Homework – how many of us parents dread this? It hangs over me from the minute we get home from school and as the sun goes down the invisible ticking clock gets louder in my head, but my emotional wherewithal is severely compromised by this point. I always think a glass of something might help, but actually I know that really it is the reward for getting through homework, supper, bath and bed without losing my temper with the children. With a year 3 child, homework is at a low level yet the fireworks it creates can be spectacular. Often I feel like the only mother losing her marbles over this long held institution but I know it’s not just me. What intrigues me is that everyone has a different way of dealing with this particular joy.

The let it go house

This house has a laissez faire attitude – no one sits down to do homework if they don’t want to. There’s no bribery, pleading or shouting. But there is a lesson learnt here – take responsibility for your own actions. If you don’t do it then you have to answer to your teachers and your peers. I really respect the parents who follow this through.

The keep calm and get it done house

This is what I aspire to – I actually think these houses are urban myths but some children seem to come in and just get on with their homework. I can’t work out if that’s because they are actually robots or drugged. Or maybe they are heavily bribed. I mean seriously, how many children actually want to do homework? These homes also have a calm and serene feel and seem to be tidy, ordered and organized.

The shouty house

This is where every day a mother starts with the aspiration of a calm, cool and collected post-school afternoon, but after the third request to ‘please do your homework’, resorts to shouting which takes us quickly to meltdown mode. Hello my house. I still fail to understand why I have to ask more then 8 times before shouting to get any response.

And let alone my children, how do I cope with homework! Much is done in the car which means that I forget to write in the diary what has been read. So my reception year child looks seriously unsupported as his reading diary has next to no comments from me. My vision of serenity is always fractured by tea time, as is theirs and I struggle to stay calm while organizing tea, emptying kit bags, feeding the dog, packing things for the next day and refereeing the warring factions I acquired at school pick up.

What kind of homework mother are you? Do you hover, correcting every mistake as it occurs; or do you wait until it’s completed then tear it apart? Do you test their knowledge after completion or just assume that the mere act of completing it constitutes some sort of understanding? Is it just me that seriously questions the point of homework at times? Yet, I understand its value. The teachers rely on us to back up what is being done in the classroom, the children need to learn, gently, that most work requires some sort of extra input outside of school hours – it’s just a taster for most people’s working lives after all. (How many of you will check work-related emails, read articles or do some research outside of your formal work hours and place?) and I know that the more something is repeated the more we understand it.

I also know that it’s an opportunity for us to see what our children are doing and to make sure that we can support their learning at home in a calm and measured manner. But I also love that my year 3 still wants a ‘play bath’ and a bedtime story and that is what gets lost in the tantrums (mine and hers) over homework. It’s another juggling act. And one that I seem to lose more often than not.

So to try and bring some order to the chaos, I have introduced buttons in our house. Essentially it’s like a currency: good behaviour, kind deeds, getting things done, table manners, helping with chores etc. all earn buttons. The children save their buttons and then convert them to a treat or a ‘thing’ depending on what we have discussed.

Then there is the coveted gold or silver button. This takes some serious work to achieve. (We are talking Blue Peter badge type achievement.) I liken it to my glass of gin on a Saturday night – I’ve worked hard (really, really, REALLY hard) all week and that is my reward, as is the gold or silver button their reward for something outstanding.

Homework is on the button hit list. And I’m not ashamed to say that I am deploying button currency at full throttle. As it’s only started this week I can’t yet tell you how effective it is, but there has been significantly reduced shouting, which must be a good sign surely?


How important is accreditation?

Let’s start with the phrase we all know is bound to appear in this blog: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” from the Roman poet Juvenal, which means: “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

A democratic society, such as that in which Juvenal lived in approximately 55-127AD, should have a system of checks and balances.   In 21st century Britain almost every area has an organisation that purports to maintain the standards of its practitioners, and this is definitely a good thing. It ensures people working in that industry are maintaining standards of best practise, following guidelines that are (or ought to be) regularly updated and operating within safe parameters so that their clients or customers can be assured that they are not going to be ripped off or taken for a ride.

In the childcare industry there are many organisations that offer accreditation to companies providing training courses; they will ensure that the courses have content that is supported by current research, that the teachers themselves are properly qualified and trained, and they will even provide certificates so that the attendees can be confident that their new-found knowledge is of the highest standard.

All of this comes at a cost, of course, and to gain accreditation is expensive. Most of the recognised accreditation agencies require annual subscriptions in addition to a payment per course. They will send out a representative to attend your course once a year, and this person has to be paid too.

So what do you do if you are a new agency, trying to fill a hole in the market by providing continual professional development in niche areas that are not covered by these agencies?

At Born To Parent we rely on our reputation and word of mouth. We have been teaching training courses for different organisations for nearly 20 years before we decided to do it for ourselves and set up our own company. We wanted to offer short courses to busy professionals working with babies and children; there are so many areas where research is ongoing so that parameters change and parents are confused by articles contradicting each other on a weekly basis.

Our courses are based on rigorous, up-to-date research thanks to Emily, who doesn’t let me write a single word without wanting to know where it came from and who has endorsed it – “Who says?” rings out across the office whenever we are writing a new course.

The courses are written in response to requests from the professionals themselves, who know where the gaps in their own knowledge occur, but who don’t have the time to sift through the alternative opinions and the mass of information online and elsewhere in order to be able to support the parents who rely on them for guidance.

And they are delivered in a friendly environment where the focus is on drawing out what the students already know and building on it, on teaching them in an interactive (and therefore more memorable) way. This again is thanks to Emily whose Montessori training and ethos permeate all our courses. And her dyslexia, which leads her to frown when she reads the handout I’m writing. At which point I know I’ve written too much and need to illustrate more!

So if a course isn’t accredited, how can you tell how good it is? How can you judge that your money is being well spent and that you will get the quality of training that is promised?

Ultimately it comes down to a question of trust and gut instinct on the side of the purchaser, and integrity and reputation on the side of the seller. And in childcare, it’s not the accreditation that is the most important thing, it is using the knowledge you’ve gained, feeling more confident than before, and developing as a person and a professional.

And for Emily and me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – Emily, like Mr Kipling, makes exceedingly good cakes, but I’m sure that’s not the only reason people keep coming back to our courses!