Making homework count

It’s rare for children to get excited about homework. Really, can you blame them? Children spend the majority of their day at school learning behind a desk. Having to do more schoolwork when they arrive home makes no sense.  They want a break from their books, essays and lesson plans. So why do teachers assign homework? Is it necessary? And how much is too much?

These questions have been central to the homework debate amongst teachers for the last few years. For many parents, it is disconcerting to know some teachers strongly advocate homework while others don’t agree with it at all.

As a parent, your involvement is critical from the start. Not only can you help ensure the teacher’s goals for homework are met you can assess whether or not their goals are reasonable and take necessary action if they are not.

The Case for Homework

Homework is an opportunity for teachers to evaluate, without testing, if their students have retained the information learned. For example, if your child has been learning long division at school, being able to apply that knowledge at home, without the help of the teacher and away from the learning environment, will be an excellent way for the teacher to determine whether or not your child is ready to move on to more complex knowledge at school. It will also give your child the opportunity to apply what he has learned, work through his doubts, come back to the classroom with questions, and feel confident in using this new knowledge independently in the outside world. The teacher will then be able to adjust his curriculum to more accurately reflect the needs of his students, or to review some concepts when necessary.

Many teachers also believe in sending homework home to create the habit of discipline. Modern parenting approaches have taught us, however, that there are more valuable ways to teach your child self-discipline. For example, sharing the responsibilities of the house by choosing chores, helping with cooking or laundry, feeding pets and keeping their room clean.

It is important that you understand how your child’s homework supports her learning at school. If you are unsure of what the purpose of the work is, ask the teacher to clarify. Once you both you and your child understand its purpose, she will gain much more from the exercise. On the other hand, if you have concerns about the amount of work being sent home (for instance, if your child spends more than forty five minutes each night on homework), or the relevance of it, discuss your concerns with the teacher. Together you can come up with a plan that is better tailored for your child’s needs. Children also need time to play and exercise outdoors, rest, read, and participate in co-curricular activities. If your child is learning an instrument or a sport, consider the time needed for the practice of that discipline during the week, and talk to the teacher if your child is limited in time. You may suggest that your child complete only a part of the daily work required (enough to demonstrate her understanding of the concepts). Or perhaps it’s possible for your child to submit her homework on days of the week where she has more free time. Only you understand the particular needs of your child, and sharing these with the teacher is incredibly important for the success of your child.

Five Reasons You Should Get Involved

  1. For as long as you can during your child’s educational years, be there for homework time. Make it an enjoyable routine by having tea and cookies together. Sit down together and share everything that comes out of the school bag. This will help your family in more ways than one. Firstly, it will keep you connected with your child’s school life. You will know when important dates are coming up, and see, first hand, your child’s work. This allows you to monitor his progress throughout the year, the areas where he might need help, and the topics they are exploring at school.
  2. You will be the first to witness any concepts that your child is struggling with. You can try to understand or review the concepts together, or at least ensure your child asks the teacher to clarify the following day.
  3. It will give you an excellent opportunity to bond with your child and talk about his social life away from you. Most children have very little to share about school when you first see them. Once they start their homework, they want to talk about anything else but the work at hand. If you share in those conversations instead of insisting that your child finish first and talk later, you might find that homework time takes a little longer, but it becomes a wonderful bonding experience. You may also find out about issues that may be stressing your child, and be able to help your child resolve those.
  4. Knowing what your child is learning at school throughout the year will allow you to support that learning at home. You may, for instance, visit the library to read more about a particular subject, or supplement the learning by visiting museums, art galleries, science exhibits, or surfing the internet.
  5. It is a perfect opportunity to teach your child your own values. For example, my sons take pride in always handing in their assignments clean, with great writing and spelling. They take pride in keeping their agenda clean and to add in any other important events. They like sorting through their homework and making sure everything is organized and kept up to date. Any work that has already been marked is filed away in a box at home. These are all values and habits that you can impart in your child as a parent. If you love it and share your enthusiasm, they will learn to love it as well.

Choosing the Right Time

Help your child choose a time in the day to do his homework. Some want to get it done immediately after school, but most prefer to play and do it later. In our family, we do homework after dinner, by the fire, with tea. There is plenty of time to play beforehand, and afterwards as well. Over the years, this routine may change depending on your activities, but it should always be planned together, with care.


Many parents feel tempted to do their child’s homework for lack of time, or simply to ensure that they are perfect and deserving of a good grade. By doing this, you are robbing your child of the opportunity to learn and make mistakes. It also displays a lack of confidence in your child, depriving him of the message that you trust in his ability and approve of his work. If your child makes mistakes, you can help by reviewing the concepts with him, or by pointing to spelling errors and explaining how to correct the. Never do your child’s homework.

When to Stop Your Involvement

As long as your child wants to share homework with you, be there. If your children are older and prefer doing their homework by themselves, still encourage them to do it in the family room or at the dinner table, where you can be around. Take this time to also sit near your child and do your own work, read a book, or write. That way, you can still share a moment with your child without being too overbearing.

How to Make Homework Enjoyable

Your attitude towards your children’s homework will help determine their own. If you decide on a time together to sit down at a clean, well-light table, without other distractions and are genuinely excited see what they are learning, your children will also be excited. If you view homework as one more thing to do and approach it with a lack of enthusiasm, your child will find it difficult to get motivated to start. If you sternly order your children to do their homework at a time you dictate, your children will resent homework time. Enjoy the experience with your children, and they will remember it fondly for years to come.

Natacha V. Beim is a writer, speaker, teacher, and the founder of Core Education & Fine Arts Junior Kindergarten schools ( <> ). You can reach her at