It's the time of the day which tests every parent's patience – the battle to get the homework done. Now a local teacher turned entrepreneur has come up with a novel service which aims to turn the chore of homework into an enjoyable challenge for kids – while giving harassed parents a complete break.
ather-of-two David Titterington (40), from Bangor, has just launched Northern Ireland's first homework club in a bid to lighten the load of learning for children.
Such has been the level of interest that after just three weeks David is already looking into extending the service to provide a similar facility in Holywood and Newtownards.
It was while feeling the stress of doing homework with his own boys that David, who teaches full-time in Clifton Special School in Bangor, had a eureka moment and came up with the idea for his business – believed to be the first of its kind in the province.
He explains: "My wife Cherith and I have two boys, Jack who is in P7 and Charlie in P4.
"One night was complete mayhem in our house trying to get dinner ready and do two homeworks while rushing to have one of the boys ready for football.
"I just thought if it is this stressful for me and I am a teacher what must it be like for other parents who don't have a teaching background?"
David started to ask other parents how they coped with homework.
When he discovered that everyone he spoke to found it stressful, the idea for his homework club took shape.
He spent his summer holidays from school doing more research and planning his new enterprise.
A disused former playroom at his home in Bangor's Ballycrochan area was transformed into a state of the art classroom equipped with the latest hi tech digital technology as well as traditional school aids for the children.
He launched his club with an open day before the start of the new school term in September.
"That proved such a great success," he says.
"The stories from the parents just reinforced for me that there was a need for this service and in fact the response was so phenomenal that we even had parents from Holywood and Newtownards interested which is why we are now looking at opening in those areas.
"The number of teachers who have shown an interest has been a real eye-opener.
"Teachers seem to find it difficult to work with their own children and have really welcomed the chance to send them to the club."
Homework Club NI is aimed at children from primary three to primary seven.
David holds two one hour workshops every afternoon from Monday to Thursday with a maximum of eight children per workshop. A one off workshop costs £9 but if booked in a block of 10, that drops to £8 an hour.
He says his aim is to improve concentration, galvanise academic learning and take the anxiety out of homework for both children – and parents.
The beauty of the club is that children are benefitting from personal support from a qualified teacher with 15 years' experience.
David says: "I wanted the classroom to be a calm place for the children and in designing it I thought about where I would be happy to send my kids.
"Children are encouraged to complete their own tasks and also work collaboratively to bring out the best in each other.
"When the homeworks are complete, they can play educational games to enhance the fun element while reinforcing learning. I want these children to realise homework does not have to be a chore: already those attending are leaving in great form with the job well done."
The dedicated teacher is also glad that his club is allowing him to have a tangible, positive impact on family life, subtracting the tension and tears historically associated with homework time: "If I can resolve a common cause of stress from family life, and extract the very best potential from these pupils, that's a fantastic result."
David's 10 tips for better results
1 Be prepared: talk positively about homework, show interest and familiarise yourself about what needs done each day.
2 Be convenient: create a space set aside for homework, ideally with a comfortable chair and desk. Use this to enjoy other meaningful quiet time, such as reading, to foster a positive association with that area.
3 Be ready: keep a homework kit handy, with stationery essentials to save frantic rummaging in schoolbags.
4 Be punctual: ensure the pupil has sufficient time to complete the assigned exercises. Establish a routine. Allow your child a short time to relax after school with a healthy snack and plenty of water before settling down to concentrate.
5 Be quiet: minimise distractions: no TV, diverting siblings, etc. Once a child loses their focus, it can take considerable time to regain it.
6 Be organised: get the child to explain what they need to do. This allows you to see if they understand what is expected (and lets them feel they know more than you do!).
7 Be nice: little people often don't like asking for help so reassure them you are willing to assist if needed.
8 Be calm: relaxed parents = content children. Encouragement is vital. If negativity creeps in, confidence wavers, emotions rise and homework really suffers. Sound familiar?
9 Be rewarding: know what will motivate your child to do homework well, be it a trip to the park, a comic or coffee after school on Friday. Everyone loves rewards.
10 Be encouraging: check teachers' comments and marks in homework books. This indicates levels of effort and quality required. Children love recognition of success, especially from their own parents.