What do parents need to know about homework?

Recently, I responded to an inquiry regarding homework. Here are my responses to the following questions:
What is the point of homework?  Homework should be used to review, reinforce, or expand on a skill or concept to be learned.  Learning occurs when it can be successfully transferred or applied to a real situation in the process.

What is the difference between a good assignment and a bad one?                      The difference is, if homework does not connect to a meaningful application, (Why do I need to learn this?)  it becomes useless.

How can parents tell if children have done all their homework?                        Parents need to establish a homework routine as early as possible.  A time and place is established whereby the child automatically assumes the responsibility for completing it. Prior to arriving home, every child needs to have recorded in his planner, both the daily & long-term assignments. Parents should know the expectations of the teacher in charge and check the child’s agenda each day for work being completed. When children notice that parents are involved in their learning, they will also want to be engaged in the process.

What is too much parental meddling?  When parents continually correct the child’s work for them.  Instead, allow the child to experience working independently first without any interruption.  Be there, if the child requests assistance, so that you are guiding them as opposed to supervising them.  Children need to learn to feel confident.  You can always offer suggestions and corrections as needed once the initial attempt has been made by the child.  Children need to develop an intrinsic responsibility and motivation towards all homework.  This will come, once the child experiences  success and growth will occur at all levels of his development.  The goal after all, is for the child to become an independent and life-long learner.

How closely does doing the assignment correspond to learning? If the homework is challenging for the child then learning is taking place.  If the child already has proven he understands and can successfully apply the concept to be learned, it is just repetition, and will be boring to the child. This is when parents must step in, and supplement the learning through additional resources, educational trips, and experiences.

Can a child do homework and still not be learning? Yes, if the child cannot see the practical application for doing it, or understand the process involved, learning will not take place. Parents need to look for evidence of this occurring.  Test the child by asking him to teach the skill or concept to you, or provide you with an example.

What can parents learn about their child by examining/observing
his homework process? Parents can learn if the child is confident and secure with his abilities.  Parents can also diagnose what type of learner the child might be.  This is equally important in understanding how the child best receives new information.  For ex. is the child a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner?  Parents can determine this with the free VAK tests available on the internet.  Parents should also keep in mind that the child learns what is expected of him, as a result of parenting. He will perform as he is taught.  So if the child is not attempting to handle his homework responsibilities, parenting skills are not being enforced correctly.

How much homework should children get? First of all, homework should not be busy work.  Homework should have a definite purpose. I believe it should be given as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and provide opportunities for creative application to real life situations.  When homework is meaningful, stimulating, and engaging, children will not have any problems completing it!

(Side note, I worked in Hawaii, at “Hanahauoli School”, which means happy working place. It was there, I learned as a teacher the benefits of engaging children in learning by doing. Children must be actively involved in the learning process for it to be both meaningful and beneficial.  By actively participating in the learning process, children can test their new-found knowledge and become fully engaged in learning through practical application and the transfer of knowledge.)

Why do some teachers never return homework?  All homework needs a response.  This can be done through sharing, discussions, or written comments to the student. The teacher who gives the homework must be ready to justify the assignment.

How do you deal with children who are reluctant to do homework?
Have the parent sign up for parenting classes, learn new parenting skills, or contact Champion Parenting, Inc. for additional resources and support.

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About authoraliceiorio

A nationally known educator, with over 20 years of teaching experience (preschool- college) is President and founder of Champion Parenting, Inc., a nonprofit.
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