There are growing complaints from parents about children being over burdened with homework. The pressure of our modern busy lifestyle, compounded with the busy schedules of children, who I feel are often over -burdened with extra curricular activities has brought this age-old debate to the fore.
Almost every parent of a school-aged child has experienced the last minute hysteria when they realize that there is a test or an assignment due the next day and the child has not done the work. Sometimes, it’s not clear who is the more hysterical: the child, or the parent!
Competition from the television, tablet technology, play-station games, social networks and cell phones make the path from the kitchen to the desk even more treacherous. The policing role that parents have to play leads to tension and in many cases, the parents ‘help’ by doing the work themselves.
As an educator, I am acutely aware of the value of practicing the foundation skills for later learning – aka homework. As a therapist and a mom, I am also aware that for the children who have difficulty with these skills to start off with, homework becomes a catalyst for the battleground between parent and child.
Research on the issue is still divided, but there seems to be consensus particularly in the lower grades, that it is the quality of the homework rather than the quantity of the homework that is important.
The reason for giving the homework should be carefully evaluated:
- If homework is given as ‘busy work’, perhaps we are not extending our children’s thinking skills effectively.
- If homework is given because teachers are unable to cope with the demands of the curriculum, then perhaps we should be evaluating the teaching and the curriculum.
- Often, parents evaluate the teacher or the school in terms of the amount of homework given. Homework is tagged on as an afterthought in order for the teacher to validate herself.
I believe that homework is important not only to consolidate skills learnt in the classroom, but also to teach children skills such as time management, task completion and strategies for coping with mistakes, difficulties, and setbacks.
How do we reduce the pressure of homework overload and still practice skills?
1. Make time count
Use the valuable time spent in the car going from one place to another:
- ‘Finger writing’ on the car seat or on a sibling’s back can be used to practice spelling words.
- Add up number plates to practice number bonds or drill tables.
- Encourage your child to read road signs, billboards and logos in order to familiarize them with print.
- Encourage your child to compile a grocery list. Essential reading and spelling skills can be reinforced.
- Send your child down the aisle to fetch specific items. This can be used as a memory task and a reading task depending on how specific you make the task. You can ask for a specific brand of toilet paper.
- Checking for prices of items, adding them up and estimating the total cost reinforces maths concepts.
The beauty of the iPad is that it is portable and versatile. It gives children a chance to practice and create where they normally couldn’t. For example in the car or the doctor’s waiting room, It provides a tool to access things things that they can’t access in their real world environment.
There are a number of Apps available on the iPad to help with scheduling, organization and planning of homework. These can be found here
There are also some great apps to practice reading, spelling and maths skills which are fun and engaging. Ultimately the goal of your child’s interaction should be to help him learn a concept, formulate & organise ideas, help with communication or develop skills.
3. Homework location
The right location often determines the success of homework. This will depend on your child and the culture of your family. Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom others need to have a parent keeping an eye on them and monitoring what they are doing. Make sure that the child has the necessary materials required for doing their homework.
4. Homework Time
Advice on time for doing homework generally suggests doing it at the same time every day. Practically this is often not possible because because your child’s routine is different every day. Take into consideration that if your child is particularly tired, then it may be necessary to leave out some of the homework. It is important to communicate this with your child’s teacher.
Assign a limited but reasonable amount of time to do homework. Using a clock next to the child may assist them with time management. I am interested in HOW the child tackles the homework. If a child is spending an hour doing homework that should take 10 minutes, then there is a problem that needs to be investigated. Communicate with your child’s teacher! It is much more helpful for a teacher if a parent communicates the difficulty than being faced with another weak excuse or sore tummy.
Finding the right balance when giving children homework help is tricky. After all, we all want our kids to succeed.
Have you got some thoughts to ease the pain of homework?