The Great Homework Debate and How to Head Off Homework Battles

The pros and cons of homeworkWith the school year almost underway, many students are dreading the piles of homework that are sure to follow. And, with good reason.

While research has shown that homework does offer some benefits, especially for middle and high school students, there are risks to assigning too much. Too much homework can negatively impact kids by increasing stress levels, leaving less time for sleep and relaxation, and decreasing the amount of time available for family, friends, and activities.

Homework is so ingrained in the fabric of our concept of school that many parents, and educators, have ignored or minimized the effects that too much work can have on our children. Plus, many parents and educators believe that more homework is a sure path to better grades and higher test scores. But, that link is more tenuous than we’ve been led to believe.

According to the National Education Association (NEA), “…it may seem straightforward to many educators that reviewing lessons and practicing concepts after school would correlate to a greater retention of course material, but studies suggest that the link between assigned homework and academic achievement is drastically overinflated.” 

Of course, completely eliminating homework isn’t a viable alternative for most schools. Instead, the NEA recommends a scale that increases as student mature. For example, elementary school students can receive 10-20 minutes of homework per night in first grade. And, that figure may increase by 10 minutes per year.

For parents, finding a way to make homework a positive experience and help their children gain as much value from the process is essential. Homework also offers a ready-made way to involve families in their child’s learning. 

How parents can head off homework battles:

Parents can do a lot to head off inevitable homework battles by setting, and committing to, some ground rules, as well as creating a suitable work environment, and communicating with teachers.

  • Dance party first. Some parents want their children to hit the books as soon as they walk in the door. After spending all day sitting, though, many children need to give their minds a break and burn off some physical energy first! Whether your child requires 15, 60 or 90 minutes of down time, make it clear that when study break is over, it’s time to settle down to homework. Experiment with different options. Then, set a consistent schedule to be followed throughout the year.
  • Use a timer. If your child is a dawdler or daydreamer, help to keep him on track by setting time limits. For a young child, for example, you might allow 15 minutes to complete a language arts work sheet or a half hour for a set of math problems. Use an actual household timer that will buzz when time is up. Young children do not have a well developed concept of time, but surprisingly, even eighth graders can have trouble judging how long a half hour is. Getting a child used to pacing himself and staying on task will improve his performance in the classroom and on standardized tests.
  • Set the tone from Day 1. The proper environment can go a long way toward keeping your child focused and productive. Being off in a bedroom alone—where there are games, toys and comic books—can be just as distracting as working in the hub of household activity. Find a quiet but centrally located place where you can easily pop in your head to check on your child’s progress.
  • Take a break. Periodic breaks will help your child to remain focused and productive when he is working. Lower elementary school students, for example, might work for 20 minutes and then take a 10- minute break. For high school students, 50 minutes of working followed by a 10-minute break is appropriate.
  • Paper, pens, and pencils. Furnish the area with all the school supplies your child might need: pencils, sharpener, pens, colored pencils or markers, rulers, glue sticks, scissors, stapler, protractor and compass, dictionary and thesaurus. To avoid the 8 p.m. emergency runs to the store, go out now and buy poster board, construction paper, string and other supplies. Save shoeboxes, milk cartons, Styrofoam food trays, and other items that can be used to create projects. A little preparation now can save hours of frustration down the road.
  • Communicate with teachers. What if your child is working diligently in an appropriate environment, but seems to require too much direction from you or is struggling to complete homework in a reasonable amount of time? A teacher needs—and wants—to know if a child is having difficulty with material so that he or she can help that child.

When school and home are closely aligned, students are more likely to succeed!

Back to Basics Private School in Wilmington, Delaware focuses on the individual needs of your child

Back to Basics Private School in Wilmington, Delaware offers a unique school environment for students in grades K-12 and a focus unlike any other school in the state. With a cap of 15 students, Back to Basics Private School provides students with customized, 1-on-1 instruction and self-esteem building by experienced, degreed instructors.

To learn more about how Back to Basics Private School can create a personalized team to tailor an integrated curriculum to the specific needs and abilities of your child, call us at 302-594-0685.