How homework benefits young children — and their parents too
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.
The 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” and 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: curriculum, discipline, education, homework, kindergarten, motor skills, No child Left Behind, play-based curriculum, pre-K, pre-school, school.