omework is a topic that gets parents, teachers and kids hot under the collar. Constantly bubbling under the surface of education debates is whether insisting that kids do school work at home enhances their learning or interferes with their lives.
Research and expert opinion fall on all sides of the argument, and the feelings of parents range from love to loathing. Some studies say that reviewing at home what’s been learnt in formal lessons can embed the information. But other experts say that setting homework for junior primary students is a waste of time and painful for all parties.
Yet despite this perennial debate, over the next week or so – if not already – the vast majority of school students aged between six and 17 will be set homework they’re expected to complete.
THE LESSONS IN HOMEWORK
Dr Lyn O’Grady, national project manager for KidsMatter Primary at the Australian Psychological Society, says one of the main reasons to embrace homework is it can teach kids life skills such as being self-motivated and independent learners.
“The [academic part] aside, they can build skills that will be important for the years of senior school,” she says. “How parents support their kids with homework is important – it can be tempting for mums and dads to do it for them because our lives are busy, but giving them the answers prevents them from developing learning and thinking processes and their overall independence.
“Sometimes the biggest lesson learned can be when students go back to school with homework unfinished,” O’Grady says. “How will they feel admitting they didn’t finish their homework? What does it teach them?”
Completing tasks at home teaches kids time management and responsibility, and builds skills in independent learning that they’ll need later, she says, adding that kids thrive on routine so homework can often be a more efficient process if it’s done at the same time and in the same place. They also won’t perform well with study tasks late in the day, or if they’re tired or hungry. “Getting school work out of the way before doing fun things keeps motivation up as well.”
O’Grady’s big tip to families is not to turn homework into a fiery flashpoint of conflict with bickering and nagging. “If a routine is in place, then kids know what’s expected of them – it becomes a habit to sit down and get their homework completed.”
Whatever your feelings on this contentious issue, homework is often part of the school curriculum, so how can you help your kids?