Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework - Book Review


For many parents, homework produces a battlefield of reluctance and discontent. Free from the constraints and rules of the classroom, children don't want to be pressured into completing yet more work, but deadlines have been set and teachers are expecting homework books to be handed in on time...

Of course we want our children to succeed at school - what rational parent wouldn't want their son or daughter to achieve the grades that will later land them their dream job? Yet when the task of ensuring homework is completed satisfactorily - and on time - becomes an unpleasant chore when compared with the lure of the latest videogame or playing out with friends, how can we convince our little loved ones to try their best and settle down to tackle the task?

Through Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework, Noel Janis-Norton sets out a programme for parents to help daily homework become a stress-free and enjoyable experience, one which can have lasting effects on our children's ability to learn and on our own skills as educators in the home.

As a keen supporter of my own children's education, I decided to review this book for Glamumous readers so you can get a better idea of how this programme operates, and why you may find it useful in developing your own homework tactics.

Our children's education is far too important to leave up to the schools

In the early chapters of Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework, Janis-Norton explains why working with our children at home is essential in helping them reach their academic potential. While current research enables us to ensure all children could reach their full potential, policies and teaching methods take time to catch up and in the meantime school pupils are missing out. 
No teacher, no matter how gifted or dedicated, will care about a particular child's sucess as much as the parents of that child will.
She explains how parents need to "take charge" of their children's education by working with them at home. Training our children to adopt good habits and help them break down chunks of learning into "micro-skills" are essential tactics. We don't need to teach the subject matter learnt in school; instead we should help our children develop the skills required for them to learn more effectively through one-to-one supervision: a feat which cannot easily be achieved in the classroom where time and resources are often limited.

There are no shortcuts! But there are long-term benefits...

Those who skip directly to the chapters explaining the essential homework rules and routines will quickly surmise that there is no quick and fast way to tackling poor homework habits.

Janis-Norton explains that homework should not be rushed, and that parents should try to build in extra time instead to ensure homework is completed properly. Consistency is key - children should be expected to do some form of educational work for six out of the seven days in each week - even in the school holidays - to reduce resistance and ensure skills are properly overlearned.

Building up to one hour a day for primary school children and up to two hours for secondary school children is the ideal amount of time required. To many this may seem like a huge amount of time to set aside after school on a daily basis, though I recall my secondary school form tutor explaining that at age 14 we should be spending the equivalent of half our school day revising the day's learning to ensure it sank in. The previous homework guidelines suggested by the government support this, though as Janis-Norton states unequivocally, homework should take the amount of time suggested by your child's school. No more and certainly no less.

At least in the early days of establishing the new homework rules, parents are expected to supervise and be involved in their child's practise. "Think-throughs" and "reflective praise" are essential concepts to helping our children learn the vital skills required for successful completion of homework. In my opinion, the key concept of Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework is teaching parents the skills they need to teach their children how to learn more effectively, and in that this book is a perfect success!

Refined advice for specific improvements

The later chapters of the book offer practical advice for helping children improve particular skills required for effective learning.

Section Three explains key concepts to help us teach our children how to learn, from improving self-reliance, through to memorising and thinking more effectively. These skills form a sound basis for improved learning in all subjects, as well as making homework a more enjoyable and rewarding experience for our children.

Section Four targets Literacy which, as Janis-Norton explains,is the "foundation for school success". From improving listening skills (which helps children absorb more information from their formal teachings) through to developing important writing techniques and suggestions to improve handwriting, these chapters provide excellent advice in areas where our children may need it most and a sound reference for continued refinement throughout the education journey.

I particularly enjoyed reading Chapter 17 which focuses on developing writing skills. In recent weeks, Princess has expressed reluctance in writing any more than a couple of sentences which surprised me as in most areas of school she is not only competent but enthusiastic. After some reflective listening, I realised she was having trouble organising her ideas on paper, and we found the "mind-mapping" technique from this chapter to be an excellent suggestion which helped Princess feel almost instantly more confident about getting back to writing after the half-term holiday!

Another section of this chapter I was very grateful for is the list of writing types which children are expected to master. Since Princess doesn't seem to get much (if any!) formal homework, I found this to be an excellent reference for micro-skills we can work through together at home. I would have dearly loved to find a list of suggested micro-skills for mathematics, though suspect the age range for this guide is too great to clarify what would likely be a rather long list!

My overall opinion of Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework

This is by no means the only book I have read in regards to children's education, nor have we yet had sufficient time to prove these techniques work, but I do strongly believe the blurb on the front cover: that this a "revolutionary programme that transforms homework"!

It did take me rather longer to read (and absorb) this title than I'd anticipated (I'd hoped to post this review some days ago!) though I believe this is due to Janis-Norton's authoring technique which makes us stop to consider the ideas she presents rather than simply skip through them. This makes me feel that I have learned rather a lot about the rules and routines which can transform homework in our house from something which is dreaded and rushed into an ordered daily routine which we can possibly enjoy - and the children will certainly benefit from!

Many references to Janis-Norton's earlier title, Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting are made throughout this homework guide which at times is a little jarring (especially since I have not read the accompanying title, nor have it to hand). I would certainly like to read it though, since it seems this may be a useful companion guide.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book to review by the book publisher in exchange for the honest and impartial review expressed in this post.

Review Details

Reviewed by: Amanda Kennedy
Review date: 21st February 2013
Rating4.5 out of 5

What do you think?

Have you read Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework? If so, what are your opinions on the ideas presented in this book? Have Janis-Norton's parenting or homework techniques been of benefit to you and your family? 

Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and suggestions - I would love to hear your thoughts about this book and the methods which may or may not have worked for you.