homework, learning and remembering, Uncategorized

Tips for successfully helping children develop the homework habit.

Help your child develop the homework habit

how to help your child with homework

Time spent together is precious. As well as homework time to practise skills they are learning in school, children need time to play, read,  chat with you and with their friends, help out in the house, and have free, unstructured  time to explore and enjoy their world. Homework time when you sit down together might be one of the precious moments you have with your child over a busy day.

I definitely don’t think they should watch lots of TV or video games or be on the net for long periods of time. I challenge you to check how much time your child is spending in the virtual world this week. Count the hours – they might dismay you. Then do something to change that. Give them more homework perhaps! Homework does not all have to come from the school, you can create it too. Just make it relevant to your child’s interests and skill level.

Homework and what it is and does. Some of you think that homework isn’t important at all.  Research has shown that families who help their child practise the skills at home that they are learning at school are making a positive difference in how well they perform in the classroom. If they are not getting much from their teacher, I suggest you create some regular practise time for them at home. Perhaps your definition of homework is too limited. It is not all about drills, although some of it might be. Include reading interesting books together, writing stories that get published and read by family and friends, completing regular revision of maths they are learning in class, cooking, building structures and machines, and exploring their environment whether it is an urban or rural one, with them. Here are some suggestions on ways you can work respectfully and successfully with your child.

I guess we all agree that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to spend on homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each year level – but I personally think homework should be capped at about an hour for children under the age of 12.

Regular homework can change their lives. You might begin the homework habit with them and then let it drop as your life becomes busy again, or when a child becomes sick or when you are all tired for a few days in a row. In fact, you might be the one who does not carry through with homework. I encourage you to persistently pick up the homework habit again when you let it drop and continue adding value to your children’s present life and their future ones. As I have heard from many parents who persistently encouraged their children’s interests and skills, those children have later been able to create future work or wonderful past-times because of the childhood interests you encouraged during homework time. Here are more ideas to organise for successful homework times.

Ideas to discuss with your child to make homework time pleasant.

Have established homework routines. Establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done. Daily routines not only make homework go more smoothly, but also foster a homework habit your child will continue to use later at high school and university.

Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom where it is quiet and they can concentrate easily.  Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better where you can monitor them easily. Work with your child to decide on a mutually agreed upon location.

Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework right after school while they are still in school mode. In general, it is a good idea to get homework completed as soon as possible, either before dinner or straight after, so they are not too tired. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the slower the homework gets done.

Simple incentive systems. Some children need to receive some sort of external reward because the pleasure felt when work is completed is not quite enough for them.The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or face-time, or playing a game with a parent. Use a ‘when and then’ sentence. Tell them, “When you have finished….homework then you can….”. Having something to look forward to is usually a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. The simple incentive of fun times after the work is done are usually enough, but some children need a little more incentive than that to complete homework.

More complex incentive agreements. These involve more planning and more work on your part and work best when you and your child develop them together. This gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. Your child will usually be realistic on deciding rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process. Here are some ideas how to create win-win deals with your child. The agreement might include a system for earning points that could be used towards accessing a privilege or reward, or receiving pocket money, or gaining access to the internet, or saving towards buying something expensive they want.

Build in breaks for when they need them. Discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks. Keep them short. Here are more ideas on creating breaks when your child is reluctant to work with you.

Build in choice. Check out more ideas on offering choice. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.

Check out other ideas to make homework time more fun for you both.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

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coaching, homework, reading and writing skills, Uncategorized

What if your child can’t read or write well….is that it?

How to Coach Your Children to be Excellent Students m
How to Coach Your Children to be Excellent Students

A few weeks ago I met a young man in his twenties who in the course of our conversation disclosed what exactly his mother had done to help him at home  when he was young and having great difficulty learning to read and write. What she did gave him the opportunity to fulfill more of his potential than is usual for poor readers and writers. It enabled him to complete tertiary study, and find interesting work that required good reading and writing skills as well as problem-solving skills, flexibility, lateral thinking, and communication skills. He mentioned that he still found reading aloud difficult when one of his bosses was listening, because it made him anxious, but otherwise not; and that he doesn’t have any difficulty understanding the deeper meanings of text now, or writing reports.

