Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education: Helping with Homework

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Education: Helping with Homework

12, 2008 – 4:06 am by

There seems to be
quite a bit of debate over homework. I never really thought about it.
As a student, I remember doing most of my homework either in the last
few minutes of class or in the hall just before class. As a teacher,
I assigned homework I thought would illustrate the skill we learned
that day. I also tried to keep the total homework time my students
would spend to less than an hour.

There are some who
feel that homework should be
There are others who feel we just don’t give enough. The pendulum
of more homework and less homework seems to be fully into the less
homework side at the moment. I judge this because a quick web search
shows articles galore on experts explaining why we should reduce the
amount of homework in our schools, but none on why we should have

The reality of the
matter is that either as a teacher or parent you will probably have
to deal with homework. As a teacher, I would personally suggest
giving homework that includes a small percentage of practice and a
bit of illustration of the skill taught that you didn’t have time
to cover in class. What that actually means is up to you to decide.
As a parent, remember if you want more homework for your child you
can get plenty of worksheets online or at the book store
(homeschooling books are actually good supplements most of the time).
If as a parent you think your child has too much homework I wouldn’t
suggest cutting it out right away, I would suggest a bit of
investigation first.

In my own humble
experience I have found that the vast majority of students who think
they have too much homework actually waste valuable homework time.
Almost every teacher will leave a couple of extra minutes at the end
of class. It is possible to get a very good start on homework here
(you get more done faster while it is fresh in your mind). Even when
I require students to work on homework during this time, some avoid
it at all costs. The next largest group are students who are
legitimately having difficulty with the skill and need help. Parents
can obviously help at this point, but sometimes an expert really is

Global Scholar
have some excellent tutors. Finally, there are those times when I
actually do give out an assignment that takes too much time.

Now that I have
wasted too much space talking about the amount of homework given,
let’s get on to helping with homework. I think they are pretty
basic, but perhaps that is just because I’m in education.

  • Required homework
    time: 30 minutes up to third grade, 60 minutes up to high school, 2
    hours in high school. If your child finishes early let them read.

    • If
      baseball practice can be 3 hours, homework can be two. So that
      means 6 or 7 hours in school, 3 hours at practice, and 2 hours of
      homework – leaving 4 or 5 hours of travel, eating and goofing
      off, in a 16 hour day.

  • Don’t
    help until until after your child has actually tried to do the work.
    If he/she can’t do the first few problems, then they are probably
    having trouble with the concept. If it is a later problem then it
    may be a matter of perspective.

    • Usually
      homework starts with easy problems and gets progressively harder.

    • When
      possible guide instead of show.

  • Turn
    off the TV and any music with lyrics.

    • Some
      people need noise in the background, but words require us to listen
      and distract from our ability to concentrate.

  • There
    is no shame in hiring a tutor

    • Insert
      shameless plug for

      Global Scholar

    • Your
      school district may also have a tutor list.

  • Check
    the homework.

    • Even
      if you don’t understand it you will know if your child put effort
      into it or not.

  • Keep
    a dialogue open with your child’s teacher.

    • It
      is big news when a teacher complains about too much parent
      involvement, because it is so rare.

  • Keep
    a dialogue open with your child.

    • Homework
      is practice of a learned skill or the illustration of different
      ways to use a skill, it should not be fundamentally difficult.

  • Do
    your own homework at the same time.

    • Read
      a book, write a letter, balance the checkbook, all that stuff you
      don’t have the time for.

    • At
      the same time you can keep an eye on your child and see frustration
      brewing before it boils over.

  • Remember
    this is a life skill as well, there are entire college courses on
    time management.


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