It is a discussion among moms all the time- when do you make your child do their homework? Right when they get home from school, or do you let them decompress for a bit?
I have always struggled with this as a mom- should I make my daughter do her homework right when she gets home from school so it is out of the way, or should I let her take some time to give her brain a rest from a long day at school? I continued to ask myself this question for over two years until I decided that neither option was ideal.
The homework debate has gained momentum over the past couple of years. For a little while, homework was getting out of control. Elementary school children were coming home with an hours worth of homework. For high school kids, it was several hours worth of homework. Parents have raised enough concern over the amount of homework that many teachers and schools seem to steadily decrease the amount they are given so it is a bit more manageable. But is that good enough?
My oldest daughter is currently in first-grade. Her weekly homework consists of a math skills worksheet. I have her complete this at the beginning of the week, in one sitting, because it takes just a few minutes. She also has spelling words that we practice, but not every night. However, the other part of her homework is to do two different computer programs for at least ten minutes every single day. We have opted not to do that type of homework for a few reasons:
- It is time-consuming.
- It serves no real educational purpose.
- There is no need for homework, at this age, to include computer games--we need no forced screen time.
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There are certain things that children should be doing at an elementary level when they get home from school, and research shows that those things should not be homework. They should be outside, playing with friends, developing important social skills, and exploring the world around them. They need to fuel their minds and bodies with healthy foods after a long day of stress. Children should be giving their minds a break- not forcing them to continue working, thereby harboring resentment towards further learning and school.
Although I am in the camp that believes elementary school children through 4th grade should not be given homework, aside from reading a book of their choice each night, I do believe that homework does serve a purpose for older children. Once a child hits fifth grade and is beginning to prepare for middle school and high school level work, I believe that small amounts of homework that help promote study skills and time management is reasonable. Things like research projects, reports, and long-term activities with deadlines are great options. Test preparation skills like flashcards, note cards, and information retention drills are also important to learn. These practices and skills have to be managed at home so children can learn how to manage their time and responsibilities appropriately when they become adults.
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Research has shown that there is no difference in grade between students that do homework and those that do not, making parents wonder why their kids should even be doing it. Homework, if done properly, should be tailored to the needs of the students or teaching a specific life skill. Only then should homework be done in place of spending time together as a family or encouraging independent play.
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