I was very impressed by this young man. He was currently working with teens who could not read, write, or do maths well; and he showed great empathy and concern when talking about them. I also watched him engage with the young men around us, and he was warm and fun. He is exactly the sort of person you would want working with your young teen if they needed mentoring, and he was involved in many community activities, and obviously a thoughtful and hard-working man. The sort of person many employers yearn for. His mother must be so proud of him!

As this young man’s mother must have done, I encourage you to continue working with your child at home no matter what others think, what the school is currently doing to help them, and even whether your child wants you to help them. This year I have worked with several students who took a long time to realise that if they applied a little effort, and regularly practised the strategies I coached them in at home with their parents, they could master skills they had thought impossible to learn. For quite some time these particular students were not keen to work with me, and for much of the time I coached them, they were certainly not grateful or willing to learn with their parents.

writing a book
One of my excellent writers

However, we never gave up, and the penny eventually dropped for them. They realised that we were not going to stop working with them and that we continued to believe in their ability to learn, no matter how poorly they behaved. At about the same time they began to notice that they were actually enjoying doing some of the reading, writing, or maths, because the work had become easier and so much more interesting. As they began to comply with their parents and complete regular coaching sessions at home, the parents, the child, and I all noticed a rapid improvement in how fast they learned new skills. They also became less anxious, demanding, controlling and reluctant when their parents and I coached them. Instead they became keen, confident, and self-motivated students who worked willingly and with deep concentration to master skills they now wanted as badly as we had wanted those skills for them. They became a pleasure to coach!

Every parent wants their child to achieve to the limits of their ability…wherever that is. That limit has to be found, then pushed, to see if it is actually the limit to what can be achieved. I have found that we often set limits much too low for ourselves and for our children, and that the actual limits can be much further away than first seems possible.

The young man I had met a few weeks ago was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that although he had Dyslexia, which made reading and writing more difficult for him, he still could and would learn to read and write well.  She didn’t stop at just believing in his abilities though. She worked regularly and persistently with him as long as he needed her too. She read aloud to him for as long as he needed her to so that he would have the opportunity to understand and use all the ideas and vocabulary his peers were currently learning, and she helped him develop his reading and writing skills until he could read and write easily for himself.

Plan to succeed.  As that wonderful mother of that out-standing young man did, and all the other persistent parents do whom I have worked with and continue to work with right now, create ambitious and exciting goals for your child, then keep them in sight, and each week take small steps towards those  goals. Each step counts.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families.




coaching, goal-setting, homework, Uncategorized

Positive Discipline part 3: First steps in seizing control respectfully

children learn what they livePositive Discipline: How to stay respectful and seize control.

An important strength of positive discipline is that you can respond quickly and assertively and with confidence when your child behaves badly. Before the positive discipline approach you may have reacted emotionally when your child wasn’t cooperating with you, or refusing to work with you, and you probably felt and expressed anger, resentment, sarcasm or helplessness.

Now, with an agreement about what exactly are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and the consequences for acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, you will find it much easier to be fair and consistent and calm and reasonable when your child chooses ‘bad student’ behaviours.

You will no longer need to chose moment by moment how to respond to your child’s ‘bad’ or ‘good’ behaviours and you won’t need to get involved or highly emotional about what they are doing or not doing anymore. Instead you and your child will realise that they have made a choice knowing the consequences of that choice, and as their coach all you have to do is step out of the way while your child experiences the results or consequences of their behaviours.

An important and exciting side-effect of the positive discipline approach is that your child learns that they have the power to change their behaviours in an acceptable way to create the natural outcomes or consequences they want. Over time as they learn to control their thoughts and emotions and behaviours with you, you will help them change negative and unhelpful behaviours at school too.

Positive discipline – the steps to make it work. Follow these steps carefully and you should be able to easily set up a new and more respectful coaching situation in your home.

