An interesting conversation is evolving around Katie’s Dec. 11 post about the value of homework. The parents who commented seem to think there is too much of it and most of it is just busy work that won’t necessarily help students become better learners.
I must say I stand smack in the middle of this debate. As the father of four children--ages 4, 10, 13, and 15--there are some nights, especially when I am maxed out doing a million tasks, that a child’s plea for help on homework irritates me. Why does the school assign so much homework? Why can’t my kid understand the concepts better? What’s wrong with the teacher?
But on other nights, I genuinely enjoy helping my kids with homework, especially if it involves writing assignments or math problems. Helping them reach a new level of articulation on an essay or to solve a math problem is actually fun and rewarding. I do not see it as “busy work.” Rather, I see it as reinforcing what they learn during the day, much like athletes practice skills on their own, outside of regular practices or games.
Homework also teaches skills that are important later in life, such as organization and time management. I have seen one of my kids go from someone who was completely disorganized and managed his time very poorly to now doing a solid, if not perfect, job of knowing what homework he has and when it is due and then figuring how much time it will take to complete it. And homework assignments have helped him get to that point.
But like most things in life, the key is balance. Teachers should not stop assigning homework simply because most students (and many parents) don’t like it. But they should also not assign an overwhelming amount of it.
And, frankly, at this time of the year, when kids are looking forward to spending time with their friends on their winter breaks and families have a lot going on, teachers should use some common sense and lighten up a bit on the homework. At least that’s one father’s opinion.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.