by Osborne F. Abbey, Jr., Ed.D.
Why do elementary school students need homework?
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.
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.
How do different types of homework reinforce different types of
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.
How much time should an elementary school student spend on homework?
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.
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?
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.
How can I help my child without actually doing his or her homework?
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.
What is the best time of day for homework? Is there a time my child
should always avoid?
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
What is a sensible and realistic way for me to reinforce the importance
of doing homework when it is assigned?
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.
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.
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.
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 Whos 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.
Nobel Learning Communities:
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.