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What’s the Point of Homework for My Kid?

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Feel like homework has taken over your life? It’s a common frustration. Between the sheer volume of homework many children bring home, the time it takes to get them to get set up and started, and the epic battles over getting it finished, you’ve probably wondered more than once: Is homework worth the hassle?

Trying to find a clear answer to that question is nearly impossible. There have been more than 5,000 articles written on homework since the 1980s, and still, there’s no real consensus. That leaves many parents asking questions like:

  • What’s the purpose of homework?

  • Why do teachers assign homework in the first place?

  • Is homework really effective at helping kids learn?

  • How can I help my kid get the most benefits from doing homework?

In HelloJoey’s “Homework: From Hassle to Happy” kit, we look at the reasons for homework and what education experts say makes it meaningful and effective. We also look at the types of skills your child develops by doing homework and how you can help them make the most of homework time.

The purpose of homework

If you ask 10 different people, “What’s the purpose of homework?” you’ll most likely get 10 different answers. Teachers, parents, and students all have different ideas of why kids need to do homework and what they think it accomplishes. In fact, when a team of researchers asked teachers their views on homework, teachers believed it served a variety of purposes, like:

  • setting up a shared experience for a class

  • introducing new content to develop in class

  • giving students a sense of independence by providing time for reflection

Then, those researchers asked kids to explain the reason for homework. Their answers varied wildly, with some saying homework was:

  • just busy work

  • a valuable way to prepare for class discussions and activities

  • a chance to get “easy points” (but not really deepen their understanding)

While parents weren’t included in this study, they have even different opinions on why kids have homework. Many parents believe that homework can help kids foster:

  • a love for learning,

  • the ability to master new skills

  • a sense of responsibility

In spite of this wide range of views, it’s generally agreed that the goal of homework is to enhance learning at school. Of course, homework assignments teach kids about specific subjects, but as kids complete homework, they also learn responsibility, resilience – or how to keep trying even if something is hard, and autonomy – how to manage your work and yourself all on your own. Plus, the consistency of homework can teach kids how to learn outside of a classroom and can make them more aware of how they work best or what they need to do to succeed on their own.

What kind of homework is beneficial?

The pendulum on whether homework is good or bad swings back and forth, but recent studies show homework can have a positive effect on students – if it’s meaningful. To help define “meaningful,” a study conducted in 2010 suggested that, in lower grade levels, “good” homework will:

  • promote positive attitudes, habits, and character traits.

  • allow appropriate parent involvement.

  • reinforce learning of simple skills taught in class.

As kids get into upper elementary and high school, the most beneficial homework plays a direct role in fostering improved academic achievement. In short, effective homework benefits many aspects of a child’s learning experience, and it’s only relevant when it reinforces learning.

Obviously, not all homework fits that bill, as private school principal Melissa Sidebotham explains. “There are much more worthwhile activities than taking 20 words and copying them five times each.” She shares the popular example of having kids use a word in a sentence. “Let's say you have the word ‘umbrella.’

Instead of saying ‘I like umbrellas,’ which is not a good sentence contextually, saying ‘I hold an umbrella over my head in the rain to keep my clothes dry,’ shows that they understand what an umbrella is.” If your child’s homework feels more like busy work than something that actually helps them learn, talk to their teacher.

App Tip

In HelloJoey’s “Homework: From Hassle to Happy” kit, we take a look at the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation and share tips to help your child discover that internal voice that gets them excited about learning and then share expert tips like these to help you build intrinsic motivation at home:

  • Help your little league player use math to calculate their batting average.

  • Encourage your child to read the descriptions of their favorite shows or the label on their favorite cereal box.

  • Explain the science of how cakes rise next time you’re baking together.

As renowned social psychologist and author Dr. Harris Cooper puts it, ask questions about what your kid likes, talk about your experiences, and make it fun. Then, build a bridge back to homework to show how it’s all connected.

Want to learn more about “Homework: From Hassle to Happy?” Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.

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