How homework benefits young children — and their parents too

May 26, 2009 at 4:30 am 14 comments

There’s a lot of talk lately about whether or not homework aids in learning and retention. The Times Magazine recently ran an article, Kindergarten Cram, which argued against homework for young children and made the case for play-based curricula.  The article reports,

According to “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” a report recently released by the Alliance for Childhood…[testing] neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.

kindergartenThe writer suggests that the acceleration of learning is in part due to No Child Left Behind and in part due to “parents who want to build a better child”.  I’m a firm believer in giving kids time to be kids. I think as parents we need to let our children grow and develop at their own pace.  More importantly, I do not believe that kids should be tested regularly.  Even intelligence testing 4-year olds as a condition of admissions into pre-K is preposterous to me.

That said, there’s a case to be made for a reasonable amount of homework.  I’ve found several tangible benefits to doing homework, not the least of which is that it gives children something constructive to do that doesn’t involve computers, video games or television.

Homework helps children develop routines and discipline around being organized and managing their time. I believe identifying the right tools, sitting down to get your work done and packing everything in the backpack for the next day is good practice for children.  Does this need to happen at the age of 3?  Probably not.  But it’s been amazingly beneficial for my 6-year old — and I believe it was beneficial when he was five years old as well.

Homework enables parents to engage with their children in what they’re learning in school. I understand what my son is learning, how he’s doing and even where he’s struggling.  Granted, I could get this by reviewing the work papers the teacher sends home.  But there’s no substitute for sitting down with a child and watching how they approach assignments, helping them problem-solve when needed and praising their success when they’re done.

When parents engage with their child in doing homework, they demonstrate that what he/she is learning in school is so important that they are willing to invest their own time in it. Enough said.

Homework allows parents to observe their children “at work” andlittle preschooler to intervene when/if there’s a problem. What’s wrong with 10 minutes tracing upper case A’s?  It was through that work at home that I observed my son struggling with fine motor skills.  The problem was resolved years ago, but he still proudly displays the cut-outs that we worked on together that year, gradually increasing in difficulty so that he could celebrate his own progress.

Homework provides a frequent, structured way for teachers and parents to work together to ensure students are learning. Let’s face it.   In the absence of homework, A-type parents like me will go out and buy workbooks, flashcards and other learning tools that may not complement what’s taking place in the classroom.  I know this firsthand.  When the work wasn’t coming home, I created the work at home.  Am I trying to build a better kid?  No, my kids are perfect!  (just kidding)  However, academics are important to me.  When the teacher sends assignments home, I look at it as her way of saying, “I’ve got this, Mom.  You just work with me.”  And we do indeed work together.

Granted, homework isn’t the only way to accomplish these objectives.  I could look for and create opportunities to help my son develop discipline, become more responsible, praise his work and understand what he’s learning in school.  I could meet with the teacher to discuss her curricula and my son’s learning style.  Maybe I’m just a lazy mom, or maybe I have more than a reasonable set of demands on my time, but that feels overwhelming to me.  The truth is that homework simplifies things  for me.  Homework provides the structure and the framework for me to reinforce very powerful behaviors and messages within the construct of what’s being taught in school.  Obviously there’s no substitute for regular interaction with the teacher, but homework gives us a common basis for that dialogue.

I believe successful education is a partnership between a child, his parent(s) and his teacher(s).  For me, homework is a conduit that allows for daily/weekly “synching up” among the three members of that partnership.  And that for me makes the case for homework.

Entry filed under: children's behavior and development, education and learning. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Top 10 reasons to have kids at 20-something Life with Stitch

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The benefits of homework : Education Roadmap  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:50 am

    [...] Source [Modern Age Mom] Filed Under Education, Parents, Pupils, Schools  [...]

    Reply
  • 2. Tanveer Naseer  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Nice article, Leslie. You do a great job pointing out the various benefits that come from doing homework.

    I think part of the problem whenever people argue against homework is the lack of definition of how much is too much and what exactly constitutes homework. Of course, what I think is even more important to evaluate regarding homework is what benefit arises from doing it – what will the child learn, directly or indirectly, from accomplishing the task. Ironic how quantity or the age when homework is given out is debated more than what the exercise would accomplish.

    In any case, well done, Leslie, for pointing out why homework is still a vital tool for a child’s education and thanks again for stopping by my blog and sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
  • 3. New Webkinz Games  |  June 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    New Webkinz Games…

    Found an interesting search engine for kids. Might help if you look for toys, games, cheats, tips, news or even auctions for favourite toys like Webkinz, ToyRUs, Brio, Fisher-Price and so on……

    Reply
  • 4. edgeforlife  |  June 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Well said. I wanted to write something in disagreement when I saw that article in Time Mag. – I am glad you hit the nail on the head for us. As a group that works with children to help them achieve success we find that homework serves as a point of reference for the parent to uncover a weakness or possibly an important point that might have been missed during that day’s lecture.

