Are you dreading the homework wars?

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Sabrina Almeida

Marion County Public Schools in Florida was the latest district to enforce a homework ban in the United States, joining several others in Vermont and Massachusetts. This move was celebrated by students (naturally) and several parents who also dread homework. Reigniting the debate for and against it.

I recalled my own experience when my sons were going through grade school. Halfway through homework became optional, minimal and was generally unfinished classwork. The rationale being—not to overburden kids with arduous tasks and infringe on family time. Many parents felt that it was taking up too much of the evening, leaving little time for extra-curricular activities.

Having been schooled in India where daily homework in all subjects is the norm, I could only shake my head in disbelief.

My sons of course were jubilant believing they had escaped homework and my scrutiny. My response was to purchase practice books for each subject from Costco.

At the beginning of each school year, I had just one question for their class teachers. Would there be homework? Probably not a query they were used to answering, this unsettled them. They were quick to reassure me about what I already knew. It would be quick, meaningful and not every day.

The situation became even more uncomfortable when they realized it was not the answer I was looking for. I explained my viewpoint—homework was practice that reinforced what kids had learned during the day.

Not knowing how to approach this, they could only say that there would be “some homework”. Which I took to mean that I was on my own and had to be resourceful.

While I agree that kids should not be overwhelmed with tons of homework like I was during my school days, a total ban does not make sense either. Educators and parents should know better. For one, the concept of not burdening kids with homework hardly works to their benefit in high school and college/university. No one cares if you are overburdened. And the chances of you not being able to cope with deluge are high as is the failure and drop out rate. Self study requires discipline which I believe is learned through daily homework.

A New York Post writer also made an important point that most educators don’t consider. Underprivileged kids with little or no family support.

As Naomi Schaefer Riley pointed out, not every child has family dinners to look forward to every evening or extra-curriculars to run to. While my children and many others would probably be given “homework” by their determined parents, marginalized kids do not have that option and are likely to fall further behind.

If one mother (co-incidentally a teacher) believed her daughter’s poor grades were the result of no homework, imagine the impact on kids from dysfunctional families or with parents who juggle several jobs to make ends meet.

Homework imparts many life skills including teaching your child to work independently, time management and to take responsibility for their work. On a higher level, it encourages them to tap a variety of resources online and offline for self-study and to enhance their knowledge on a subject. It also maintains the home-school connection by keeping parents in touch with what their kids are learning.

Despite being a stay-at-home mom at the time, there were several nights when the homework I gave my kids slipped through the cracks. I’m not sure I would have been able to commit at all if I was working full time. A situation that is common in homes with working parents. Most find it difficult enough to read to their kids, a practice that has proven to be critical to their reading skills. I spent nearly a decade volunteering in a school reading program where the kids would have benefitted greatly from more parental involvement.
In my humble opinion, parents who oppose homework are short-sighted and selfish.

They do not want to invest the time and believe education to be solely the school’s responsibility. However, experts say and studies show that education fails when not reinforced at home and being a good role model is most effective.

The best way to minimize conflicts and stress is by setting up a designated study area that is quiet and free from distractions. Help your child set up a study schedule.

While hand-holding, micro-management or doing your child’s work are strongly discouraged, so is letting go completely.

Monitor them to keep them from being distracted and teach accountability.

Stay in touch with teachers and guidance counsellors to be in the know and provide any additional assistance your child may require.

With the right attitude and support from parents, homework can be a positive learning experience and success philosophy.

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