JSM Jan: Strategies in motivating our kids to do their homework well

At our January 2018 Junior Saints Mums meeting, we gathered to share how best to help our children do their schoolwork in an effective and a timely manner.

This is the summary of what was discussed:
(Items in italics are added in by Brenda Tan after the meeting.)

Plan a simple weekly after school timetable with your child.

Include breaks/naps and snack time

No gadgets during work time

It is important to have your child plan their timetable with you rather than you give them schedule. Planning the timetable together will allow them to have greater ownership of their time. Also, they learn to have the habit of time management.

Try to keep to the schedule set, although this may be frustrating initially. Habits take time to set, but it gets easier once the routine is formed.

Create a filing system.

Teach your child to use an accordion file to sort out the worksheets and papers from school.

All homework should be placed in the same slot to be completed, and returned to the same slot to be handed in the next day.

School notices should be kept in a slot by itself.

Returned worksheets should be removed from the file and kept at home.

Create a reward system.

Have a clear reward chart, with achievable goals.

Reward for completing past year school exam papers.

Rewards can include use of mobile phone, watching tv, or computer games.

Setting achievable goals are important, otherwise it may discourage the child to work towards the goal.

Remove privileges.

Remove favourite toys.

Return when good.

Timer: Keeping track of time.

Use a countdown timer to help your child be aware of time that has passed.

A kitchen timer is useful as a countdown timer at home.

Use the timer in a variety of ways – see how many questions your child can do in 10 minutes, and then have a chart to see if he can improve on that score.

Use it as a reminder that certain sections of the exam paper need to be competed by a certain time and to move on if he hasn’t competed the section.

Use it simply as a timer in conjunction with the time-table.

The W200 S Women And Children Digital Timer Sport Watch, retailing for S$15.90 at Decathlon.
It’s the only countdown timer watch I managed to find this price point.
Mindful that the boys are adapting

New time table

Homework/Hate school

Behaviour and expectations

Children learn better when self-motivated.  
A parent accompanies the child when doing homework. Help the child see that learning is not an isolated activity and that you’re also a learner.

Pick up a hobby that can be done while the children are doing their homework.

Bite-sized learning esp. for Chinese.

Read more Chinese books.

Also look for Chinese resources like YouTube videos with good Chinese language appropriate for kids.

Life action movie based on Disney’s Mulan, with Simplified Mandarin subtitles. (There’s a version with both English and Mandarin subtitles, but watching that might cause the kids to only read the English subtitles.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT9V_hHPYhMThe channel has more such movies which are targetted at children and are a good resource for listening and reading the Chinese texts.
Parents to have close communication with child’s teachers.

Monitor the homework channels of the class for work to be completed.

Email or call the teacher if you have queries. Don’t assume that the teacher knows what you are concerned about.

Let the teacher know to look out for your child if they are facing some personal or emotional difficulties, eg death of a pet, so that the teacher can help support your son.


Making the learning appropriate and enough for the kids. Some kids can do more drills, others don’t need as much.

Insist on quality work over quantity work.

Use the school values and school song.

The school song says “time for work and time for play”, so work comes first.

The school song also says “truest fame lies in high endeavour”, a reminder that hard work is important.

The school values of TRUE WISE:
Thanksgiving, Resilience, Unity, Empathy, Wonder, Integrity, Self-Discipline, Excellence, are good reminders to our sons when they don’t produce quality work.

Communicate with your child

Monitor our communication with our children – how much time is given to talking about schoolwork, their hobbies, what they enjoy doing, etc. If the communications with our children weigh too much on schoolwork, then the child might feel that that’s the only thing you care about your child.


Brightly lit area, table and chairs at comfortable height for the child, quiet space to encourage focus and concentration.


Get 2 sets of stationery — one for school use and one for home use. This way he is unlikely to “forget” to pack his stationery for school.

For lower primary school boys, it is not advisable to use mechanical pencils because the 0.5 tips are quite sharp, and erasing these may be difficult. Get the 1.3 or 0.7 mechanical pencils instead, as these make a thicker line and are much easier to erase.

Learning Spelling

For lower primary students, don’t wait until just before the spelling test to learn spelling. Write the words on cards and paste them where the kids can see them every day. Test the kids a few days before the test and get them to correct those they got wrong. Repeat it the next day, until the spelling day itself. This will get easier once the child has a habit of studying for spelling.

There are spelling Apps like SpellBoard which allows you to input the spelling words and have your child listen and write or type in the answer.

There are Chinese Apps for tracing character strokes, but I’m not sure if there are those that allows you to input the words for learning. Nonetheless, learning the correct character strokes can help the child memorise characters better.