Saturday, September 24, 2016

5 Ways Homework Can Help Your Child

There is much debate among parents and educators about the value of homework.  A Texas teacher recently wrote a letter to parents of her 2nd grade students that she will no longer be assigning homework.  The only work going home will be work that students haven't finished in class, and her school district is backing her classroom policy.  In addition, many other school districts have passed a "No Homework" policy.   Does doing homework really support learning and benefit children?

The Benefits of Homework

When my own children were small, the questions I most often asked them after school were, "How was your day?", "Are you hungry?", and "Do you have any homework?"  I knew that if the answer to the homework question was "No" too often, I would have to talk to the teachers and find out if it was really true.  Doing homework became a routine in our household, often with me sitting alongside my kids as I completed my own homework of checking assignments that were completed by the 2nd graders that I had taught that day.

As a parent and teacher, I believe that homework has many benefits that help facilitate a child's learning and extend that learning beyond the walls of the classroom.

  • Homework provides a needed connection between home and school.   Parents will be able to see what the child is studying in class, and be able to see first hand if their child is struggling with the work or not appropriately challenged by it.
  • Children also learn time management, and develop skills to prioritize tasks or divide a large project into manageable steps. 
  • Learning should be viewed as a lifelong process, and homework reinforces and extends the learning that occurs in class. Children learn by doing homework that learning is not confined to school.
  • Perseverance in the face of adversity is a valuable skill that is developed when children tackle a tough project and see it through to completion.  Parents can provide valuable support to their child by giving one-on-one assistance with a homework assignment that isn't possible in a classroom setting.
  • Homework gives children a chance to develop responsibility and take charge of their own learning. They develop study skills which they will need once they reach upper grades and higher learning.  Students needs to know how to prioritize assignments, break down large projects into smaller tasks, and practice skills learned in class.  Homework is often necessary just to keep up with the pace of the classroom instruction.
How Parents Can Help

Parents are the single most important influence on how their children view homework.  Is it viewed as something to be done if there's time in the afterschool schedule, or is it seen as a priority? Children often adapt the views of their parents, so here are some ways to help support your child.

  • Children will need a homework area that suits their study style.  My daughter preferred to do her homework in her room while listening to music, while my son liked to do his at the kitchen table with family nearby.  Create a space that honors your child's personal work style.
  • Have supplies nearby.  A pencil box or crate with pencils, rulers,  pens, highlighters, post-it notes, scissors, glue, crayons or markers eliminates the need to search for these items.
  • Check in with your child to monitor progress or assist in answering questions, but make sure that the homework represents your child's ability.  Don't do it for him! Teachers rely on homework to see if the child has mastered concepts previously taught, and can provide assistance when they see a struggling student
  • If homework becomes a struggle for your child, talk to the teacher.  Often teachers are willing to extend a deadline, modify an assignment or otherwise provide to your child. 
  • Homework shouldn't be viewed as a punishment, but as a learning opportunity.  Be sure to have a positive attitude toward your child's homework, and be sure to convey to her the meaning behind the assignment.  
  • Celebrate when your child has finished a challenging project!  Your child will equate effort with reward, and be encouraged to approach challenges with a growth mindset.
  • Try to make homework part of the daily routine.  Set aside a time after school or after dinner when your child is most apt to want to approach a project.  Some kids prefer to do homework right after school to get it done, while others prefer later in the day.  If your child is on a sports team or has extracurricular activities after school, it makes scheduling homework more of a challenge.  Talk to the teacher to see if occasional accomodations can be made. 
With the proper preparation, attitude, and support, homework can extend your child's learning beyond the classroom, while enhacing the relationship between you and your child.  Have fun studying!