Parenting Perspectives

Homework Should be Given for Mastery of a Subject, Not as Busy Work

February 09, 2015
Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed.

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TEASER When dealing with homework questions, you must first consider the appropriate reasons homework should be given. If a child is already at a mastery level on a certain subject, extra drill homework can lead to negativity about school.
TITLE Homework Should be Given for Mastery of a Subject, Not as Busy Work
TWEETTEXT Homework Should be Given for Mastery of a Subject, Not as Busy Work: http://bit.ly/1KGTMtp
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TEASER When dealing with homework questions, you must first consider the appropriate reasons homework should be given. If a child is already at a mastery level on a certain subject, extra drill homework can lead to negativity about school.
TITLE Homework Should be Given for Mastery of a Subject, Not as Busy Work
TWEETTEXT Homework Should be Given for Mastery of a Subject, Not as Busy Work: http://bit.ly/1KGTMtp

When dealing with homework questions, you must first consider the appropriate reasons homework should be given. For example, educators assign homework to prepare students to participate fully in something they will do in class the next day, or to help them gain a better understanding of topics they may already be familiar with. Many educators also assign individualized homework to help students master information that they will need to progress in class.

If a child is already at a mastery level on a certain subject, extra drill homework is a turn-off and can lead to negativity about school. Parents should check with teachers to find out more about their child’s mastery of certain subjects to get a sense of whether the child would benefit from homework to build their skills.

Homework without understanding the concept is also a negative experience. If your child already has mastery, but loves a subject and wants to move ahead or delve deeper, I suggest consulting first with the teacher. Moving ahead with new material could result in boredom during class. But, if the teacher knows of your child’s interest, and desire to pursue the subject more deeply, she may be able to provide you with suggestions for project-based learning at home.

You may also want to refer to homeschool websites for ideas on how to extend the lessons beyond the classroom or try free online games where students get immediate feedback to help them correct misinformation and learn that their efforts are making a difference in their grasp of the concept. Remember, just moving ahead of the class on fact memorization in math, vocabulary, spelling will lead to boredom, but using information for interesting applications as it is being learned is great for building mastery of a certain subject.

Enjoy the extra time together doing physical activities, playing online learning games and building things. But, please avoid homework as busy work if your child has mastery and does not desire further advancement. The most important product of elementary school is a child who loves learning and is joyfully looking forward to the next phases of school.

Judy Willis is a neurologist, former classroom teacher, and author of books for educators and parents. She is a staff writer for Edutopia, Psychology Today and has written widely for the Parent Toolkit, including pieces about the importance of sleep, the benefit of raising bilingual children, and the difference between praising achievement and praising effort.


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