Homework—evil villain or unsung hero? The debate continues into the 21st century. Some people believe that, because it gives kids a chance to practise skills they have learned during the school day, homework is an important part of the schooling process. Others believe that homework constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Although the debate will likely continue, parents and educators need to find some common ground so that they can provide young people with academic support.
Does homework have any academic benefit? The research is inconclusive. Some educators believe that homework should be banned all together. Others maintain that daily homework is necessary to facilitate a high level of academic success. The answer likely lies somewhere between these two views.
Parental involvement is a major source of concern. Seventy-two percent of parents in a Canadian survey conducted in 2007 indicated that homework is a major source of stress. Asked why homework is stressful, 64 per cent of respondents identified their own lack of knowledge in helping their kids with homework. Oddly, 80 per cent of those same parents believe that homework improves learning.
Educators and policymakers also debate the effectiveness of homework. Some educators argue that homework increases academic outcomes and instils good work habits and discipline in students. At the same time, educators are aware that many families lead hectic lives and that homework can add even more stress. A recent approach is to give students a greater say in the kind of learning activities that they undertake at home. Whatever the approach, parents and educators need to work together to provide the best learning environment possible for young people.
For their part, parents need to provide their children with a supportive environment in which to complete homework. Such support does not necessarily mean helping their children. In fact, some educators believe that children master skills and learn to solve problems faster when they are allowed to work through their homework on their own, without parental assistance. What parents can do is to provide the space, the time and the materials that kids need to get their homework done. Communication is also very important. Parents should talk with their child and with their child’s teacher to ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected.
The Canadian Council on Learning provides learners, educators, employers and policymakers with current information on the most effective approaches to learning.
The Alberta Teachers Association has compiled some excellent research and tips for parents on helping their kids with homework.