Homework: Helpful or harmful?

Is homework helping my child or hurting my child? Should I assign homework or should I not assign homework? Parents and teachers have been debating the homework question as long as kids have been in school. Is homework helpful or hurtful?

This article by Dave Breitenstein (dbreitenstein@news-press.com) addresses many of the issues surrounding homework. One of his key points is that homework is not the only task that kids have after school. Kids need time to be kids and if too much homework is assigned or the homework takes too long, kids do not have time to do the other things they should be doing.

“The problem with homework, according to psychologist Ken Goldberg, is that it isn’t the only task children have after dismissal. School clubs, athletics, household chores and religious obligations still happen — homework or not — on a daily basis. Subtract time for dinner and a bath, and trying to get children to bed on time, and there aren’t a whole lot of minutes left in the day.”

Another key point of the article is the guideline for how long kids should be spending on homework. The guideline is 10 minutes per grade level. The problem is that not all kids work at the same pace or have the same understanding of the material. So, a homework assignment that the teacher says should take 10 minutes might take one child 5 minutes and another child 25 minutes.

“The 10-minute homework guideline has been referenced for years, but only recently has it been researched and tested. Students’ attention spans increase as they get older, but going past prescribed limits has negative consequences. That’s why Goldberg suggests a time limit. At 30 minutes, for instance, you’re done. For older students, perhaps an hour is an ideal cutoff.” Remember that kids have been sitting all day at school and their attention spans might be shorter in the evening. They may need short breaks during homework time. Even adults take breaks during their work day.

A final key point is that homework is assigned to children, but parents take on a lot of responsibility when it comes to explaining the homework and getting the homework completed. Homework should be review of material learned in school, but for children who didn’t “get it” in school, parents are left to try to explain it and reteach it. For some kids, they have spent all their brain power at school and they just don’t want to do any more work when they get home. Parents are left to battle over sitting down and working on the homework.

“That means most of it is spent battling,” said Goldberg, referencing the back-and-forth between frustrated students and frustrated parents.

For more homework tips, please read my blog 4 Tips for the nightly homework struggle.

It’s a question that needs more research. Students do need to review material learned in school, but do they need to do that at home at the expense of other activities, attention span problems, and frustration with parents?

 

 

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