Homework battles have plagued the educational system for over a century. Early in the nineteenth century, many people worried homework caused undue stress on children, so homework demands were eased allowing kids more freedoms. The homework battle resurfaced in the mid-nineteenth century, as many people worried that American children were falling behind Soviet children, hence leading to an increase in homework. This back-and-forth continued through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The twenty-first century is considered a “homework heavy” time-period on the homework pendulum.
So how can parents and teachers navigate this uptrend on the homework roller coaster? It is no secret that American society is busier than ever! Most parents work outside the home and many children are involved in after-school activities such as sports and clubs. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children to not even get home until after 6 o’clock in the evening. Trying to fit in dinner and a good night sleep is hard enough for many families; spending an additional three hours on homework is nearly impossible. After a long day of in-class learning and outside activities, children are asked to sit and focus for extended periods of time to complete homework. It is no wonder homework meltdowns are a common evening occurrence across the country.
Keep in mind, homework should not be viewed as completely negative. Research has shown that homework helps children develop good study habits and time management skills. Homework also provides essential practice with new concepts. Homework can be a strong tool if used correctly. Below you will find suggestions for both parents and teachers.
Below you will find suggestions that will hopefully help you as a classroom teacher navigate the homework aspect of teaching.
10 minutes of homework per grade seems to be the common consensus. So first-graders should spend approximately 10 minutes on homework per night. Instead of assigning a certain number of pages for homework, consider asking students to spend a specific amount of time on homework.
Prior to assigning homework, complete a couple of problems together in-class then ask students to complete a couple of problems independently. Students who struggle may need additional guided practice before completing the homework independently.
View homework as an opportunity for students to independently apply new skills outside of school. If a student requires extensive parent or tutor guidance, then reteaching is probably needed.
To prevent busy work, be sure each assignment focuses on a specific goal related to what has been covered in class. You may even prefer to focus on one or two specific skills until mastery is demonstrated.
Encourage open communication with parents. Encouraging parents to reach out if homework becomes a battle at home will help develop teamwork.
Be sure to provide accommodations for the students who need it. An assignment that takes one child 5 minutes may take another 50 minutes. Consider reducing homework accordingly.
Encourage the use of educational tools. We are fortunate to live in such a technologically advanced society. There are so many tools to assist students in the learning process. Allowing students to use tools such as audiobooks will help all students succeed.
Consider differentiating homework. With so many unique learners in a classroom, one assignment may not be appropriate for every student. Advanced learners may need a challenge while struggling learners may need goal-specific practice.
To help with mastery, consider giving homework in smaller chunks over a longer period of time. This will help prevent students from rushing through to complete a weekly assignment on Monday, never to touch it again.
If your school has a ‘No Homework Policy’, provide parents with tools for finding learning opportunities in daily life.
Parents and teachers can create a beautiful team working together toward the common goal of helping a child reach their potential.
As a parent, view your role as a supervisor, not an educator. Help your child set up and stick to a homework routine and manage time effectively.
Try to resist the urge to help. Your role should be quite minimal as far as completing the actual work. If your child does not understand the homework, try explaining the directions orally or complete the first one or two problems together. If your child still struggles, let the teacher know that additional instruction is probably needed.
Make it multisensory! Multisensory means try to utilize visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic avenues in learning. For example, if your child needs to learn terms for an upcoming quiz, create index cards. Help them write the term on one side and the definition with a picture on the other. Color-coding topics can also help.
After the homework is completed, ask your child what was covered. Is she able to explain the concepts? The more you talk with your child, the more you will discover your child’s interests and struggles.
Having open discussions can help relieve stress and anxiety in your child. Share your struggles with homework when you were young and share how you overcame these struggles.
Consider emotional outbursts, such as anger and crying, as a warning sign that your child is overwhelmed. Your child may not understand the homework or may be overwhelmed. Reach out to the teacher for guidance.
Remember, homework is independent practice of certain skills outside the classroom. Completing an entire packet without understanding the concepts is not going to benefit your child. If your child is struggling, reach out to their teacher. It may be more beneficial to focus on truly mastering one or two concepts at a time.
Discuss the option of counting time-spent on homework rather than the amount of homework with your child’s teacher. It is recommended that students spend 10 minutes per grade on homework. Children are unique and work at different rates. One child may complete an entire worksheet in ten minutes while another may spend 50 minutes on the same assignment.
Encourage your child to stagger their assignments. Some children are naturally inclined to complete an entire packet the day it is assigned while others do not touch the packet until the day before it is due. In order to reinforce skills, encourage students to complete a small amount of the packet over an extended period.
Aim to provide a safe, positive environment at home. Try not to focus on grades, but instead focus on instilling characteristics such as perseverance and dedication.
Bring your child’s strengths to the forefront. What has your child done right?
Take a look at your child’s completed homework when your child is not around. This is a good way to see what areas your child is struggling with. Be sure to follow up with the teacher if needed.
It looks like homework is here to stay, but with some adjustments it can become a wonderful bridge between school and home. Do you have some tips you find helpful?
Meier, J. 2011, ‘What does good homework look like?’, Reading Rockets, 7 September. <https://www.readingrockets.org/blogs/sound-it-out/what-does-good-homework-look>
Pianin, E. 2001, ‘As coal’s fortunes climb, mountains tremble in W.Va; energy policy is transforming lives’, The Washington Post, 25 February, p. A03, accessed March 2001 from Electric Library Australasia.
Pinsker, J. 2019, ‘The Cult of Homework’, The Atlantic, 28 March. <https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/homework-research-how-much/585889/>
Terada, Y. 2018, ‘What’s the Right Amount of Homework?’, Edutopia, 23 February. <https://www.edutopia.org/article/whats-right-amount-homework>
Wexler, N. 2019, ‘Why Homework Doesn’t Seem to Boost Learning—And How It Could’, Forbes, 3 Jan.
‘Anger, Irritability and Aggression in Kids’, Yale Medicine. <https://ym.care/tkg>
‘Practice and Homework–Effective Teaching Strategies Considerations Packet’, 2019, William and Mary School of Education. <https://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/index.php>
‘Research Spotlight on Homework: NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education’, National Education Association. <http://www.nea.org/tools/16938.htm>
Written by Stephanie Castillo, MA, CDP.
Stephanie is the Learning Center Director for Brainspring’s Clarkston, Mich. location.
Brainspring has proudly supported the educational community for more than 25 years.