Monday, February 13, 2012

The Complex Issue of Homework – Part 1

I have very mixed feelings about homework. As a parent, I hated it. It caused all kinds of problems for my son with attention difficulties and I often felt like the heavy. In fact, I thought the best part of summer vacation was the lack of homework.

I wasn’t all that fond of homework as a teacher, either. I knew it had some value but I also knew how stressful it was for my students and their families.

In this two-part post, I’ve gathered several tips to help make homework go a little easier. I hope you find them helpful.

Good Homework:
  • Encourages the development of organizational skills
  • Encourages the development of time management skills
  • Encourages the development of independent work habits
  • Is at the student’s independent level — not too hard and not too easy
  • Has a purpose that students understand
  • Reinforces what was learned in class
  • Gives practice to strengthen new skills
  • Informs teachers as to whether their teaching is effective
  • Informs parents as to what their children are learning
As a teacher, I can tell you that assigning homework that meets these criteria is not easy – especially if the students in the class represent a range of skills and abilities. And every class has students that represent a range of skills and abilities.

Issues that make homework challenging:
  • The work is too hard.
  • The reading level is too hard.
  • The work seems too easy or lame.
  • The child dislikes school and doesn’t want to continue the misery at home.
  • The child doesn't understand what is expected.
  • The child sees no point in the assignment.
  • Attention issues interfere with listening during the lesson(s) when the skill/information was presented.
  • Attention issues make settling down and attending to homework close to impossible.
Kids often have very little power over what happens in their lives, especially school. They have to go to school for 6 hours a day. They have to do homework. However, it’s possible to give kids some control over how they go about doing their homework. Consider these variables:

Ideally, your child will just sit down and do his homework independently, with little or no prompting from you. However, as most parents will confirm, this is seldom the case.

If there is more than one person available to give homework supervision, choose the person who is most likely to remain encouraging. Someone who can see the positive in your child’s homework efforts and not get easily frustrated.

Developing organizational skills is one of the top ways homework can be beneficial. Some people are just born organized. Not me and not most people I know. You can really help your child by helping her learn how to approach homework in an organized way. Encourage her to consider these questions:

What would be the best order to do this homework?
  • Start with the hardest to get it over with?
  • Start with the easiest to get the ball rolling?
  • Arrange assignments to match the availability of adult help?
Do I have everything I need to complete each assignment?
  • pens
  • sharpened pencils
  • notebooks
  • textbooks
  • a good place to work (see next section)
  • dictionary
  • Also helpful: a calendar and/or dry-erase board to keep track of homework assignments and due dates.
Most important question: Do I understand each assignment? If I don’t, is there someone I can ask?

Work Space
The place where homework is most effectively done can be quite individual. Some factors to consider:
  • Close to other people/work alone
  • Closely supervised/loosely supervised/independent
  • Quiet/noisy/background music
A good study space is important. It needs:
  • Enough room to be comfortable
  • Proper supplies
  • Good lighting
  • Controlled distractions
  • Right after school?
  • After a break?
  • After dinner?
  • First thing in the morning?
  • A combination of these?
Consider letting your child choose when he works on his homework and then expect him to stick with what he says.

I hope these ideas will help your child’s homework time become more productive and less stressful. If problems continue, you may need to turn to your child’s teacher(s) for support. Part 2 will have ideas for enlisting school help for homework issues.       —Gail Terp

Gail Terp is the creator of the blog Best Blog for Kids Who Hate to Read, a family blog for reluctant readers and their parents. She is a retired elementary teacher. She writes kids’ books; and connecting kids to books they love is her passion. Her blog is a 3-day-a-week blog:
Monday - Books
Wednesday - Parent Post
Friday - Fun Stuff

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