Homework conundrum

Homework conundrum

Homework conundrum

It is imperative for schools to set homework policies jointly with teachers, parents and student representatives, says Vinaya Govind . 

Homework has always been a bone of contention between the parent community and the school managements. From the school’s perspective, it is an intellectual discipline that establishes study habits, reinforces work done in school, and fosters independence, responsibility and student initiative. Parents opine that the amount of homework given is sometimes so overwhelming that kids refuse to go to school or feel depressed that they do not get enough time for play. 

Some parents feel that homework has just become an extension of classroom work that couldn’t be covered in class, thus easing time constraints on topics / subjects that should be covered in school by the teachers. Others feel that that there is no consistency in the homework given and can vary depending on the whims of their children’s teachers.

However, homework has become important because it is at the intersection between home and school. It provides an opportunity for the parent to observe his or her child’s educational achievements, appreciate academic feats and develop a positive stance towards the child’s future. 
What is homework?

Homework is a way of increasing students’ opportunities to learn more. It not only increases the amount of time spent on learning but also expands the amount of content that is received. Homework is defined as ‘out-of-the-class tasks assigned to students as an extension or elaboration of classroom activities’. They are of three kinds: Practice, Preparation and Extension

Practice assignments are given to reinforce newly acquired skills. For example: When a new method of solving a math problem is taught, students are expected to solve similar problems from the sections covered.

Preparation assignments make students class-ready. They are required to get ready for activities that will take place in the class room the following day. Discussions, debates and spelling tests come under this category.

Extension assignments are those that run parallel with class-work. Previous learning is to be applied in completing these assignments viz. Tests, examinations and projects.
Significance of homework

According to Harris Cooper, a homework expert and Psychology professor at Duke University, homework is ‘a useful way to develop study habits and practice skills that can be acquired through repetition’. 

According to researchers, homework/ assignments can, in fact, promote students’ achievement only if they are carefully planned by the teachers. Skills like spelling, vocabulary, tables, number placement and grammar rules children are sure to improve among juniors. 

Homework and student achievement go hand-in-hand. Homework helps the child develop positive study skills and habits that will serve him in the long run.

 Improvement in thinking skills, memory, time management, independence and responsibility will becomes a child’s strengths. Home assignments allow the child to review and practice whatever has been learnt in class besides keeping him class-ready for the following day.
Applying skills to new situations, using resources like reference materials, websites and libraries for more information and exploring subjects in more detail are all results of homework. 
How much is too much?

Though there have been mixed responses over the amount of homework that needs to be assigned, reports have shown that students are completing more homework assignments than their counterparts a decade ago. The National PTA and the National Education Association, however, recommend the following:

Kindergarten to Grade III: About 10-20 minutes a dayGrade IV to VI: About 20 minutes to 40 minutesGrade VII to Grade X: About 120 minutes, however, time can vary according to the subject and the type of homework.

It is imperative for schools to set homework policies jointly with teachers, parents and student representatives. Policies made should make clear the purposes of homework, the amount of homework and the frequency, student responsibilities, school and teachers’ responsibilities. The school should also underscore the role of parents and those who assist students with homework / assignments.
Parent involvement

Parent involvement is crucial in homework / assignment as it bridges the gap between school and parents. From the school’s perspective, assigning homework helps monitor the student’s independent progress and for the parents, it is an opportunity to enhance child-parent / family relationships. Parents get to know what their children are being taught – be it class activities or new skills. As children grow older, they become more independent and enjoy completing their homework themselves, no matter, what amount of time they need to spend on them. 

Suggestions for parents:

Ask your child’s teachers about the homework policy/specific assignments. You could approach the class teacher or the principal if you feel the amount of homework is overwhelming. Discuss concerns/anxieties and ask them to provide guidelines and suggestions.

Advise your child to make a note in the diary whenever the teacher discusses about homework or projects and the deadline for completion of the same.Allow time for both homework and family activities. Limit after-school activities and monitor television viewing.

Do not allow your child to be parked in front of the TV or snuggle on a comfy bed while doing his homework. Provide a suitable study area or a room where he is not easily distracted. Arrange all paraphernalia that he may need, like, books, paper, glue, geometry box etc.

Make sure you give your child some free time once he is done with his homework. Involve your child and prepare a homework schedule that he is fine with.

Pay attention when your child (studying in kindergarten or primary) needs help to complete the assignments. Clarify his doubts and provide tips if he needs them. When your child completes his home assignments praise his efforts and patience. This will boost his confidence and enthusiasm to complete his work.

Take time to check your child’s completed homework/assignments. You could see it again once it has been corrected by the concerned teacher.

In case of older children, do not simply provide the answers. If you have the patience and time, work through a couple of examples. Another idea is to solve some problems together and watch how he/she cracks the next one without your help.
Planning project work

When doing extension assignments like projects, students should make notes on the assignments given by recording the information mentioned below:

The subject: (For example: English, Math, Geography)What you need to do? (i.e. whether to prepare a Power Point Presentation, write a case study or an essay etc.)

The details: (i.e.: single/ doubled spaced, pictures, drawings, use of colours and the format to be followed)

Reference(if any): (i.e. number of pages to be referred, books to refer or any other source of information)

The due date 
When starting a project:

With the help of a parent, estimate how much time you would need to complete each extension assignment/ project. You can block out more time, so if you finish earlier than planned, you can get a breather before you start the next. After determining how much time you can spare after school, prioritize your assignments, taking up the earliest deadlines first.

It is but natural for you to start with the easiest subject / topic for you want to be done with it. Remember, when you start, you are most energetic and focused, so it is better to tackle the hardest and challenging assignments first. Handle simpler ones when you are more relaxed. If your attention spans are not long, it is advisable to take breaks while doing assignments. A 15-minute break every hour works fine. 

Sometimes, certain classes seem too hard despite the efforts. You might fall behind and as a result develop an aversion to the subject and anything to do with it. In this case, approach your teacher first. He or she will be able to help you out. If you have a friend who is smart, find out if he can make things simple.

 It is a good way to gather information from the perspective of a peer. Those who understand something perfectly but lack the ability to explain it must get extra help either from parents or a tutor. Talk with your parents if you need assistance from a tutor.