Heavy Homework is Good for Kids
A million kids groaned when researchers from the University of Nebraska announced their finding earlier this month: homework is good for you, the more the better.
Contrary to popular mythology (perpetrated mainly by teary-eyed anti-homework pundits, but also by aforementioned students), there's no such thing as "too much homework." And here's a newsflash: most parents are actually happy with heavy homework loads. Apparently "heavy homework" parents know what the research has revealed: heavy homework does not produce a negative impact on either child or family life.
This new finding flies in the face of "de-educators" who say that heavy homework gobbles up free time that could be spent with family, friends and extra-curricular activities.
The caveat, of course, is that while parents stay the course (no matter how many complaints they hear), they should always be involved and supportive. As students increase time completing homework, parents are should follow up their effort by showing their support for good study habits - e.g., a quiet home with minimal distraction (television, video games). This and past studies show that no matter how much time a student dedicates on homework, parental involvement is essential. With personal experience, I'd add that it is impossible for students to feel great about the drudgery of any kind of work. However, when they see their parents reading, they tend to read more. When parents engage them in non-instructive conversation about school work, students enjoy the interaction and retain lessons better.
Ken Kiewra, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska and an expert on learning strategies, homework and study methods, observes that the findings should ease parent's sense that homework robs children of free time. "Parents [in the study] generally report that children spend ample time playing and socializing and report that homework workloads are reasonable," says Kiewra.
The study, which involved nearly 400 parents of middle school scholars, was published in the latest issue of Scholarlypartnerships.edu. Researchers examined four key issues: how long it takes students to complete their daily homework, how parents feel about their child's amount of homework, how much parents are involved in it, and how well schools communicate with parents about homework levels and expectations.
The key results :
- Students are not overburdened by too much homework. Most middle schoolers spend 60 to 90 minutes a day with homework -- slightly higher than what previous research in the area had shown -- and parents in the study did not believe it interfered with their children's recreational or social activities.
- Daily homework does not create family stress and infringe on family life. Most parents reported that they thought their kids' amount of daily homework was appropriate and did not encroach upon family activities. In fact, most parents surveyed were either indifferent about or thankful for homework.
- Most parents said they were involved in their child's homework, but in general their involvement was minimal but positive. They focused on motivating their children or checking their answers.
Says Kiewra, "although findings cast a softer light on the homework battle that has raged between families and schools, it does not extinguish it. Twenty-five percent of parents still contend that excessive homework practices infringe on family life."
He also observes that although most parents help children with homework in positive ways, about one-quarter sometimes completes assignments for their children who they feel are overburdened. Moreover, homework communication between schools and parents is a dead-end street.
"With better communication, homework loads are more likely to be manageable and parental assistance more likely positive," he says.
In short, load 'em up - but make it a family effort. -HP