Homework has been popular with students and teachers alike since the dawn of time, with the whole world agreeing it is unfailingly a fantastic plan, and if anything there should be more of it! Yeah, ok… even we don’t believe that!
The concept of homework is, of course, not new. Students approach it with varying levels of disappointment, associated mostly with how much they like the associated subject, how arduous the task immediately before them is and what they feel their time might be better spent doing. Teachers would prefer not to have to dream up homework assignments, nag students to get them in on time, admonish students who do not deliver assignments and mark those that are handed in on their own time. Parents would prefer not to endure the complaints, procrastination, promises and pleas of their children. And show us a single parent who relishes the prospect of ‘helping’ with mathematics homework! Yet we all participate in the game, why?
Yep, homework is important. You could have guessed that from the title of this article, and it probably confirms your exiting suspicion having been motivated to click the link. Frankly, if we didn’t all appreciate the value of study beyond school, none of us would do it. It may be true to say that there is no direct correlation between homework and academic results, but there are many aspects of learning that are improved by sustained application throughout school and in the home:
Improvements to memory, recall and thought processing.
The development of self-study skills, a lifelong asset.
Time management – having assigned tasks with deadlines and control over priorities
Homework encourages independent learning
Homework embeds lesson learning, solidifying skills and concepts
Working outside the classroom encourages research skills
In addition, homework provides parents with the opportunity to learn more about the curriculum your child is following, participating in the education of your child and spark your child’s enthusiasm for learning. Everybody wins!
One of the main goals of homework, homeworking and therefore private tuition is to create opportunities for students to interact with their parents and families, involving them in the learning process. As parents, you can help the homeworking process enormously by encouraging a healthy attitude to homework. Rather than focusing on the negatives of having to sit down and work when they want to go out and play, try and help children see that homework can be worthwhile, rewarding and fun. After all, we want this for our children, and there would be very little point in paying good money to tutors to teach children resolutely determined not to learn.
When a student is young, homework won’t be long and arduous and there may be tasks set that you can all join in with and offer insight into. This doesn’t mean that you do their homework for them, regardless of the temptation to do so to get it over with, but you can get actively involved in helping them find answers, doing research or work through problem-solving activities together. Homework is not just about solving problems, it is about developing the tools we all need to solve the problems.
If your child is still very reluctant to do any work at home, then it may also help to offer small incentives. This could be allowing them to go out and play, play a computer game or watch television when they’ve done their homework. In our house my youngest son sees his after-school activities as things that take away his time to have fun – so what to do? When he has an hour of Karate on a Tuesday evening, he gets to play his games for an extra half hour before and then watches TV for a half hour once home, which sure makes bedtime slightly later but everybody is happy and no negative impact results. Without that balance, he might not be so receptive to the Karate lessons, and not enjoy their benefits.
It is important that students start taking the lead in their studies as soon as they are old enough to. Allowing children choice, even if you seek to positively influence that choice with information and balance, will produce much better results for everybody over time. Forcing a child to complete a piece of work or an activity they are unwilling to do will be no fun for anybody, and will likely result in them getting nothing out of it anyway. Taking the time to explain why something it worthwhile, and making it fun when possible will make it more tolerable for all.
Sadly a boring homework, a bad day or a tuition session that wasn’t as fun as the previous week are all just realities of life. There are two important objectives to satisfy as quickly as possible in response to a negative home working experience.
Firstly, get the work immediately before you done. Sure, the assignment is boring. Can we make it more fun? Can we resolve the immediate problem? Perhaps a little research on the subject could uncover something interesting related to the matter at hand, rekindling enthusiasm. Intervention as soon as possible to redirect positively is encouraged – the majority of the time you will find students respond to reassurance, support and if times are desperate the promise of a snack on completion or some similar small incentive.
Secondly, do not allow frustration or boredom to travel from ‘this assignment is boring’ to ‘homework is always boring’. Deal with the problems as they exist and distance them from the student’s wider efforts. Maybe this subject is less fun than the others, but you’ll work more on the others tomorrow so look forward to that.
A perfectly fair question – as we suggested in the opening of this article, opinions vary on the impact of homework on the student but much boils down to approach in the home. One of the criticisms most often levelled at homework is that one cannot be sure to what extent the student completed it themselves, how much assistance was given and even in the age of the Internet whether a quick type of the essay title in to Google wouldn’t fairly quickly save the effort completely. Although the output is important, it is not in our view the main concern.
Far more important is cementing an understanding with the student that education is not a punishment, it is the key to many doors. A solid work ethic independent of a classroom can empower a student to learn anything, be it with the support of a tutor or otherwise – opening a world of possibility. Homework is not a chore, it is a choice; and one we would all be wise to do more of for a richer life.
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