Homework…………. just the mention of the word is enough to raise the hairs. What is it with homework, why does it cause so much anxiety in so many homes?
The first question I like to ask parents is “whose homework is it?” and the second question I often ask is “what role do you play in the process?”
I think we all have to ask ourselves the question “What purpose does homework really serve?” and of course the answer to this lies largely with the individual teachers and the homework policy in your school. I like to put homework into three categories:
- Homework given for the sake of giving homework
- Work to be done at home that for whatever reason cannot be done during school or supplements that which is being done at school
- Work to be done at home to give students an opportunity to work alone and manage time
What I call “constructive homework” (2 and 3 above) can teach children a myriad of things about life in general and many life skills. As parents, we need to take the time to explain to our children the purpose homework serves and get them to see the potential benefits of it rather than seeing it as simply being as a result of a mean teacher!
How can we view homework in a more positive light?
- It can teach children how to work on their own and develop good learning and study habits
- “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. As parents we can support, love, nurture and nourish our children to help them but we can’t actually force them to learn, it’s no different from trying to force feed a fussy eater….. Instead, we want to look at it more in terms of making them “want to cooperate” and “want to learn”. We want to instill in them the desire to learn and do better
- Homework can give children the opportunity to be accountable
- Doing homework can give children the chance to feel capable and build self-reliance
- Homework can teach children to work within limits which helps them develop tolerance for frustration and to delay gratification
- Homework can help teach children how to manage their time and learn the skills required for project management
- Homework can encourage children to be creative and flexible in their approach towards learning and doing projects
- Having to do homework can help to teach children about respect; for themselves, for others (their teacher and fellow students) and for order (the laws that govern our schools and society)
- It can teach children to persevere and come up with answers for themselves rather than just being able to stick their hand up and get immediate help
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves”
Doing homework for your child robs him / her of the capacity of feeling that they have accomplished something for themselves. At the end of the day, teachers know when parents do the homework and the kids know that the mark they might get for it is therefore not a true reflection of them. How do you think this can make children feel? What value system does this behavior role model to your children?
Homework will be a much easier and more positive experience for your family if you let it serve the purpose for which it is intended, to help teach your child to work at home away from their teacher. Sometimes, it can help to let your child’s teacher know of your views regarding homework. I make a point of letting my children’s teachers know that I view homework as being theirs not mine. That I will support them, guide them and give them help when they ask for it but that I do not remind them of their deadlines, nag them to do it, become their PA nor do it for them. When my kids panic last thing at night when they have forgotten to do their homework, I ask them to come up with a plan. That has sometimes meant that they ask to be woken 30 minutes earlier the following morning so that they can do it before school or that they will have to have a chat with their teacher about the fact that they forgot to do it. I believe that it is up to them to make an alternative plan.
Whatever happens, ultimately, I see homework as being my children’s responsibility and my role is to support their choices, decisions and plans for doing it. Over the years, we have had many missed deadlines, had our share of rushed and half-heartedly completed projects and cried many tears. I firmly believe that these trips, falls and fails have taught and will continue to teach my children important life lessons about the skills required to meet deadlines, being accountable, taking responsibility for their work and managing their time.
Homework, good or bad, however you view it, as children advance through their school lives, they are most probably going to get it. I feel that if we as parents can help equip our children with the skills required to deal with it, it will be effective in teaching them many of the skills discussed above.
How is homework viewed and done in your home? I’d love to hear from you. I hope that perhaps this blog has helped you see homework in a more positive light?
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PPS. The West Vancouver DPAC is hosting a parent education evening with Dr Leonard Sax on Tuesday 13th May at 7pm at the Kay Meek Theatre. Tickets are on sale now through The Kay Meek www.kaymeekcentre.com ! $15 WVSD Parent / $20.