Homework is a controversial subject today between educators and parents, especially for students in elementary school. Some see value in it, others think of it as useless and burdensome for children who should be spending their free time playing and exploring the world.
However, for the present, homework is a fact of life for most students in North America. Here are a few suggestions as to how to make the time spent on homework as pleasant and effective as possible:
1. Set up a specific homework and study area
The child will need a quiet, well-lit area equipped with writing materials, colored pencils, a dictionary and a thesaurus. Older students may need a computer nearby for special assignments. There should be few distractions: no TV, cell phone, electronic games or music. It would be helpful to have a large calendar posted on a nearby wall to write in dates for tests, project completion, and other important school reminders.
2. Establish a firm time schedule
Many families find that the period right after supper works well. The child has a break after school for relaxation, outdoor play, or extracurricular activities, then starts to work refreshed with a good meal. The house should be kept quiet during this time. It’s a good time for Dad to read the newspaper, the pets to have a nap and Mom to sew or work on another relaxing activity within calling distance of the student.
3. Be available to help
If the child requests help, give it cheerfully. Do not do the assignment for the him, but try to assist his efforts. Dictate Spelling words, or check Mathematics problems. If there are errors, suggest another strategy he might try. If he’s doing a Science or Social Studies assignment, ask him to explain the important points to you. Ask questions. It will help him organize the material in his own mind. If he’s doing a book report, see if you can rent the movie, watch it together, then discuss it.
4. Keep a positive attitude
Homework should not become family fight time. If the child becomes argumentative, suddenly remember something you have to do and walk away. However, he will have to remain in the study area for the required homework period.
Next day, let him experience the natural consequences. He will have to go to school without his homework done. Then it becomes a problem between him and his teacher.
On nights when he does a good job, praise and reward him with a little extra TV time, a tasty snack, or an extra bedtime story. Help him pack his backpack for the next day and tell him how proud you are of having such a grown-up and responsible young person. He will soon realize the advantages of good behavior.
5. Keep in close touch with the school
The teacher should become a trusted ally. You both have the same goal: to give your child a good education. However the greater responsibility is hers; it’s her job and she is being paid to do it. She should appreciate any help you can give.
If you have problems, bring them to her. Ask her to do the same for you. Present a united front to the student, so he will not be tempted to play one of you against the other. Never criticize the teacher in front of the child. It undermines the authority she needs to exercise in class, in order to teach effectively.
If you have serious complaints, bring them first to the teacher, then if necessary, to the school principal. Still, don’t discuss them in front of the child, He still needs to sit in class every day and be attentive and respectful. The vast majority of teachers truly care about their children and only want what’s best for them.
Since homework is a fact of life for the foreseeable future, it is only sensible to make the best of it. It does have advantages. It reviews work taught in class, it teaches the child to be responsible, and it can be a link promoting closer interaction between the home and the school.
Someone once said that homework is like medicine: it can be hard to swallow at times, but in the long run, it’s good for you. Probably most parents and teachers would agree with that statement.