photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

The usefulness of homework has been studied and debated by scholars, educators, parents and students for many decades. For some students, homework is a cinch. For others, especially children with learning disabilities, homework can be hard to organize, manage, start and complete on their own.

The pros and cons

As author and child lecturer, Alfie Kohn, writes in his book, The Homework Myth; Why our kids get too much of a bad thing, homework places a burden on parents, creates stress for children, sparks family conflict, reduces time for other activities and decreases kids’ interest in learning.

“Kids’ negative reactions may generalize to school itself and even to the very idea of learning,” writes Kohn.

Further, he argues, the widespread assumptions about homework leading to higher achievement, self-discipline and responsibility, are not substantiated by evidence.

Authors Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take a different view in their book, Taking the Stress Out of Homework. They believe children need homework but need to learn executive functioning skills to work independently, organize their time, prioritize tasks, and follow projects through to completion.

They encourage parents to teach these skills and say this is one of the best ways for parents to help their children with homework.

Your assignment: talk to your child’s teacher

By discussing homework expectations with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year, you will find out how much and how often homework will be assigned. If your child has learning accommodations, the teacher must take this into account and modify homework expectations according to your child’s capabilities.

As Cynthia Stowe advises in her book, How to Reach & Teach Teens with Dyslexia:

  • homework should never be a means for presenting new information,
  • directions must be clear,
  • the amount should be reasonable, and
  • it should be assumed students can complete the work independently.

“It does nothing for a student’s self-esteem or for his learning if he is constantly needing assistance to complete an assignment,” says Stowe.

Tips to help your child peacefully get ‘er done

  • Use homework as an opportunity to talk with your child about what they are learning. Try fun ways to demonstrate a learned concept. For instance, use a 12-cup muffin tin and a bag of marbles to show how multiplication works in real life.
  • Choose a calm, quiet workspace, free of distractions.
  • Experiment with different start times to see which start time works best for your child.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Praise genuine effort and what was accomplished, as a result of the effort.
  • Create a daily checklist to plan what needs to be done, the order, and time estimates to finish. (For checklists, see pages 227 and 228, How to Reach & Teach Teens with Dyslexia.)
  • Keep talking with the school throughout the year to make sure homework isn’t defeating its intended purpose.

If you can teach your child how to organize, prioritize, and plan their homework assignments in a simple format, this is the best help you can give. Above all, keep calm and encourage your child to keep their slack time ahead of them. Afterall, the hardest part of any assignment is just getting started!

Books about homework mentioned in this post:

  • The Homework Myth, Why our kids get too much of a bad thing by Alfie Kohn
  • Taking the Stress Out of Homework by Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer
  • How to Reach & Teach Children with Dyslexia by Cynthia M. Stowe, M.Ed.

Previous Open Door Blog Posts related to this topic:

Your child’s classroom accommodations – which ones are helping?

Approaching the teacher about your child’s dyslexia

Are you learning the power of… YET?

Inspiring reading confidence in a reluctant reader

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Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

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