Tears, doors slamming, and all out meltdowns often ensue over the homework battle. There is no denying that homework time can be less than pleasant for both parent and child, but it does not have to be such a chore.
Why Are Students Assigned Homework?
First, let’s address the age old question of why. Why do we have homework? Listen up class, for there is a purpose. Let this teacher explain.
Reinforcement and Practice
Number one reason for homework: reinforce material that was covered in class or practice skills that need to be internalized, and as a result, become a part of the learner’s every day repertoire of knowledge. For example, multiplication facts need to be internalized. When the math student is faced with more complex mathematical equations, you do not want them drawing tally marks on the side of their paper because they do not know 8 times 7 is 56. In the earlier grades, an example might be learning to write one’s name. There are a hundred and one ways to use the lessons learned about the letters in one’s own name to prepare students for more complex literacy experiences.
Preparation for Upcoming Lessons
Secondly, homework, especially in the upper grades, can be used to prepare for an upcoming lesson. This is often used in social studies to build background knowledge on a subject. For example, before we begin our unit on World War II, my students will be required to read a very short biography of Hitler, Winston Churchill, or Franklin D. Roosevelt. It provides a jumping off point when we begin to study a pivotal era in our history. Students need a hook for all the information that will come. I can use homework time to provide the background they will need to be successful.
Establishes Good Habits for Their Academic Career
Lastly, homework, even in the early grades, encourages students to see that this is a part of life. It establishes good habits that will serve the student as they progress through their academic career.
How Long Should It Take to Complete Homework?
So, now that we have established there is a purpose, I am going to say something crazy. Homework does not need to be extraordinarily lengthy to meet its purpose.
Yep, I said it. Mrs. Clarke, 5th grade teacher, does not believe you need to spend a ton of time on homework.
I want children to be children. There is still a great deal of learning that happens in the early years through the process of just playing, developing interests outside of school, and spending quality time with family.
A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes for each grade. So, 1st graders would have 10 minutes and 5th graders would have 50 minutes. By the way, those 50 minutes should include a large portion of just reading! The last thing any teacher, or parent for that matter, wants is a first grader spending an hour and a half on homework. YUCK, I say!
But, Mrs. Clarke, what about when homework hassles outweigh all of these benefits?
Ways to Make Homework Less Challenging
My teenager has had a very successful academic career. Yes, top 25 out of 418. We are very proud, but homework was a challenge in the early years. We did several things that helped ease the pain and pave the way for her to be independent and motivated to complete her homework.
- Establish a time that is “homework time”; whether that is right after school or before supper (it does not matter). This may take some trial and error to see what works best for your student. But once established, stick with this time. Be consistent.
- Make sure there is a place for working and studying. Yes, even in the early grades. It did not work well for my daughter to just do her homework at the kitchen table. We invested in a small desk and shelf for her “office.” After all, school is her job. She had pencils, a pencil sharpener, extra paper, highlighters, crayons, a stapler, and even a small cd player. This was her work space. It gave her ownership and a place to focus.
- Experiment with how much sound your child wants or needs during homework time. I like music, but it cannot listen to music with words when I am working on something academic. My husband likes for the TV to be on. Caroline, our daughter, just likes music, words and all. She says it is too quiet without it.
If Homework is Still a Struggle, Talk to the Teacher
I have yet to meet the primary or elementary teacher who wants his or her students to spend an inordinate amount of time completing homework. A red flag goes up for me as an educator, when homework time is a huge struggle for one of my students. It might be that a student is not “getting” the material covered in class and therefore avoids homework. It could be an indication of a larger academic problem in reading or math. If a student can complete the work in class, but not at home, maybe they need to have clear expectations established about the importance of academics.
With all this said, I also understand if several of my students are struggling with homework time, maybe I am assigning too much homework. I may not catch that if parents do not let me know. So definitely speak up! We both want what’s best for your child. Remember, we’re all in this together!
Has your child struggled with homework? What helped your family?