up a story inspired by a picture- so I’ll try and find a way to get her writing creatively in other ways / she might not hand it in but I know she’s learning what needs to be learnt- math through money / spelling through games (or texting when she’s at camp) thinking laterally!”

If all else fails, speak to their teacher

My daughter has a lovely teacher who understands how difficult it is to fit in homework. She stressed it was important that my daughter enjoy her readers, and that she’d rather she didn’t do it if it was making her resent reading.

Teachers are used to working with families, and if we reach out to them, they can find solutions too.

Our teacher said she would include some readers that were easier than others, so my daughter can read to my husband when he’s cooking dinner, keeping a few more challenging ones for when I can do them on the week-end.

We’ll see how it goes. Term two has just started, wish me luck!