As a teacher and tutor for over 10 years, I have heard the statement “I hate homework” more often than I would like, and not just from students. There has been a lot of negative press surrounding the much maligned “homework” recently. In fact, it has been getting a bad rap for decades. Everyone is touting studies that show little or no correlation between performance and homework, while others say that any evidence that does exist between improved achievement and homework lacks a true causal link. This is particularly the case for elementary-aged students.
Why homework scores a failing grade
According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology by Cooper et al, “The conclusions of more than a dozen reviews of the homework literature conducted between 1960 and 1989 varied greatly”. The results ranged from homework having positive effects, no effects, or complex effects and even suggested that most research on homework was too little or poorly completed.
Alfie Kohn, a former principal and homework expert, believes that the bottom line should be no homework at all, except on those rare occasions when it’s truly “necessary”.
Homework has ultimately become an educational monster, rearing its ugly head at home every night just as you are about to relax with your family after a long day. Most students despise it and many parents I know dread it!
For many parents, homework can be a huge challenge at home. Factors like student age, homework type and how often it is assigned are very important when it comes to looking at how effective homework really is. Sometimes there is too much or it is too hard. Despite all the findings regarding homework and all the parental complaints, it doesn’t appear that homework will be put to rest in the immediate future. School boards continue to approve it and teachers continue to assign it. So long as homework is here to stay, here are a few of my teaching tips to make it more manageable at home.
5 ways to help with homework @ home:
- Make it FUN: If homework has to be assigned, then at least make it fun. Teachers who set interesting, engaging and relevant assignments that include real world applications of subject knowledge see a much higher incidence of homework completion and overall enthusiasm. If your child’s homework lacks fun factor, try to at least apply some practical examples. Be sure to raise this with your child’s teacher as well. Kids Goals has some great suggestions on keeping things light and fun
- Make it accessible: Homework, like lesson plans, cannot follow the same blue print for every student. In a previous blog post for the Mabelhood called Student Learning Styles: One size doesn’t fit all, I discuss the importance of discovering and appreciating a child’s unique learning style. This needs to be taken into consideration by both parents and teachers, especially when it comes to tackling homework as each student will prefer different formats and styles
- Make it quick: Schools have varying homework policies, but if your child does indeed have to do it, try to get it done promptly so as not to interfere with your family’s quality time. Ron Kurtus has some great tips for zipping through homework assignments
- Make it an extracurricular activity: Instead of worrying about homework in the lower elementary grades, involve your children in family activities to boost their brainpower, like playing pretend, doing household chores and reading together before bed. Just setting aside time for conversations can be an incredibly valuable way to connect with your child. If it has to be done, homework can help facilitate family interaction and cut down on screen time. As work days get longer and face to face time diminishes, reconnecting at the kitchen table to complete homework can be a good thing
- Make it routine: Some kids work best when they first get home while others need to decompress and refuel. Find out what works best for your little learner and try to stick with a regular homework schedule
As parents, we need to be vigilant and vocal. If homework is set too often, is tedious, uninteresting and takes hours to complete, don’t hesitate to relay your concerns to your child’s teacher. Be an advocate for your kids – you are more than qualified and know your child’s limitations.