HOMEWORK is a fact of life for most students.
It provides students with time to understand or study school subject matter more deeply, and gives parents an opportunity to be involved in their children's education. A parent's interest can spark enthusiasm in a child, and help teach the most important lesson of all – that learning can be fun and is well worth the effort.
Homework helps your child do better in school when assignments are meaningful, completed successfully, and returned with constructive comments from the teacher. An assignment should have a specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched to a student's abilities, and designed to help develop a student's knowledge and skills.
In the early elementary grades, homework can help children develop the habits and attitudes described earlier. From the 4th through 6th grades, small amounts of homework, gradually increased each year, may support improved academic achievement. In 7th grade and beyond, students who complete more homework score better on standardized tests and earn better grades, on the average, than students who do less homework. The difference in test scores and grades between students who do more homework, and those who do less, increases as children move up through the grades.
Experts from both sides of the homework debate agree it’s important for teachers to ensure homework assignments are an appropriate length for the developmental level of their students. The National Education Association along with the national PTA suggests adding 10 minutes of homework per night incrementally with each grade level. Thus, a kindergartener or 1st-grader can benefit from 10 minutes of homework per day, a 2nd-grader from 20 minutes, a 3rd-grader 30 minutes, and so on, not to exceed two hours per night total in high school.
Amounts that vary from these guidelines are fine for some children and in some situations. For example, if your child is fascinated by a topic or task, and wants to spend hours working on it, then that is fine. However, if a task is taking a lot of time to complete, and he's starting to get frustrated, have him stop, and come back to it later. If you feel the homework that is given is just too hard, then write a note to the teacher to let her know there is a problem. Schools and teachers are expected to plan homework so that children are not overloaded.
If your child has a couple of days without homework, encourage him to read. Make sure there are plenty of interesting books, magazines and newspapers in the house, and that he is a member of the local library. If you are concerned that your child has either too much or too little homework, talk with his teacher, and learn about their homework policies.
The homework debate will undoubtedly continue for many years, but all the evidence suggests that the right amount of homework, designed appropriately for the developmental level of the child, does promote learning.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 23 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.