Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
How much should parents help with homework?
Most teachers have experienced those moments when students come to school with their homework or school projects that look like they are worthy of a Nobel Prize. Then there are those that look like a student gave it a pretty good shot. It is usually not hard to see which students had parental help and which ones didn’t. The question is how much help is too much when it comes to homework?
The research tells us that parental engagement has a positive impact on student achievement. Engagement is things like encouraging good study habits, having high expectations, being supportive of learning and asking questions. Engagement isn’t doing the homework for the child. Yet many parents admit to regularly completing homework because they believe that it is often beyond their child’s ability or it eats into valuable family time. In many households, homework has become a stress point for the whole family. Parents sometimes complain that homework can be too complex even for them!
Homework should never be designed to cause stress. We know that when children are stressed, they don’t learn effectively so it actually ends up doing more harm than good. If homework is all about extending or consolidating learning, then we need to ask how valuable is it for students if they don’t enjoy it or they don’t understand it!
My view has always been that parents need to support, encourage, guide and ask questions that extend their child’s thinking but never to do the work of learning. When we do, we rob children of the value that comes from practising, discovering or consolidating what they learn at school.
Sadly, too many schools are not in the habit of personalising homework or simplifying it enough so that all students, regardless of where they are at, benefit by what they do. Giving students a choice of what they work on at home may be a more positive approach.
One alternative has been the Homework Grid developed by former school principal Dr Ian Lillico. The Homework Grid recognises that all children need a balance in the range and depth of they activities they undertake. Valuable learning activities don’t just have to include ‘school work’ but helping with chores around the house, playing outdoors, listening to music with the family, helping with the shopping and so on.
Homework really needs to be about student-teacher-parent collaboration. If it isn’t, then talk to your school and find out how tasks and activities can be modified to work at home, not just at school.
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta
Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools – Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta