The topic of homework often comes up in my office and in general parents and children are equal in expressing their dislike for this after-school activity. Teachers argue that the purpose of homework is to reinforce what has already been taught in class and that it gives the child an opportunity to consolidate the information on their own without the assistance of a teacher or their peers.
Most studies suggest that there is a positive correlation between the amount of time spent on homework and children’s later achievement in tests BUT these positive effects are mostly seen in High School children. There seems to be very little correlation between homework and achievement in tests for Primary School children. Why is that? Well, most probably because younger children still have poorly developed study skills and find it difficult to tune out distractions at home. These findings suggest that, even though Primary School children might not benefit directly in tests, a little bit of homework each day might help them form good study habits. It helps to foster responsibility and independent learning in children and also serves to give parents an idea what work their child has been doing in class.
However, homework becomes problematic when it:
- Becomes boring – simply repeating the same work over and over should be avoided. Teachers should aim to specifically include some interesting items and parents can also help keep homework interesting by providing novel ways in which to complete tasks – for instance, have your child practice drawing his spelling words in sand or mud.
- Denies children the opportunity to take part in leisure activities. It is important to strike a healthy balance and parents should avoid focusing solely on academic pursuits. Leisure activities provide children with physical exercise, gives them an opportunity to practice their socialisation skills and teaches them important life skills.
- Parents get too involved in homework and put pressure on children to achieve.
How much homework should your child do?
The general rule of thumb is to add 10 minutes of homework for each Grade level. Thus a Grade 1 child shouldn’t do more than 10-minutes of homework a day, while a Grade 12 student should do a maximum of 2 hours of homework a day. Studies show that if students go past this prescribed maximum they get burned out and their achievement goes down.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but the problem is that homework is not the only thing that happens after school. When we take into account things like sports activities, religious obligations, extra-murals activities as well as the time needed to bath children, prepare and eat dinner and have enough time to wind down before bedtime – the growing amount of time needed for homework as the child gets older becomes difficult to manage.
Some teachers like to give homework assignments at the beginning of the week – this way a child can complete the assignments at his own pace, spending more time on the things he finds difficult and working through easy items more quickly.
You can help your child by following these homework tips for parents:
- Discuss your expectations with your child and explain to them why it is important for them to do their homework.
- Make sure your child is focused and that there are no other distractions vying for his attention.
- Set a time-limit for homework – this also helps children remain more motivated and teaches them to work within a specific time frame
- Monitor your child, but don’t micromanage his work.
- Rethink your child’s after-school schedule and cancel or re-schedule any activities that you put you under too much time pressure.
- Intervene before frustration builds up and your child has a “melt down”.
- If the work is truly too much or too difficult, consider sending a note to the teacher asking for further instruction or individual help after class.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.