Homework: The Good and the Bad
Homework can serve a meaningful role, and it should enhance your child’s learning experience. Appropriate homework will not steal away family fun time and can even strengthen a partnership between parents and teachers. So, why might a parent feel that homework turns home into a battleground each evening?
Just what’s so bad about homework? To gifted children it can seem irrelevant. If bright students find themselves spending many of their school hours going over material they already know, then they’re likely to resent having to give up time at home doing more of the same. For a child in that situation, homework can feel like drudgery.
For twice-exceptional (2e) kids – those who are bright but have learning difficulties or disabilities – homework can seem even more onerous. School is often an exhausting place for them. Getting through the day is hard if you struggle to read, as children with dyslexia or vision processing problems do; or if you struggle to make sense of what you hear, as children with auditory processing difficulties do, or if you have to fight the distractions of sounds, colors, or smells in the classroom, as those with attention difficulties or sensory processing issues do. If you also have trouble organizing your thoughts to get them on paper and organizing your papers so that you can get your homework turned in on time, homework becomes an even more daunting task.
So what can be good about homework? Homework can and should help students understand why the material they are learning is important. Marilyn Leuer, an experienced educator and long-time friend of mine, described her view of homework this way:
School is the only place people are often asked to read and write for no particular reason. One of our jobs as educators is to show kids the connections between what they are being asked to do in school and what they will be asked to do in the real world. In my opinion, if a homework assignment can’t help to make that connection, it shouldn’t be given.
As far as taking the drudgery out of assignments, she has this to say:
There’s never enough time during school hours to properly integrate art, drama, music, computers, and video. Homework is the perfect opportunity for students to work these disciplines into content area learning. These types of assignments really help gifted and twice-exceptional students develop talents and begin to see learning as a connected process – not just reading and writing. Giving them an opportunity to tie academics to an area in which they are successful builds their self-esteem. It empowers them to succeed.
But what if your child’s not getting the “good” kind of homework? Here are some steps to take that might help. They’re adapted from “Common Homework Problems and How to Solve Them,” from the book Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide for Solving Common Homework Problems, by Sydney S. Zentall, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. (Specialty Press, Inc., 1999).
- Invite your child become part of the solution rather than the problem by asking for ideas on what might help; then try them out.
- Communicate with the teacher about ways that homework assignments could be modified to better meet your child’s needs and abilities.
- Help your child break down assignments into smaller parts and offer a reward when each is completed.
- Recognize that once children reach their limit, it’s time for a break, a preferred activity, snack, or change of task.
- Avoid negative or coercive consequences, which can lead to anger and frustration for parent and child.
Along with following these tips, we must make sure children have the support they need to be successful. That includes providing them with an appropriate work space, teaching them the study and organizational skills they need, and offering them accommodations where necessary, like extended time or reduced assignments.
For more information on homework, check out these articles:
Homework Research and Policy: A Review of the Literature, by Harris Cooper, Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia.
Parents’ Top Tips for Surviving Homework … Without Tears, SchwabLearning.
Homework Tips for Parents, Family Education Network.
Making the Homework Connection, by Tracy Riley, Duke Gifted Letter.
Why Gifted Children Have Homework Problems and What You Can Do About Them,About.com
Linda C. Neumann is the editor of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, a bi-monthly print and electronic publication that focuses on twice-exceptional children – those who have high abilities and LDs, either learning differences or learning disabilities. Written for parents, educators, mental health professionals, and others who work with these children, issues feature articles by experts in the field plus reviews of books, websites, and other resources. Visitors to the newsletter website (www.2eNewsletter.com) can find additional information about twice-exceptional topics and subscribers can access back issues.