Whether you love it or hate it, homework is a component of your children’s education. In our busy lives with schedules full of sports, dance, music lessons and the like, families may find it difficult to set their children’s educational responsibilities as a high priority. Although parents everywhere want their children to succeed in school, many parents err more on the side of slighting the importance of nightly homework than in giving too much help. There are those parents who make the mistake of doing the homework themselves for a variety of reasons, but they are in the minority and teachers will always spot such activity.
So what are the proper ways to deal with nightly homework assignments for our children? First of all, be sure that you understand the purpose of homework.
Homework serves a number of purposes, but foremost are:
Once adults see the purpose of homework, it is easier to properly support it.
The amount of nightly homework should vary according to age. Most experts agree that for Grades 1 to 3, there should be about 20 to 30 minutes of homework per night. For Grades 4 to 6, it should increase to about 40 minutes to an hour. From Grade 7 and upward, it may reach two hours or more. Clearly by age 11 or 12, children need to be able to do independent work and quite a lot of it. This is where parents can play a huge role in starting from the early years to support good homework habits.
The whole family should be on board with support of nightly homework routines. Here are some tips for setting homework expectations in place for your children:
1. Provide your child with a place to study with proper lighting, materials, and resources.
2. Set regular study times. You may need to be flexible, but study/homework must not be skipped.
3. Remove distractions. Some kids can study with soft music on. But TV, loud music, or other children playing around the student will distract from quality work.
4. Monitor assignments. Know what your child is doing, and check over completed assignments.
5. Keep the lines of communication open with the teacher(s) and the school(s).
6. Be a good example to your kids by reading and modelling a lifelong learning attitude.
Success in training children to become independent learners begins at an early age with parental interest and support. The difference between supporting and doing too much for our children is really quite easy to determine. It is appropriate to review information with children by asking them questions and listening to their answers. It is helpful to step in when children are ‘stumped’ and discover together where they need help. It is helpful to train them to break large assignments into smaller chunks. It is fine to allow them to take a break when the going gets tough and then try again. But it is never fine to do their assignments for them.
If homework is a problem for any reason, it is a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher before the problem grows. Perhaps together you can work out the problems of too much work, assignments that don’t seem to challenge, or any other problem that may arise. Teachers have a purpose for their homework assignments and teacher-parent cooperation helps children realize you think it’s important, too. Setting sound homework practices in place will pay dividends for years to come.
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher, reading specialist, and freelance writer. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at janpierce.net.
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