    It also gives us, as parents, the opportunity to connect with our children. This connection can make us rich in ways beyond our wildest imagination.

    Reply
  • 5. Dithmomiess  |  June 17, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks for post. It’s really imformative read.
    I love to read lboissiere.wordpress.com!

    michigan teeth whitening

    Reply
  • 6. Kelly  |  October 23, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Frankly, I think you arguments for routine, resposibility, organization have merit. However, those things can be taught through activities other than homework. Why would you not have a family routine in place? Why do children not learn responsibility by setting the table, learning where to place a fork, making their bed, caring for a pet? Instead of plopping a child in front of a TV or computer – trying putting them in front of a box of Legos. I think the skills learned by using their spatial intelligence to construct an object with Legos are much more useful in life than 10 minutes of mindless letter tracing. And as for fine motor skills… creating silly things from pipe cleaners addressing more fine motor needs than tracing lines. You certainly are spending more quality time with your child doing something hands-on. I’m not opposed to teacher’s sending home a project for a parent and child to do together. Packets of worksheets are simply a waste of paper and valuable quality time parents and children. AND as for Type A parents spending time and money on workbooks and flashcards, the question becomes is it reallyabout your child and their needs OR is it about you and your needs.

    Reply
  • 7. Kelly  |  October 23, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Frankly, I think you arguments for routine, resposibility, organization have merit. However, those things can be taught through activities other than homework. Why would you not have a family routine in place? Why do children not learn responsibility by setting the table, learning where to place a fork, making their bed, caring for a pet? Instead of plopping a child in front of a TV or computer – trying putting them in front of a box of Legos. I think the skills learned by using their spatial intelligence to construct an object with Legos are much more useful in life than 10 minutes of mindless letter tracing. And as for fine motor skills… creating silly things from pipe cleaners addresses more fine motor needs than tracing lines. You certainly are spending more quality time with your child doing something hands-on. I’m not opposed to teacher’s sending home a project for a parent and child to do together. Packets of worksheets are simply a waste of paper and valuable quality time between parents and children. AND as for Type A parents spending time and money on workbooks and flashcards, the question becomes is it reallyabout your child and their needs OR is it about you and your needs.

    Reply
  • 8. Ben McKinley  |  November 12, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    As a high school math teacher, I see homework as being an important part of the learning process. Time in class is generally less than the ideal. This time needs to be used to give students a chance to work together to investigate new concepts and explore new ideas. Homework should never simply be busy work. Often times it is seen as practice. I do believe that academicians need practice to retain the material. Aren’t athletes and musicians asked to practice their skills over and over. For soeme reason, this practice is not frowned upon the way academic practice is. Nonetheless, I believe homework should be seen as even more valuable than practice. It is an opportunity for students to engage independently with the material being taught. They need to be given the tools to help them enhance their understanding of the material as they work through their assignments. I attempt to instill in my students the idea of using all available resources to come to school the next day with a greater understanding of their math than they had when they left. Although an argument can be made that some of the Asian countries with whom we are oftern compared, go too far. It is not a coincidence that they have left us in their dust and they assign significantly more homework than we do.

    Reply
  • 9. Mike Theodore  |  August 18, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Math-Aids.Com is a free resource for teachers and parents. You can make an unlimited number of printable math worksheets for children, the classroom or homework practice. The answer key is included with each math worksheet as it is created. The worksheets are randomly generated so when you request one it will be different every time. Each math topic has several different types of math problems so you may choose which area to focus on in that subject.

    I have built a special section just for Kindergarten Math Topics. There are 24 topics currently in this section. I will be glad to add any topic that you may need.
    Here is the link:

    Kindergarten Worksheets

    Please consider adding a link on your site for you and your readers.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  • 10. will  |  November 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    this site is for young kids

    Reply
  • 11. billy Bob  |  November 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    this website is not helpfulll at all and all i read about was 6 graders when there should more stuff about middle school students

    Reply
  • 12. will  |  November 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    this sucks

    Reply
  • 13. Jessica Clayton  |  August 26, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Alliance for Childhood is a group of people joined together to advocate for more play for young children. They believe that a play-based curriculum is beneficial for children at Kindergarten age. Therefore, appropriate homework for them would be “Go outside and play!” I absolutely agree with all your points about the benefits of homework. Well made. I just hope you might consider putting the academic pressure off the kids for just one more year so that they can keep developing those all important play skills. In fact, your little one might not have had to struggle with his fine motor practice if he had spend that year in a play-based curriculum. He may have just developed those skills naturally over the course of the year and been ready by first grade without all those fun cutting adventures.

    Reply
    • 14. lboissiere  |  August 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      I’m a HUGE proponent of play for kids! It’s critical to their development in every way. There are also situations when more structured exercises or even occupational/physical therapy are needed to help kids develop gross and fine motor skills. In the end, I’m sure we can all agree that nothing beats quality time between parents and kids – whether it’s working or playing together.

      Reply

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