Education Matters: Back to school, back to homework

By Mary Lasater
Sept. 21, 2013 at 4:21 a.m.

School has been in session for a few weeks now, and students are once again getting used to having homework.

Yes, there is that word that students and parents may dread.

Homework will be a more enjoyable activity if students and parents understand the different purposes of it, how much should be given, the roles parents play regarding homework and how to go about completing it.

Purposes of homework can vary, so knowing the particular purpose gives homework meaning and focus. It can be assigned as practice to reinforce newly learned skills or remember material. It also can be preparation for an upcoming lesson, or students may apply what they were taught to a new situation.

They also may be asked to use several skills to apply to a single task, such as writing a book report for science or illustrating a poem read in history.

Although the amount of homework depends on the age and skills of the student, the National Parent Teacher Association suggests the following amounts of time each day: kindergarten through second grade, 10-20 minutes; third to sixth grade, 30-60 minutes; middle and high school, more than 60 minutes.

It is essential that parents recognize the positive and negative aspects of helping with homework. Positives of parental involvement include increased learning speed, enhanced appreciation of education, improved communication between home and school, clarification of the school's expectations and increased understanding of how the child is learning.

A negative aspect of parental involvement can be interference in a child's learning if the parent takes over the assignment. Parents must learn to observe, ask questions of the child as he or she works on homework and encourage him or her to complete the assignment until it is his or her work.

Homework tips for parents

Provide a quiet, well-lit place to do homework that is free from distractions.

Have needed materials available.

Establish a homework routine with a set time, such as right after the child gets home from school or just after dinner. Don't leave homework until just before bedtime.

Express a positive attitude about homework so that the child will have the same attitude.

When the child needs help, give guidance - not answers.

Help the child recognize and do the hardest homework first while saving the easier work for last.

Give the child a short break if there are signs of frustration or failure that are keeping him or her from focusing on the work.

When the child successfully completes his homework, reward him or her with a special event such as a walk, bike ride or play time.

Know the homework's purpose and class rules for completing it.

If the teacher asks for parental involvement, do it. The child will see his or her home and school as a cooperative team.

If homework is for the child alone, steer clear. Too much support can be harmful to the child becoming an independent, lifelong learner.

Mary Lasater is an assistant professor in the University of Houston-Victoria School of Education & Human Development. She is a Victoria native and has more than 30 years of education experience.



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