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Homework Help
by Osborne F. Abbey, Jr., Ed.D.

Q: Why do elementary school students need homework?

A: Homework serves a very purposeful role in the learning process - it establishes the link between school and the outside world. Establishing this link early in a child's development helps to ensure he or she understands that learning extends well beyond the walls of the classroom. Indeed, learning is an everyday, lifelong affair.

Homework assignments help children review material, but more importantly, they create a greater knowledge of a topic. Homework also is about establishing the responsibility in a student to "follow through." That is, assignments help them to accept responsibility for bringing work from school to home, and then from home to school. Beyond its practical applications, homework provides an array of character building intangibles like accountability, trustworthiness and dependability.

Q: How do different types of homework reinforce different types of learning?

A: Educators have recognized four different types of homework that serve slightly different purposes.
" Preparation: These assignments are used to provide background information prior to introducing a new topic.
" Practice: This type of homework reinforces concepts or skills that have already been learned.
" Extension: This is used to further learning within the same topic by asking a student to use information differently.
" Integration: These assignments move learning across topical areas to reinforce connections between and among subject areas.

Q: How much time should an elementary school student spend on homework?

A: Homework for children in grades K-2 is most effective when it ranges between 10 and 20 minutes daily. For students in grades 3-5, homework will vary between 30 minutes and an hour on a nightly basis.

Q: I want to support my child as he or she does homework, but I don't think I have the knowledge to do so. What can I do?

A: When you feel unable to offer support with homework - whether it's because you don't understand the material yourself or you are not sure how to explain it - a conversation with your child's teacher about the assignments is the best possible source for help. Additionally, the school's library, public libraries and education websites offer a multitude of tools for parents who want to help their children. Keep in mind, it can be confusing for children to receive instruction from multiple sources, so you'll want to make sure there is consistency in your methods. This can be as simple as acquainting yourself with new terms or practices teachers use daily. Also remember, terms commonly used when you were in school may no longer be as commonplace.

Q: How can I help my child without actually doing his or her homework?

A: There are several ways to provide support for a child's academic growth, without ever completing an assignment on his or her behalf. First, make sure that you understand the nature of the assignment; you do not want to give erroneous guidance. Second, keep in mind that the assignment is the student's, not yours. Therefore, provide wise guidance on the how-to, but be careful not provide the specific answers. Third, make sure that your student has all of the materials and information he or she needs to fully complete the assignment.

Q: What is the best time of day for homework? Is there a time my child should always avoid?

A: Children should aim to do homework at the same time every day, but barring special circumstances, they should not do their homework right before bed when they are tired. You need to select a consistent time that fits best into your student's schedule. Know that in some circumstances this time may have to change depending on the time of the year and commitments to other outside activities. To help guide good homework habits, I would also recommend setting up an area that is specifically meant for studying, and turning off the television during homework time. Consistency is perhaps the best rule of thumb. Remember, good practices can be habit-forming if reinforced through repetition. Adhering to a set schedule or specific time helps build a strong foundation for future practice.

Q: My child has so much to do after school, thus pushing homework later into the day when he or she is tired. How can I make this situation better?

A: Remember that other activities such as sports, dance and band are extra-curricular. While it is important for children to explore their creativity and talents outside of academics, these activities should never become so overwhelming that homework cannot be completed on a consistent basis and well before bedtime. If your overscheduled child is unable to complete homework assignments, your child may need to resign some outside activity. Homework must be a high priority.

Q: When I ask my child about that day's homework, I am told it is already complete. How can I make learning part of our evening routine when either no homework or very little coursework has been assigned?

A: The amount of homework varies on a daily basis for every child, so make studying, and not just homework, a daily habit. Ask your child's teacher to recommend enrichment exercises that help apply lessons to real-life situations.

Q: What is a sensible and realistic way for me to reinforce the importance of doing homework when it is assigned?

A: Just like adults, children like to know when they have done a good job. Therefore, praise is very important as it establishes an intrinsic, self-motivating reward for doing what is asked. While good grades and feedback in the classroom help push students toward success, these same types of reinforcements are equally important at home. Even if it is just simple acknowledgement, your student needs to know that you are aware of and appreciate their hard work.

It is also important to stay involved and interested in your children's education. If you consistently ask them about homework and expect to see completed assignments and graded papers, you will create expectations that they will likely strive to meet. Most importantly, lead by example. If you have a job that requires doing work from home, be sure to follow the same guidelines you set for your child.

As a final note, it is always important to consult with your child's teacher when it comes to homework. Some teachers use guidelines for the amount of parental involvement allowed, depending upon the assignment and situation. While parental involvement is essential to supporting the importance of doing homework correctly, it must follow the same general instruction methods used by the teacher to avoid having a confused child.

Dr. Osborne F. Abbey serves as Vice President of Education for Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. and is Chair of the Education Advisory Board. Dr. Abbey is a member of a variety of professional organizations and was nominated to Who’s Who In American Education. He is also an IDEA Fellow and carries a Registered Diplomate in educational administration. In addition to his academic endeavors, Dr. Abbey has served in Rotary and as an adjunct professor specializing in student assessment, curriculum, and research. He has also served as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of an independent school.

About Nobel Learning Communities:

Nobel Learning Communities is a national network of 147 nonsectarian private schools, including preschools, elementary schools, and middle schools in 13 states across the nation. Nobel Learning Communities provides high quality private education, with small class sizes, caring and skilled teachers, and attention to individual learning styles. They also offer an array of supplemental educational services, including before- and after-school care, the Camp Zone® summer program, learning support programs, and specialty high schools. For more information on Nobel Learning Communities, or to find a school near you, please visit www.NobelLearning.com.

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