homework, learning and remembering, Working with teens

Why does your teen do homework? To learn and remember.

Homework needs to be done!

Homework helps your teen learn and remember. Getting your teen to sit down and actually concentrate on completing homework can be a challenge – and I encourage you to face that challenge with me over the next few weeks.

Why should your teen do homework? Recent educational research shows that homework – particularly at high school – is an important factor in their academic success or failure.  As well as completing assignments on time and revising for exams, homework is an important time your teen relearns and remembers what they have been taught in school.

How did YOU last learn a new skill or idea? Think back to when you last successfully learnt a new and difficult skill or idea. In the beginning perhaps you were confused, and misunderstood or forgot key parts of what you were learning. However you probably went over (revised) those ideas or skills fairly soon after you first learnt them (within 24 hours to not lose up to 60% of it) and then you understood and remembered it a little more. If you were very serious about mastering that information or that skill, you probably practised, talked about, read about, and/or thought about them over the next few weeks, and so gradually understood them more thoroughly and could use them easily.

Research on the brain agrees. Somehow we adults who want to learn new skills and ideas already practise what recent research results on the brain and learning has shown. To deeply understand and remember new information research has shown that if we revise it as many times and different ways as possible with in 24 hours, then several times again during the first week, and again at least once during the next month, then we usually remember it. Check out my other thoughts about homework here.

Who’s the boss? Please believe that you still are.  Don’t leave it up to them to get on with their homework if they aren’t. You are still in the role of supporting and guiding your teen, even if they have become taller than you, and although they are perhaps more difficult and challenging than when they were younger. So you still need to continue to help them complete their homework so they succeed at school. Sometimes your teen needs your support to understand how important homework is to succeed and learn. Learning is their job right now but supporting your teen to get the best out of their life is still your job for a little while yet.

Don’t jump in and ask your teen to do their homework just yet. Have you ever watched an excellent mechanic check out a car? My mechanic Raymond is an excellent mechanic. He always focuses thoughtfully as he observes how my car is performing. He listens to the motor, watches how all the parts move, looks for oil drips, etc. He is looking for a variety of reasons why my car isn’t working well – not just the first and most obvious reason. I recently watched him amazed and thrilled as he examined my car for a while, then found a simple but not immediately obvious solution to what looked like a potentially complex and expensive problem.

Observe carefully first – like my expert mechanic does. Consider all the possibilities you can before you take action. How to take action and encourage your teen to ‘willingly enough’ do their homework is the subject of my next post.  In the mean-time, to make the most of that post, observe your teen for the next week or two so that you deeply understand their concerns around completing homework when you talk with them. Here are a couple of important tasks for you.

Collect information about your teen. Your teen has been changing fast the last year, and you may be out of touch with each other. Spend some time and thought becoming better informed about them. Sympathetically and respectfully notice what they like to do with their time, when they do it, what they want this year from their lives, who their friends are, and what their interests are. The more you know about your teen’s motivations, interests, worries and concerns the better you can guide and support them. Don’t intrude so that they want to push you away, be light and gentle and non-threatening, but make a thorough and non-judgmental study of what makes your teen excited, worried, and motivated.

Your teen is more likely to negotiate about homework if they feel you understand and respect them. It is time to reassess them and also your relationship with them so you can build a more durable and ‘adult’ relationship with them. Read Stephen Covey’s wonderful books or watch this you-tube clip on the 7 habits of living effectively, and spend time reflecting about what you want for your teen and your relationship with them. What you think, and feel and believe influences how well you can help your teen, so spend time reassessing your priorities and beliefs. The more you know before you act, the better you can solve the homework dilemma with them.

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

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