How to help your four year old with her homework


Regular readers will know Flea started big school this month. I definitely had mixed feelings about her starting full-time in a mainstream school only a couple of weeks after turning four, but she is thriving. It's a lovely school, she loves the children in her class, and having a small group means she's settled in and made lots of friends really easily.

But there's homework. Seriously? Homework? For four year olds? Okay, so it's not trigonometry but still.

Every day Flea brings home a folder in her bag. Inside are some flash cards and cut out words to match up, a small early reading book to look at, and a sheet of card with phonic sounds and short words for Flea to 'revise'. Also in the folder is Flea's 'reading record' where the teacher comments on how she's done each day, and specifies what homework needs to be done.

I've now worked out the best way to help Flea with her homework. And I'm going to share my secret with you. 

Here's what I do: after Flea's in bed, I take everything out of the folder and mix it up. I make sure to put the flash cards in a different order. Then I put everything back in the folder, and put the folder in Flea's school bag.

It's actually a perfect plan. What I've realised is that the next morning, Flea will go through these materials with her teacher. So it's not like she's not reading the book at all. What's more, her teacher invariably writes: "Great reading today, well done!" in Flea's reading record, and even adds a smiley face. So Flea is obviously keeping up with what's expected of her.

I know, I'm a terrible parent. But I just don't believe a child's life should be all about school at this age. So I will often collect Flea from school and we go somewhere. We might visit friends, we might go swimming, or we might go to the beach or the park. We might go out for dinner together, or go to the book shop. We might just go home and play. But personally, I think at her age, all of those things are more important than doing an extra 15 minutes of school work.

Still, I won't be mentioning any of this at Parents' Evening next week. Just in case.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 30th September 2009 / 11:02 am

    So I am not the only one! I did try with the homework but got so frustrated that I decided is was not worth the hurt and heartache.

  2. 30th September 2009 / 12:35 pm

    That made me laugh!
    It is too much for them at such a young age. My daughter is only 5 and has spelling to learn every week – luckily she is still finding them easy!

  3. Tawny
    30th September 2009 / 2:52 pm

    I did exactly the same thing. Homework before the age of about 8 just seems ridiculous to me.

  4. 30th September 2009 / 2:25 pm

    I never had homework until I started secondary school at the age of 11.
    4 is way too young of a age to do more school out of school!

  5. 30th September 2009 / 4:47 pm

    LOL you crack me up!

  6. 30th September 2009 / 5:43 pm

    Ha ha ha. I thought it was going to be real tips, which I could use with my seven year old, but this is much better! My five year old gets one early reading book a week, which is plenty. It sounds like her homework is just what they are doing at school anyways, so what’s the point? I always think homework should be stuff that they couldn’t do at school so easily. My 7 yr old’s first ever homework (other than reading) was to make biscuits. She had to use maths and reading and we got to eat the end result!

  7. 30th September 2009 / 8:09 pm

    I do a very similar thing with my son. I don’t get out most of the homework, but I do show him one or two cards, just so he doesn’t have to lie when the teacher asks if he did his homework. 🙂
    I might do it differently as well if he wasn’t doing so well, but he really doesn’t need the homework either.

  8. 30th September 2009 / 8:09 pm

    So this is the thing – I totally agree with you that 4 is way to young to have homework – and I never made Renée do a thing after school during her reception year – we read books together, of course, but never did ‘homework’ as such. BUT, now she’s in Year 1 she’s coming home with more and more reading which is so much more difficult and she’s getting upset because she thinks she’s behind. It’s horribel to see her like that and part of me wishes I had done a bit more with her. Don’t know…

  9. 30th September 2009 / 8:17 pm

    Sometimes I feel such a hippie in my aproach to educating my child that is good to know there are more people who think that children should play and be children.
    Still, I don’t know if this makes us good or bad mothers.

  10. 1st October 2009 / 10:49 am

    I really disagree with “proper” homework for such young children. Encouragement for reading at home is important, although many people obviously read regularly with their children anyway, not everyone does. I worry that children get stressed and put off school and learning at a young age, when they should be learning through fun and play. In many countries they wouldn’t even be in school at 4, let alone having structured homework. I’m a secondary teacher and guess primary teachers are checked up on like us to see that we are setting homework/ what kind/ how often.

  11. 1st October 2009 / 1:10 pm

    You made me smile. Please take a look at my blog,, or my book, The Case Against Homework. Homework for 4 year olds is ridiculous!

  12. 1st October 2009 / 7:54 pm

    Phew! the pressure is off. I’m already dreading next year’s regimented lifestyle, but now i know i can cheat…. I can skive off and hit the park!

  13. FedUpMom
    2nd October 2009 / 1:44 pm

    Please, talk to your child’s teacher about this! She needs to know what’s really going on. Talk honestly to some of the other parents too. They’re either making their kids miserable by trying to march them through the homework, or they’re faking it too.

  14. 2nd October 2009 / 3:29 pm

    My daughter is meant to do 20 mins reading with an adult, each day. I have to keep a log. Every Friday, I fill in 20 against each day of the week, and add them up to 140. With my older ones, I did start off keeping proper records, but I often ended up fudging, and frankly, I thought it was the quickest way to kill off a love of reading. “Come on, you’ve got to do another 4 minutes.”
    We’ve always read bedtime stories with them, every night without fail, and I take the view that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s 10 minutes or 20.

  15. Dominique Santos
    10th October 2011 / 9:42 am

    I have been traumatised by homework already… had some horribly tense post-school afternoons, and after filling in her reading diary with succinct and well-communicated comments, I was dismayed to get a mark back from the teacher… (7 out of 10). Seems a bit arbitrary to be giving marks for a reading diary at this stage and without any kind of warning or marking scale? What made it 7? We are dancing in the dark here for sure! Love this blog, and three cheers for the strategy outlined.