Benjamin Franklin famously stated that the only two certainties in life are “death and taxes.”
Let us add “homework” to Franklin’s list.
Nearly everybody – child or adult, man or woman – has dealt with the challenges and responsibilities of homework during their lives. Schoolwork does not stop at the final bell, and the work completed at home often reinforces skills and drives achievement. Research shows that time spent on homework, especially in grades 7-12, can have a tremendous impact on student outcomes. Parents should work to make sure their children have the time, space, motivation, and resources to successfully complete at-home assignments. These can be challenges for some families, but the planning and effort will be worth it in the end.
The thought of homework may still make some adults cringe, but remember there is a purpose behind homework! Homework is not intended to simply create stress. Most of the time, teachers assign homework to reinforce a skill that they taught that day or during the week. By completing homework, students gain valuable practice that is not possible given the time constraints of a school day. Other times, teachers use assignments to introduce a new concept. Finally, homework helps build healthy work habits for kids. They learn responsibility and accountability, valuable traits when they transition to adulthood.
While helping your child succeed is an ongoing process, there are four actions you can take immediately:
1. Know your child’s responsibilities
Talk to your kid about their day at school and what they learned. Repeating this information to you helps them remember facts. Consider specific questions like “What did you talk about in math today?” or “What are you studying in history this week.” Ask to see their current assignments and returned work. Make sure that their homework is completed thoroughly and neatly. Not sure about the specifics of the assignment (or how to know if their math or Spanish work is correct)? Ask! When students feel accountable towards their parents, they are most likely to succeed in the classroom.
2. Use the teacher as a resource
Communicating with your child’s teacher can help both you and your child. Understand the teacher’s homework policy: do they give homework every night? Every week? Ask what else you can do with your child to reinforce skills (flashcards, games, reading, etc.). Most importantly, talk to the teacher if you would like some resources about the learning material. Many schools also have a parent liaison that can help you connect with resources and, if you have more than one child at the school, coordinate information from multiple teachers.
3. Set aside time and space
Homework should be a habit. Find a convenient time and location for your kid to complete homework, and stick to that routine every night. Determine a work environment that works best for your child; some kids work best with music, some require quiet rooms. These structures will help make homework a daily part of life, rather than an added burden. Students will also understand the importance of homework if time is built in their day for it. If your home does not seem like a good fit, or your family’s schedule can be a challenge, many schools and local libraries have safe and quiet places where you child can go to work on their assignments.
4. When in doubt, read!
Reading is one of the most important skills a student can work on. Make sure that your child reads regularly. This works best if your child has finished homework or did not have any assignments for the night. Practicing reading will help them on future assignments in every subject (even math problems require reading!).
As a parent, taking these steps can put your child in the right place to succeed with homework. The ultimate responsibility, however, is theirs. Homework should not feel like a negative part of your daily routine. For example, you should assist your child if he/she needs help, but you should not complete the entire assignment for them. Serve as a proofreader and added resource, but the work belongs to the student. You can empower your child to complete homework by letting them make some major decisions. Let them decide where to work, and what to work on, within boundaries.
Homework. It cannot be avoided, but you can help make sure your child gets the most out of it!
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
For Programs Working with Dads:
Fathers and Education (research)
Webinar: Effective Strategies for Increasing Father Involvement in Schools
Webinar: Strengthening Literacy and Father-Child Relationships through Reading