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The Question of Homework

As the return to school quickly approaches, you may be faced with how to handle your child and their homework. There are strong arguments both for and against homework.

Research has shown that, in the very early years, homework has little effect on academic performance. For a young child, after close to six hours spent at school, I am of the view that they need to be discovering the world instead of doing homework: bike riding, reading books, interacting with friends and family. These activities build the skills that are not learned while sitting at a desk. In addition, healthy levels of physical activity can help boost your child’s cognitive function.

However, reading to, or with, your young one has tremendous benefits. But sadly, for many, engaging in screen time has replaced time spent reading books. Reading to your child from infancy to the beginning of school is likely a better predictor of school success. Reading to your child also provides some bonding and closeness with you.

Advantages of homework

Small amounts of homework activities can help reinforce what is being taught in school. The suggestion has been made that 10 minutes of homework per grade level is about right - 20 minutes of homework in Grade 2, and so on.

Other advantages of homework throughout the grades can include improving performance, helping to reinforce learning, and developing good study habits and life skills. Homework can allow you to be involved in your child’s learning. Homework can benefit those who are struggling to keep up in school. Homework is also a natural consequence of fooling around in school and having to bring work home for completion.

Disadvantages of homework

Homework can cause your child unnecessary stress. Little ones are tired at the end of the school day (think about how you feel when you have to bring your work home). Homework stress can cause your student to feel anxious, unmotivated, and can even lower self-esteem. This can lead to sleep deprivation and behavioral changes in your child, as well as thinking of school in a negative way.

Homework can take away from your child’s leisure time. Kids need healthy physical activity. Screen time contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. However, to be fair, in limited amounts, screen time can be a fun activity and can take your student’s mind away from school stresses.

Too much homework can be harmful, and you are not in charge of how much homework a teacher assigns your child. In junior high and high school, students may have many teachers who all assign homework. While each assignment in itself may be reasonable, the total load can get overwhelming.

As a psychologist, I have seen the dark side of homework that has little to do with a child’s school; a parent sees their child as a reflection of them and wants their child to be close to perfect in their studies. Homework can become a battle when your child feels pressure and anger, and consequently resists any attempts to be forced into doing the work.

Tips for homework success

  • When your child has homework, always make it a fun, positive experience. You can even plan something special for a child who doesn’t like doing homework but completes it anyways.

  • Don’t get overly emotional or punitive when a child is having difficulty. If you lack the patience, try to get someone else to help them with their homework.

  • And last but certainly not least, demonstrate unconditional love to your child, so they know love is not contingent on school performance.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. To obtain books, CDs, or MP3s, visit gwen.ca. For daily inspiration, follow Gwen on Facebook.

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