Ho hum, homework
Author: Jennifer VanBuren

Who really likes homework? While there are conflicting reports on the effectiveness of homework, most kids would rather be playing and parents would rather not be decoding “new math” while making dinner. Even some teachers are not crazy about collecting and correcting, then recording and returning stacks of homework. Homework can create a vital line of communication between child, teacher and parent and create a bond between home and school. However, excessive, inappropriate or poorly-communicated homework can become a source of antagonism between parents, teachers and students. How do you know, and what should you do when the homework situation gets ugly?

Take charge
Parents can help to identify homework that is appropriate for their child. According to the National Education Association (NEA), a homework assignment should fit into one of three categories: practice, preparation or extension.
1. Practicing a newly-acquired skill in an attempt to master it

2. Preparing for a future lesson, such as reading the next chapter
in his science book or researching a topic soon to be covered in class

3. Extending a classroom-covered topic by doing parallel work, perhaps writing a report or creating a science fair project

Before a teacher assigns homework, he or she should be sure that all children can do the work by themselves with minimal or no help from parents. Homework is best used to reinforce skills learned in school. While kids should be monitored and motivated by the adults in their home, not all children have parents who are available or able to help their kids with academic skills. It is unfair to assume that children have a live-in tutor.

Quantity vs. quality
How much is too much? The NEA and the National Council of PTAs agree, 10 minutes of homework for each grade in which a child is enrolled is a good rule of thumb. A first-grader should get 10 minutes of homework, a second-grader should have 20 minutes of homework and a seventh-grader should have an average of 70 minutes of homework per night. In elementary school it’s easier for teachers to monitor how much homework they are giving because there are generally one or two teachers assigning work to any given kid. In middle and high school however, does the social studies teacher know half his students have a major math exam, or that all have a major language arts project due? The amount of time a child spends doing homework can easily soar far above the recommended levels.

Too much homework?
There are many arguments against excessive homework, including:
1. An excess of homework interferes with play. Beyond being fun, play is critical to a child’s learning. With an increasing emphasis on meeting standards, many schools have reduced or eliminated recess and free-play time, making it even more important that children are given a chance to move, explore, invent and interact with their world.

2. Homework does not enhance emotional learning.

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