Two weeks ago, I talked about the importance of parents’ involvement in their kids’ homework. Last week, I asked you about the best time to give kids homework. Today, I will cover the value of homework and how parents feel and project that feeling towards their kids’ homework.
What parents feel towards their kids’ homework is usually reflected in the way their kids handle their homework. I believe it is important to discuss parent’s experiences with homework, because in some way, those experiences will reflect in our parenting style.
When I coach adults and I ask them to do some things at home, I can see fear in their eyes. Regrettably, most grownups have had a bad experience with their homework. I have had nightmares about my homework. It was only when I was a “good” student (yes, it is hard to imagine, but I was once a “bad” student, so much so I was kicked out of school) that I could understand the value of homework and only later, when I became a teacher, I understood that the value is a lot more than making your teachers and parents happy and being positioned as a “good” student among other kids.
In my parenting workshops, many parents express their frustration about their kids’ homework, mostly saying, “My kids hate getting homework”. You only need to sit around a group of parents (and I spend time with many groups) to find out how much energy is spent on the homework issue.
Usually, to help parents with that energy waste, I ask them, “Why do you think your kids should do their homework?” and it is amazing that the answer to the question is usually “I do not know!”
Unfortunately, many parents want their kids to do their homework for the wrong reasons. I think that in 100% of times, when kids do not do their homework, it is because they do not know why they should. Try this: ask your kids, “Why is important to do your homework?” You will be amazed to find out what kids think.
Here is what studies of students’ relationship to homework have found:
- When kids in Grade 2, 4, and 6 were asked about the rationale for homework, almost no student identified commonly-held adult views on the purpose of homework, such as developing learning responsibility, time-management and study skills (Warton, 1997).
- Most Year 2 students reported the reason for homework was ‘to learn’, while Year 6 students reported it was ‘to revise’ material (Warton, 1997).
- Homework can positively impact the retention and understanding of knowledge and can improve study skills, attitudes toward school, and demonstrate that learning can take place outside of formal schooling (Corno, 2000).
- Students’ writing scores, literacy outcomes and attitudes can improve when students engage in ‘interactive homework’ with family members (Epstein et al., 1997).
- Students’ attitude toward homework appears to be unrelated to students’ ability or family and community factors but positively related to parents’ attitudes toward homework (Cooper et al, 2001c).
- Students identify that homework can make them ‘smarter’ and 78% of students surveyed enjoyed homework (O’Rourke-Ferrara, 1998).
- Homework can contribute to boredom with school if it does not engage the student in meaningful learning, because all activities remain interesting for only so long. Homework may reduce students’ engagement in leisure activities that can also be important in the development of life skills (Cooper, 2001a).
- Homework alone is unlikely to ensure students, families and schools will share and meet their goals for learning and success (Epstein et al., 1997).
In all studies, the parents’ support is very important to their kids’ motivation and success in their homework activities. Because kids are just kids and during primary school they may not fully understand the value of homework, it is important for their parents to understand and communicate that value to them.
The wrong reasons to do homework
And here is a list of wrong answers to the question Why is important to do your homework?”:
- “I don’t know”
- “So they don’t get in trouble”
- “Because that’s what everyone does”
- “Not to stand out”
- “To please the teacher”
- “To pass the test”
- “To be popular”
- “To learn to do what they are asked”
- “To be disciplined”
- “Not to end up like me” (ouch!)
If your answers are along the lines of one of these, do not be surprised if your kids are not motivated to do their homework.
If you are not sure of the benefits of doing homework, do not blame yourself, because the education system of the past did not do a good job explaining homework and was too busy emphasizing obedience.
So why IS homework important?
Some of the benefits of homework include:
At first, parents help their kids with the responsibility by reminding and helping. Over time, kids learn to take responsibility for their own homework. If kids are supported well throughout their primary schooling, they can take full responsibility over their homework when they reach high school.
Together with responsibility, kids develop the ability to work by themselves with less and less dependency on the adults in their life. It is very important not to expect them to know everything or be able to master everything on first attempts. In the first years of schooling, kids need more and more help, but over time, if supported properly, they learn ways and techniques to be independent and find all the information by themselves. If your kids ask for help, it means they are not completely independent yet, so just help them.
Time management skills
If you look at your life as an adult, you will agree that managing time is an important life skill and that the earlier you learn it, the better and easier your life is. Homework can teach kids many time management techniques, like planning, estimating work, sticking to deadlines and working around other activities. If kids are taught those skills (as opposed to being expected to understand them by themselves) during their primary years, I guarantee they will have an easy life in high school and as adults.
Homework projects require kids to come up with new ideas, designs and methods. Research assignments teach kids to develop their creativity too when information is not readily available. Although kids do not get scores or prizes for it, creativity is an essential skill to have in life. Kids never stop learning to be creative. It is only when we encourage them to explore, try, fail and then get up again that we open their minds to new horizons, new abilities and new knowledge. If kids are encouraged to be creative with their homework, they develop this skill, sometimes to a form of art.
In life, people’s commitment to a task is often the driving force in achieving success. Although I do not think kids need to commit for the sake of committing, I believe they need to be goal oriented and become “closers”, which is a challenge for many kids (and grownups). When kids learn to start and finish in spite of obstacles and challenges, they learn an important lesson in life that will have a direct impact on their level of success later on.
Kids who practice success on a small scale in the form of good homework can develop confidence in their abilities and talents. Confidence is an important ingredient of every success regardless of age. If kids get an assignment, finish it and like what they have done, they add this to their “success experience tank” and form or strengthen the belief that they can do a good job. Kids who are supported by their parents to succeed in their homework develop the confidence needed to keep succeeding.
We live in an era of information overload, in which kids are expected to learn more and more things, faster, better and often on their own. Homework can lead kids to discover new worlds and knowledge that otherwise would not be presented to them. For example: before we travel somewhere, I ask my kids to research the places we are going to visit. In their research, they learn things they would never find without the assignment I gave them (things we could easily miss even when we are close to them).
Homework helps kids remember a topic by repeating and revising it at home. If kids understand that repetition and revision support the development of their memory, they will be happy to do their homework and will have better skills to remember more complex things in their high school and their adult life.
As you can see, the value of homework is greater than getting an “A” on test or in a report card and many parents’ frustrations will disappear if they can convince their kids of the value of homework.
Make it a goal to teach your kids the value of homework. It may take time, but it is worth it.
OK, so let me give you some homework:
- Think of your childhood homework experiences. Were they positive or negative?
- Did you change that perception of homework over time? Why? What is it now?
- Why do you think your kids should do their homework?
- If your kids could read your mind about your philosophy regarding homework, what would they read?
- What do you do to convince your kids to do their homework? (If your answer is “nag”, think of another idea)
Research has found that too much homework is not so good, so I will stop here…
Easy, happy, successful homework,