Getting through homework

by | Nov 21, 2012 | Other News

Homework for elementary school children has fallen in and out of favor over the years. In the early 1900s, it was illegal in California for teachers to assign homework to young children who were instead expected to help on the farm or in the family business after school. When Russia launched Sputnik in the 1950s, the space race began and along with it came a push for homework for American children. In the 1970s, less homework was assigned; in today’s age of No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing, more homework is showing up in backpacks.

At Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, teachers believe homework has an important place. As an independent school, it does not practice for Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Instead, it prepares students for the academic challenge independent schools provide. HAT agrees with the National Association of School Psychologist’s statement: “Homework teaches children how to take responsibility for tasks and how to work independently. That is, homework helps children develop habits of mind that will serve them well as they proceed through school and, indeed, through life. Specifically, homework helps children learn how to plan and organize tasks, manage time, make choices, and problem solve, all skills that contribute to effective functioning in the adult world of work and families.”

Here are a few tips to help children master the skills needed to successfully complete homework:
• Create a positive atmosphere for school-related work. Some students need to work near a parent, while others are better on their own. Avoid noisy distractions such as the television and have good lighting and school supplies handy.
• Develop a routine and be consistent (such as do homework at the same time every day).
• For a struggling child, take time to help him verbalize the problem: Are the directions confusing? Are needed notes or word lists missing? Perhaps the work seems overwhelming and it would help to break it down into smaller parts.
• Reading is probably the most important skill to develop in elementary school. It is a learned skill, like becoming a good cook or baseball player. Together, teachers and parents can help each child find the right book to spark a lifelong reading habit. Instead of searching for the right ‘reading level,’ search for the genre and topics that interest each child. Read to and with children often and model reading at home: magazines, newspapers, books, professional journals and letters. Children should read nightly even when no other homework is assigned.
• Remember positive reinforcement. Speak positively about school, schoolwork, teachers, and classmates. The attitude parents express are the attitudes children reflect. Make a positive statement about the value of homework!

If parents are providing assistance often or children are taking an inordinate amount of time to complete homework, then it may be time to talk to the teacher. Working as a team, it is possible to determine how best to make homework a productive and positive experience.

Tanya Conley is the director of general studies for Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. Prior to assuming this role, she held the position of HAT science teacher for grades 1–5. Before joining HAT, Conley taught at Ware Academy in Gloucester, Va. and served as the religious school principal at Temple Beth El of Williamsburg. She holds a bachelor-ofarts degree from Brandeis University and is licensed to teach PreK-sixth grade.

by Tanya Conley