NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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Homework Help

homework, school, parenting

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Did you know that in the early 20th century, homework was considered a positive exercise that could strengthen the mind, which then was thought to be a muscle?

In the 1940s, homework fell out of favor because it was considered “rote,” or repetitive, learning and the shift in education was away from memorizing in favor of problem solving. Homework returned in the 1950s with the advent of new technologies and the space race, with a concern that American education lacked rigor.

In the 1960s, homework was blamed for taking up time that families wanted for social, outdoor and creative activities for their children. In the 1980s and 1990s, homework was considered the answer to mediocre education and, later, the need to raise academic standards.

That history is interesting, but it won’t help your child learn his or her spelling words, get those multiplication tables memorized or figure out how algebra will help him or her in real life. We hope these tips will:

  • Casually time how long your child actually takes to do the work. The rule of thumb for early grades is to multiply about 10 minutes per day times your child’s grade, on average. If your first-grader is working more than 10 minutes a night, every night, or your fifth-grader is spending more than 50 minutes each night on homework, you likely need to talk to the teacher.
  • Get to know your child’s teachers. Attend school conferences and read everything your child brings home, including the handbook. Learn what the teacher expects and is looking for in your child’s work. Ask questions and learn how to check on your child’s work.
  • Design a homework-friendly space in your home. This area needs good lighting, school supplies, and limited traffic and noise.
  • Schedule a regular time for homework. Right after school? After a snack? Before free time? Observe what works best for your family and stick to the plan as closely as possible so it becomes a healthy homework habit.
  • Write your own lists, read your own books, do your own banking. If your children see that you, too, are working and thinking at the table, they will be more likely to stick with their homework.
  • Help your child with time and project management skills. A quick review of the backpack will help determine if this will be a short or long homework night. Start with the hard homework and end with the fun or easier homework, when energy levels are depleted.

Although the debate about homework continues today, much of the research points to its value when used appropriately. Homework should be purposeful, and at a proper level and amount for the student. Parents should not have to act as enforcers but rather be available to listen, ask guiding questions and encourage their students.

For more tips on school kids (kindergarten through sixth grade), check out the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Parenting Post newsletters at www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff/parenting-posts-archive.

Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU Extension, family science specialist

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