The debate over the value of homework continues, but it continues to be a common practice in our schools. Homework can be a tool to teach responsibility, diligence and perseverance. It gives caregivers a glimpse into what their child is learning and the type of teaching they are receiving.
If you feel your child’s new school has too heavy a homework load, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns with the classroom teacher. Children are busy these days and they need some time to connect with family and friends, to explore hobbies and sports, and to get outside. If the amount of homework your child receives threatens their ability to do these things, they are getting too much.
Once you feel comfortable with the amount of homework assigned, there are a number of things you can do to set kids up for homework success.
Create a homework-friendly area: set up a place that is bright, has the required school supplies (extra pencils, erasers, papers, pencil sharpener, etc.) and is comfortable. If you know your child struggles with distraction, create the homework spot away from their stash of toys.
Set up a check-in routine: your child is responsible for knowing what they have for homework and for communicating that with you. Many teachers support this through the use of a class website or a school agenda. Have your child explain what they need to do. For many students, articulating their task helps them organize their approach and focus.
Show interest in what your child is learning: ask your child about what they are studying. Have them share what they found interesting or something they liked about school each day. If they have a longer homework assignment, ask them what they think the goal of the assignment is and what are the big ideas they should remember.
Encourage and support but DO NOT DO your child’s homework: There is no value in your child submitting perfect homework, heavily guided by you. You can support your child and praise their efforts with work. You can ask guiding questions like “does that answer make sense?” “is this your best work?” but if your child makes an error and doesn’t catch it, let them turn in their homework that way. This gives teachers valuable information about what the student requires and allows your child to learn from their mistakes.
DO NOT RESCUE: Did your child leave a big project until the last minute? Did they leave their assignment at home? Did they miscopy the instructions? Are they unprepared for a test after cramming? These are all excellent learning opportunities. If your child has a homework disaster, let it happen, then review it with them after the consequences fall. Talk about how they can do better next time. Your children will learn far more from these big mistakes than they ever will from you rushing about buying last minute project supplies or dropping their forgotten items to the school.
Reduce homework stress: homework should not require any tears – yours or your child’s. Tortuous learning tasks only serve to push children away from education. If homework is causing your household undue anxiety, take it up with the teacher and find a solution that works.
With these few steps, you’re on your way to having a great school year! Good luck!
Written by: Erin Chawla, YMC.ca