Has your homework turned into a nightmare? Are your teachers giving you a hard time about it? Is your mum pleading and sobbing and waving study-lists at you? Is Dad shooting his disappointed look at you? Welcome to Homework Hell.
I can get you out. Just read this post, it will put you back in control. Get everyone off your back and get ready for your exams.
What is the point of homework anyway? Was it invented as torture for kids in the nineteenth century by a staff room of sadistic teachers chuckling over their students’ pain? Thankfully no.
To understand why we do homework, we need to understand the brain. It’s a fantastic device. It can keep you going 24x7 for around 100 years. What is more, it never forgets anything. It records everything on an unending videotape.
But there is a snag - there is no replay button. That's a problem. Your teachers have taught you all this stuff, and it’s all in there. But there’s so much of it, how do you find anything when you want it?
Highways Of The Mind
That’s where homework comes in. It gives your brain practise at finding the data you need to pass your exams. When your brain finds something it needs, it builds a pathway so that it can get it again more quickly next time. And the more you use a path, the stronger it gets.
When you do homework, you are laying down the pathways for your brain to follow when you are in your exam. The stronger they are, the more successful you will be. You are making highways in your mind.
It’s the same when you are training for something physical like playing football or dancing or playing the piano. The more you repeat the exercise, the better you get.
Have a look at your homework now. Don’t just say “Maths, Ugh!” and turn away with a shudder. Look at it properly. What do you have to do right now?
If you’re lucky, maybe some of it is easy and fun. No doubt some is tedious and boring. Also, there might be some scary tasks you can’t do at all.
Before you start, get ready. Go somewhere quiet. Get rid of as many distractions as you can. Turn the TV off. No music. Put your phone in another room. Yes, I’m serious. You can do it! Stop crying.
Do the easy tasks first. Get them right but don’t spend any more time on them than you need. Clear them out of the way, and enjoy the feeling of achievement. If you are using paper, put your completed work on a separate pile so you can see it growing. Feels good!
Now the boring bits. Things like reading Shakespeare or learning the Periodic Table of Elements or your Times Table. You have to build those pathways in your brain, so get on with it. Repetition is key.
If you are learning a poem, learn one line at a time at first, then try to remember verses. And say the poem out loud. Your brain remembers the spoken word much more quickly than text on a page.
Have A Break
After one hour, give yourself a five-minute break. Go and have a drink of water. Pick one music track and play it. Reward yourself. But don’t start texting your mates or playing a game. Before you know it, your homework will be out the window once more.
The Scary Bit
Keep going until all you have left is your scary too-hard pile. Oh no! But yes. This pile is good because it’s your best chance to learn something new.
Pick the first task and look at it again. Do you know how to do it? If you do, it’s just another of those boring ones so get it done.
If you don’t know how to it, think about why not. Do you understand the question? Look at your textbook and try to find an answer to whatever you don’t get.
What if you are supposed to write an essay about the "Lord of the Flies" but you haven’t even looked at the book? You are going to have to read it then, a chapter at a time. Don’t try to bluff your way through it using a study text. You can’t build a pathway to something that isn’t there.
Get Help If You Need It
If all else fails, go back and ask your teacher for help. It’s a good idea to give yourself a day or two in advance of your homework deadline. That gives you a better chance of talking to your teacher when she isn’t already mad at you for not handing it in on time.
Keep going until you have finished your homework for today, or you are too exhausted to continue. But don’t give up to soon. You are better at this than you think.
Continue to give yourself a five-minute break every hour. It makes your brain perform a lot better, and it helps you keep hold of your motivation to carry on.
The great thing about time is that it passes, and you get to the end of this bout of homework. Yay! Give yourself another reward. Maybe play a game. Watch a film. Or just climb into bed and sleep. Enjoy the moment and celebrate your escape from Homework Hell.
Was It Worth It?
Yes, it works. But don't just take my word for it. A study of 3,000 students over 15 years by the UK Department of Education showed two to three hours homework a night resulted in better achievements in English, Maths and Science.
But don’t overdo it. Research by Stanford University in California has shown that doing more than 3 hours homework can be counterproductive because it increases stress and reduces learning. In their survey of 4,317 students, 56 per cent considered homework a primary source of stress. For example, it can make it hard to sleep at night.
So get into a routine of two hours homework a night if you can, and keep the stress levels down. Just remember, homework needn't be hell.
How Was It For You?
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For more advice on how to manage your time, please visit my blog.