Step one: Take time to plan ahead very carefully!

Decide exactly what behaviours you need, both from your child and from yourself. Ask yourself, “What does my child need to do so that I can coach and they can learn?” Then ask yourself, “How do I need to act to encourage those behaviours?”

Calm actions and words are the key to using positive discipline with your child, so plan for all the possible positive and negative scenarios you can think of. Decide what you will say (keep it brief), your tone of voice (keep it low), and your gestures (keep them simple) when your child behaves like a ‘good student’ or like a ‘bad student’. Then you can always use the broken record’ strategy, where you have several standard, brief responses for most situations that arise, and you repeat them just as a broken record/CD repeats part of a song. The broken record strategy allows you to respond decisively, smoothly, calmly and automatically, using minimal energy and maximum impact, to nearly all of your child’s behaviours. Step Two is in the following post.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families.




coaching, homework, reading and writing skills, Uncategorized

Reading – how to help your child read well and with pleasure

helping your child read

Check out this blog by a mother of 9 titled  ‘raising children is not a default chore is inspiring. As parents living in a society with many pressures brought to bear on us to be so much more than good parents, we need all the inspiration we can gather to stay focused on remembering what is really important in our lives, and to place that first. You can do this even while you are working outside the home, have little money, have many other responsibilities You just have to plan a little smarter.Write to me if you’d like to share your difficulties and triumphs. I’m there for you.

I encourage you to persevere every possible day to support your children to grow their knowledge and skills. I specifically talk about developing educational skills in my posts but if you look a little more deeply, I’m also talking about developing their emotional/social skills and although I’m not specifically targeting these areas, I encourage you to develop your children’s spirituality and physical skills as well. Strengths in all areas help them develop into strong and loving humans, and today more than ever we certainly need more of those qualities in people around us.

In the last post on reading I discussed how reading is still an important skill in your child’s future life as an adult as well as for their success at school I also suggested ways to work with their reluctance to read.

As  responsible parents we make sure that our child reads the books sent home from school. Perhaps they drone on, reading all the words more or less correctly, but they may find the whole reading process boring…and maybe you find it boring as well. And if it is boring, they will switch off and read automatically, and not really understand and remember the story the next day.

We can so easily make reading practice  something that is compulsory and important, but not fun. If something is not interesting in some way, we do not remember it later, or value it, so why should our children? Check out this post for  more information on how our children can learn and remember more easily.

Today I want to talk about the power of share-reading with your child. Share-reading is when you each take turns reading part or all of a sentence, a paragraph, or a page out loud. I suggest that you read little and swop turns often, and then your child will stay fully engaged, because soon it will be their turn. They will also be more likely to be interested in what they are reading if you are very interested, and if you also discuss it with them.

 Share- reading is fun!

You not only take your turn to read with enthusiasm and understanding, you also discuss difficult word meanings, what is happening in the story, and ideas that pop up because of the story.

  • Age does not matter. Teens can also enjoy share-reading. Share-read a book they want to read but that is a little difficult for them to read and understand.
    When it is their turn use Pause, Prompt, Praise.

    • Pause. Sit back and let your child attempt to the phonics rules and the meaning of the sentence to read unknown words. You can count up to 5 elephants (approx 5 seconds) before giving them a prompt.
    • Prompt them. Remind them to read what is there, or read the sounds from the beginning to the end of the word. Next ask them for a word that makes sense in the sentence and with the sounds they have just read.
    • Praise them. Tell them what they did right. My favourite one is to say enthusiastically, “Good reading.”

When it is your turn to read – read slowly, enthusiastically, and with expression. Move your finger along the line as you are reading if your child finds it difficult to track words, and make sure your child’s eye is following the words as you read them, or don’t use your finger if they don’t need that support and track words well. Stop reading unexpectedly (in the middle of a sentence for instance), expecting your child to immediately pick up from where you were.

Reading is to be enjoyed! It is not how many pages you read, it is how much you enjoy and understand the story. Spend time discussing what is happening in the story with your child so they read more thoughtfully, and actually understand all the hard words they are reading.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families.



homework, Uncategorized

How to help your child with their homework: New Habits take time.

