The Importance of Homework
Homework is a controversial issue that always comes up when children, learning, and school is discussed. A lot of parents question the practice and yet so many other parents encourage and demand that their children get lots of work from school every day.
I have heard parents query teachers and schools over and over again, about not giving the children lots of work to do at home on a daily basis. Children are given lots of homework all over Nigeria and indeed most of the world, and to what benefit?
There was a reported situation where Tunde a young 3 year old, who was given homework to count and write 200 to 300, said to his dad, ‘Dad, I hate numbers!’ Now this is just wrong, and really unforgiveable. How on earth can we continue to make and build foundations that will leave the coming generation, despondent and unhappy about the most basic things like numbers, simply because we are unable to keep children engaged and happy about gaining important skills?
First thing to take on as I have often said is that, the academic expectations, the scope of what we want children to know are too wide, too much. How can we be asking 3-year olds to count and write numbers 1 to 300, and sometimes it’s as much as 500! Don’t burn these children out; be realistic in your expectations.
Second point, is that a lot of studies has shown that:
- a) Homework does not help children do better academically,
- b) Its a myth that homework will help children develop good study habits,
- c) And finally homework time is a stressful time for both parents and children.
Parents are busy, both moms and dads, getting back from work and having to spend most of the time together getting vast amounts of homework done is tiring and very disruptive. Homework is sometimes sent home without consideration of what the child understands and can cope with. If a teacher has for example just taught the children a certain concept, not all the children in the classroom would understand the new concept. Neither would they necessarily be able to do all the work given at the same pace, most of the time the children are expected to submit the next day!
Going forward it is important for schools and teachers to reconsider their homework strategies and practices and ensure that it is not a source of stress or disenchantment for the children, to learning. Some suggestions that may help:
- Give the younger children, playgroup and nursery classes, homework only a few days a week and not extensive. I suggest 2 days and something that won’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes.
- You may increase the amount of homework as the children get older, but don’t over load them with work. Remember, the parents are not the teachers. Do not send children home with work you know they are not yet confident of, or are yet to understand.
- Instead of giving them worksheets give them activities. Little activities, games or experiments, which will help solidify the concepts you are trying to teach them. For example asking children to point out 5 red objects, or 6 rectangular items in the house for their parents, depending on what concepts the child is working on in school at the time. The goal is to make sure that the concepts learned can be transferred to everyday life.
Parents also need to learn what to do and how to help the schools and their children navigate around this contentious issue. Sometimes it is the parents that drive schools to over emphasize the role of homework in the learning process. Parents need to get some great information about, child development, best practices and what the learning guides for each age are in the countries that are leading in world education standards, countries like Finland, China, and not necessarily UK and USA.
Children should have extra curricula activities they are involved in. If homework is crowding out football, sewing, cooking, swimming completely then something is wrong. If you as a parent always need to help your child complete their homework either by guiding them or actually doing it, then there is something wrong. If this is the case, then contact your child’s school and talk to them about it. If you do not do something about it then nothing will change.
Change is important so please do not let your situation at home be like little Tunde’s! We do not need to wait until our child screams ‘I hate school, I hate learning,’ before we get it. Children love to learn, but homework is not fun. Let’s change this for them.