Education was a mechanical experience when I was growing up. Study pages , memorise them, consult guide books, absorb frequently asked questions and answer them in the examination. It was only when I moved out of the State board system and into the IGCSE curriculum for my middle and high school, that I realised what a lovely experience learning can be and not the mindless learning by rote that I had subjected myself to in my formative years.
When Gy was 4 and was going to Junior K G, the school came up with an innovative idea. They sent worksheets home once a week and called them ‘home play’. Now, that was a brilliant concept, since it took the ‘work’ out of homework. The more activities she had during ‘home play’, whether it was colouring, writing, cutting and pasting or just simply, moulding clay to make it into a funny-looking turtle, the happier she became.
What I especially enjoyed was the fact that there was no emphasis on fine motor skills such as gripping a pencil and writing neatly at the tender age of 3 to 6 years. If the child chose to write, she was encouraged, but there was no dedicated activity that stressed on neat handwriting. Research shows that children can develop these fine motor skills only when they are closer to 7 or 8 years of age.
After she completed pre-school and started mainstream education in June 2012, the focus had shifted away from ‘play’ to ‘work’. And, while by and large, the extensive emphasis on assignments and tests has reduced, since the time we exited the halls of study, there is a definitive need to make homework more interesting.
Gy goes to a CBSE school in Bangalore and what I liked primarily about the evaluation method is the CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation). There are no formal tests till the child enters Grade 4. Worksheets and assessments take place as and when the child completes a lesson, but there is no rigid expectation in terms of performance. Marks are not given and grades are the means of evaluation.
There are enough posts out there on how to set the mood for your kid to do homework in a conducive environment. So, this post is going to be more about how to interest your child in doing homework.
So how do we get a child to do homework and not make it feel like work?
Make it relatable!
Yes, it really is that simple. There was a lesson on ‘Growing up’ given in her EVS textbook. She came home one day and said she had to learn the lesson, as there would be an oral assessment the following day. She spent some time reading through the lesson and then asked me to quiz her on the topic. The stages were about ‘infants’, ‘babies’, ‘children’, ‘adults’ and ‘elders’. As I scanned the various differences between stages, I realised that it would be easier for her to remember the facts if she had information that she could relate to.
So, I started asking her about babies. When she screwed up her eyebrows, trying to remember the points, I said,’ You know little N from the apartment in Block A?’
Her face brightened and she said, ‘Yes’.
‘ Can you tell me what he does every time you see him?’
‘Well, he crawls about, tries to say a few words and even tries to walk a few steps.’
I smiled at her and said, ‘You just told me the three features of the ‘baby’ stage.’
I asked her to think of a different person for each stage of growing up and she immediately rattled off every single point.
Her face had such a happy glow that I could tell she was relishing the very idea of homework now.
Make it fun!
The other day, she came bearing her Hindi homework , saying she had to learn some words in Hindi, together with their meanings in English. As I looked over the verbs, I decided the fun way to make her recall the words would be to act out the words. Now, I know what you are thinking. And don’t worry, I made sure all the blinds were drawn and nobody could see me acting the goat!
One of the words was ‘lad’ or ‘fight. That was a phase when she used to pick a fight over petty issues with friends in the playground. I merely asked her, ‘What is the one thing that you do every evening when you meet T in the playground?’ She excitedly said, ‘Fight’.
To date, she remembers the meaning of the word.
Another day, we were listening to Hindi songs on the radio and she listened intently, trying to pick out words that she knew. At the time, there was a song about a ‘girl’, who used to ‘fight’ with her man and how she used to ‘talk’ to him about it. Yes, that refers to about every fourth song in the Bollywood pantheon! She excitedly pointed out the words and then solemnly said, ‘ I need to listen to more songs. That is how I will improve my Hindi.’
Now, can I honestly argue with that?
Make time/space for homework!
When Gy started school, I remember talking to a few parents, getting an idea of the work in store. Some folks said that I would have to ‘do nothing’ at all and that the kids would do ‘all the work’ on their own.
Okay, now that worked…not at all! Gy, as most of you know, is the dreamy kind. She will sit for an entire hour, chewing on her pencil and staring at a speck on the table, trying to decide if it looks like Mickey Mouse or Captain Haddock. Other times, she will remember an ‘important’ piece of information which needs to be shared immediately- that her classmate brought a friendship band to school.
Gy enjoys spending time with me. So, I decided I would make time for her homework. We now devote an hour in the late afternoons to homework. During this time, I sit beside her, but do not help her, unless she explicitly asks me for assistance. Most times, she can do it on her own. Other times, she relishes the little words of praise- ‘Hey, that looks neat’; ‘Wow, did you do that all by yourself?’- and I have begun to treasure these moments immensely.
For most art-related activity, I outsource the work to my husband, since I am dreadfully deficient in that department! Gy, too, knows it by now and splits her homework time between us effectively.
At the end of the day, I suppose it boils down to how much of leeway we give them in terms of independent thinking, while still knowing that they can turn to us, in times of trouble.
And, how about parents out there? How do you tackle homework hurdles? All tips, suggestions and advice are most welcome. Do share your thoughts!