Persistence is key to helping your child develop the homework habit.

paent and child homework“Even ordinary effort over time yields extraordinary results” (Keith Ellis, p. 74). The buck stops at you. In my experience it is also often the adult, the family coach (you) who forgets, doesn’t feel like it, is too tired, too busy, has a crisis to deal with etc.. Yes, your child might resist doing homework with you for a while, but it is your response to that resistance, or to anything else stopping you from doing homework with your child that decides whether the homework happens or not.  I enthusiastically encourage you to keep homework happening as regularly as you can through the hard times, and to keep your enthusiasm for homework up (even if you have to fake that). It takes a few weeks to form a new habit.

To form the homework habit – allow ten weeks. Your child’s resistance will melt away over time as you consistently use the strategies suggested in my blogs and in my coaching manual. Many of the family coaches have realised that they were the weak link, not their circumstances nor their child. They were the ones who actually stopped coaching.

Family coaches also regularly tell me that the joy and pleasure they now feel when doing homework with their child and the respectful, easy, deepening relationship they now share, was worth keeping going through the hard times. “Begin today what you regret not having done yesterday and you will avoid that regret tomorrow” (Keith Ellis, p.73).


  • Treat yourself as your own best friend and be kind and clear with yourself. Take a long hard look at your own priorities and your weekly planning. Be very honest with yourself about why you are not helping your child with their homework, but stay kind too.  It saves large amounts of your time and energy to be both kind and clear with yourself so you don’t feel guilt about what you haven’t yet done for your child.
  • Remind yourself that new habits take time. Habits have tremendous gravity pull. Lift off takes tremendous effort (Covey, S., 1994). New habits take time. Every habit you own (good and bad), you formed by doing something over and over again until it became second nature.
  • Have no regrets for past mistakes. Every day is a new day. When you haven’t done homework with your child organise to do it soon. Regrets cost energy, so instead of regretting, organise when you will do homework with them the next possible day.

 Don’t be part of the problem – become part of the solution,” Stephen Covey (1995). Spend time thinking about what your limiting factor. Is it a skill, an attitude, a habit? What most limits you working with your child? What factor once changed will make something else fall into place so that homework is possible and easier? Design your plan to overcome your limiting factor and schedule time for homework into your diary or onto your calendar. Write your schedule down somewhere you will SEE it often. For more on planning homework check out these blogs.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families.



coaching, learning and remembering, Uncategorized

Emotions are useful: How to learn and remember

Emotions help your child learn and remember faster.  

When our brain becomes emotionally involved as we learn, it is stimulated to make more patterns, which help us to learn and remember more easily and faster. Joe Dispenhow to learn and rmemberza wrote an article which has lots of useful information on how our brain works.

Strong reactions created when your child is excited, deeply interested, and curious for example, create much more brain activity associated with learning that information. Our unforgettable memories are often the nasty or wonderful experiences. When we remember them we can often feel the emotions we felt then as well.

Stop for a moment. Remember one of your strongest and nicest memories…. feel the emotion that accompanied that memory…

When helping them learn is fun for you both, your child will pay closer attention, and learn and remember the skill and knowledge faster and more easily. When helping your child learn and remember anything, combine as many of the senses as possible (your child can touch, smell, hear, do, talk), plus create heightened emotion (for example excitement, competitiveness, interest, amusement, shock). One of the easiest ways to combine all of the above is through competition.

Serious fun when learning new skills focuses concentration!

Make things exciting and fun through using a first up to 5 game. I use a first up to 5 game to revise basic facts, and to encourage students to change any of their unhelpful behaviours. You can create a flexible and highly competitive first up to 5 game for nearly any learning situation.

Learning basic facts. This includes spelling words, phonics sounds as taught in The Weird Word Game, tables, addition and subtraction facts, and anything else they are learning by heart. First they learn their facts; then when they feel a little confident they can win, play a quick first up to 5 game.

