When you hear the word “homework” it may conjure up a lump or two in your throat. Whether it reminds you of the battles you endured as a young student between you and your own parents or forgetting to “hand in” a part of it, receiving the dreaded red teacher “marks” across the page highlighting your mistakes and general “inadequacies” as a student. Or, perhaps, homework reminds you of the quiet solitary time at home followed by the receipt of stickers and accolades from your teacher. Whether the former or the latter, the truth is, you have some thoughts and feelings about “homework.” We all do, and it can impact how we engage our children in this long-standing tradition.
Here I would like to share with you some wisdom and, more importantly, the common sense I’ve gathered over the years in my work with fellow educators and parents. Check out these guidelines to make sure you’ve got a healthy approach to homework, making it feel worthwhile for you and your student(s).
1.Determine your personal philosophy on homework and how it gels with school’s philosophy on homework. This is tough especially when your perspective doesn’t align with the school’s vision for homework. Perhaps you feel there is “not enough” homework or “too much,” and the school is the opposite. You may have to check in with your personal expectations and control what you can. For example, if you’d like to further challenge your student, offer some additional reading time or math pages you’ve nabbed from a trusted internet source. Or, for parents, engage your child in more choice driven activities – such as completing a puzzle or generating word problems of their own (and then asking you to solve!).
2. Support children in having a predictable homework routine. Ask them what is expected for the evening, and help them decide how long each part might take. Establish a set “homework” time, perhaps after a snack, but before bath. If nights are tough, suggest mornings after breakfast. Giving them some agency about when they complete it, will help them to be more open to the process.
3. Designate a specific area to do homework with minimal distractions and with materials nearby. (Nothing can hold up the process more than having a 7 year old search for a pencil!) If a child does not have a desk, parents might consider a lap desk or a spot at a cleared kitchen table. If there’s a set number of minutes for reading, for example, make sure they have access to a timer (an Alexa device or microwaves are helpful for these moments!).
4. Foster independence and practice, and NOT codependency and performance. Most educators agree they want to see what each child can do on their own. As the caregiver at home, you want your child to be as independent as possible, which may mean some of the work is not “correct” or fully complete. These kinds of mistakes are important for teachers to see, so they can provide the appropriate support to your child, so please do not edit your child’s work. It also can send the message to the child that “perfection” is more important than sustaining effort and attention.
5. Maintain the communication and feedback loop, so homework is relational. It’s not about the “product” but the “process.” For teachers, this means it is important to look at homework and provide actionable feedback. You want to name the strengths of the work, and also get to know the child through the process. If parents and children see that the work matters and is something worth sharing, they will be more inclined to complete the homework.
6. Know your student and adjust expectations accordingly. This is for parents and teachers. Perhaps the workload needs to be adjusted or the tasks need to be simplified. Find ways to support your students wherever they are, and recognize that homework – as with most things – can’t be a one-size-fits all approach. Perhaps some children need different assignments related to their areas of growth, and to some, those tasks would be repetitive or mundane. I’m not suggesting bespoke homework for each child on a nightly basis, but to consider how to design assignments that would appeal to a broad range of learners. For parents, if homework becomes a major source of frustration and parent-child strife, please send a note to your child’s teacher for support.
Have a wonderful start to the 2022-23 school year, homework and all!
Nicole Ziccardi, Ed. M.
Educator & Parent
Literacy Specialist & Consultant