Homework: Friend or Foe?

Academic Support, Homework, Tutoring / /


Kristin Jeffrey is a former teacher, a mother of two, and a school board member.  She has a lot of experience navigating homework. As a Possip team member she helps connect the many parts and pieces of the family feedback loop together to schools.

“So what should we do as educators and parents when there are so many competing philosophies about homework?”

One topic that is often at the top of the list when it comes to any conversations about schools and kids is HOMEWORK.   And here at Possip, it is no exception!

“Is my child getting enough homework? She races through it each night and it seems easy.” 

“John loves the hands-on activities you send for homework- can we have more of that?”

“Homework is the bane of our existence in the evenings- is there anything I can do to make this easier?”

The research and professional opinions in education vary widely on the purpose and impact of homework; and the discussion sounds different depending on age levels and even subject areas.  Everyone wants to ensure they are setting kids up for success with the right amount of practice and the opportunity to build skills and habits; without over-burdening our students.

So what should we do as educators and parents when there are so many competing philosophies about homework?

First and foremost, parents should feel empowered to have the conversation about homework with teachers or school leaders.  When parents have good information they can support their child and feel great about the reasons behind it!   As we all know, one size does not fit all for kids.   There may be simple adjustments that can make the homework experience for your child meaningful and more positive.

Here are a few questions that can get the conversation started between parents and schools:

  • What is the purpose of homework for kids?  Should they be practicing skills they have already learned or learning something new at home?
  • How much help should they get when they do their homework?  Are parents supposed to correct it?
  • How long is the homework supposed to take?  What if my child is taking much longer or shorter?
  • [If homework seems too easy] Is there a more challenging assignment or project my child can work on at home?

In addition to making sure parents and schools are on the same page with approach, there are some tried and true tips that can help homework be a positive experience.  Here are a few quick and easy reminders to set the stage for kids’ success.

Tips for families:

  • Time and place. When possible, set up a consistent time of night and location in your home for your child to complete their homework.   It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a spot where they can concentrate and have the materials for the assignments within reach.  Building the simplest of routines can have a big impact.
  • Find a friend.  Have your child find a ‘homework-buddy’ (or two!)  It can make everyone’s lives easier if there are a couple kids in the class that your child can call if they forget an assignment or needs some help with directions.
  • Rewards are OK! Positive incentives often work.  A system where your child can “earn” a reward is motivating and can focus kids on their nightly tasks.  Perhaps they receive a special Friday treat in their lunch box or some extra minutes playing a favorite game over the weekend.
  • Create a “family study time”.  Adults can pick up a book and read or work while children do homework.  If kids have siblings, everyone can do their homework at the same time, building the culture and cutting down on distractions.
  • Make a plan.  Particularly as children get older, help them plan out heavy work weeks or big projects.   They may need some assistance carving out time in advance (over several days) so they don’t get caught the night before something is due with lots of work left.

Reminders for schools:

  • Be clear on the “why”.  Let parents know what they should do when it comes to homework.  Send home a document that explains how they can help their children or what to do if a child is ‘stuck’ on homework.
  • Keep it consistent. Use a predictable and regular format each night or each week.   Kids and parents will know what to expect and how much time to budget into their evenings for homework.
  • Examples and tips! When children are practicing a new skill, demonstration problems or examples can be worth their weight in gold.    Tips or little reminders from the day’s lesson that can be included in homework packets.
  • Be flexible. Allowing for flexibility on when the homework is completed throughout the week can be a big help to families.  Weekly homework packets (due on Friday) instead of nightly assignments is one approach.   An added bonus- kids can flex their time management muscles as they make decisions about when to complete assignments.

These tips and conversations starters are simple and straightforward; and we hope can set up everyone up with more productive (and less stressful!) homework success.   Good luck!