Changing unhelpful behaviours. A first up to 5 game can modify your child’s negative behaviours more easily and in a light fun way. It works better than using reminding and nagging (which you may have noticed doesn’t really work). I suggest that you pick one behaviour that you currently notice the most, and create a first up to 5 game. They can learn to pay attention, stay working and focussed when there are distractions, check that answers you give are actually correct, as well as change any unhelpful behaviour such as moaning (for example I might give them a point if they say “okay Anne” when I ask them to do something, and I get a point if they moan or sigh).

Tips for any first up to 5 game so your child plays it to win.

  • Warn them when you will be playing the first up to 5 game.
  • Make any first up to 5 game so that they almost win or lose.
  • Make it clear that you want to beat them.
  • Play the game often at first so they keep on their toes.
  • If they are bad losers – you can be one too. It is amazing how seeing you act as a bad loser stops or modifies their own ‘bad- loser’ reactions when they lose.
  • Sometimes I choose to be a bad winner. I can be very pleased when I win a first up to 5 game. I find students usually respond by wanting revenge quite badly, and so they improve their skills to beat me.
  • Use a tally they can see. For example:

Anne    Child

1111    1111

  • Remember to make win-win situations- and create first up to 5 games that you both have fun with. I have a small sweetie that I like to use as a prize but you choose with your child what a small prize might be. However, sometimes it is more than enough that they beat you or you beat them.
  • Modify the first up to 5 staying focussed on their work game to suit your child’s behaviours.
    • Some children need to check out what is happening in the room before they can work again. I might allow them two-five seconds to do that before they drop their head down to their work again.
    • Some children in the beginning need to be cued to remember what they are supposed to be doing. They might notice me counting hopefully under my breath, or I might get a certain little grin on my face and pause what I do, or pick up a pencil.
    • Some children look as though they are working when they aren’t. Use the game to attempt to catch them out.
    • Some children take a long time to start working. Give them a length of time that you are both happy with, to start working. I might count up to five for example.
  • Be keenly interested. The less interested they are – the more you can be….model keenness and focus. If you are not present and focused – why should they be?

People, I hope that you enjoy using my ideas. Let me know what you think about them.



coaching, homework, Math, reading and writing skills, Uncategorized

Learning and remembering new skills and information is easy: Part two use the senses

When they use only their ears to learn and remember reading, spelling, Mathematics skills, children learn and remember very slowly.

Unfortunately we adults often talk too much when teaching our children reading, spelling, and Maths skills.We often use a lot more than three simple sentences to explain something and our children’s minds go somewhere else, and they stop listening to us. Pay attention when you are explaining something to your child and notice when they switch off and stop listening. It is probably sooner than you think!

The more the brain makes new connections with sensory information, the more easily your child will learn and remember reading, spelling, Mathematics information and skills.

How to use your child’s senses when helping them learn and remember 

Learning and remembering: Using the senses

Brief talking (they listen) combined with showing how (they see) is a more powerful combination than just talking. Your child will learn and remember reading, writing, and Mathematics skills and information even faster when you ask them to show you how (they do it) while explaining to you what they are doing (they talk).

When you actively encourage your child to use their senses they will learn new reading, spelling, maths information and skills faster. When your child is seeing, hearing, talking, and doing as they learn, there is even more intense activity happening in the brain as more brain pathways connect with each other. Their brain becomes very busy making connections with what they are seeing, doing, hearing, saying. The more connections, the easier and faster your child can learn, and also remember what they have learnt.


At first you might find it difficult to remember to use their senses. We are so used to hearing the sound of our own voices.

  1. Deliberately help your child connect with two or more of their senses: For example they can see it, smell it, hear it, talk it, do it, taste it. Getting your child to see, talk, and do is a nice sequence you can use for most learning.
  2. Keep your explanations brief and combine the explanation with your child using another sense. For example ‘seeing’ something (a drawing, words to read, demonstration of something) or get them to ‘do it’ as you talk so that you give the next instruction as they complete the last one.

Check out my posts on helping your child learn to read and write to give you more ideas how to help your child be an excellent students.