The value of homework and developing a good work ethic


Dear Adele

Our son has just returned to physical school after many months of virtual learning. He will also be resuming extracurricular hockey which will leave him short on free time. Soon he will be getting homework as well. Some parents we know say they do not do homework at their house at all, while others say they do it for their children when time gets tight. What are your ideas about homework?

Just Wondering


Dear Just Wondering,

David Andrew Taylor was a Junior B hockey player with the Levack Huskies in the early 1970s. He went on to be an outstanding right-winger for the NHL playing for the LA Kings after stellar performance at university. He was known as a hard worker and often as a teenager, after others had left the rink to socialize, Dave went to the pubic school rink close to the arena and skated and shot pucks by himself for a couple of hours. This hard work ethic and “homework” in his hockey resulted in him becoming a star NHL player and winning an award for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.

Leona Boyd got her first guitar at age 13 and is a five-time Juno award winner for Instrumental Artist of the Year. Over-practice gave her local dystonia in one of her right-hand fingers. Leona was pushing herself with practice on her chosen instrument. The extra effort that led to mastery led to Leona’s worldwide fame and accomplishment.

Angela Hewitt was three years old and having a lesson every day on the piano. In high school she was practicing the piano three hours a day and at age 16 attended the University of Ottawa where she practiced the piano eight hours a day. Angela is the most accomplished classical musician Ottawa, Ontario ever produced. She achieved that status because of her dedication to practice her chosen instrument and comply with the guidance of her teachers.

Jim Miller is a history professor emeritus from the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of 10 books and won the Gillam prize in the Humanities in 2014. Jim attended the University of Toronto in the early 60s. A fellow student recalls that Jim attended 15 hours a week of classes and studied over 30 hours per week on his own. Self-directed learning at its finest!

Larry Ross Jones, a retired Ottawa Board of Education teacher, recalls doing homework approximately four hours daily during grade 13. Dr. James Glenn Bradley recalls doing homework during grade 13 sometimes up to six hours a night. I recall myself and most of my friends doing homework approximately three hours nightly all through high school as well. The grades earned allowed the vast majority of such students to attend university and enter assorted professions.

The value of homework has been under debate for decades but for my money there is no question that a reasonable amount of homework completed outside of the classroom is invaluable to the learner at any grade level. The examples above of successful people are proof positive that putting in the extra effort and extra time at learning a new skill can do nothing but improve one’s performance in the school setting. Concepts are introduced to children in the classroom and then reviewed independently at home. When the mothers and fathers become involved the learning can be even greater because the adults can see clearly the strengths of their children and the holes in their learning. Parents come to know the curriculum better and can provide more directed and pertinent guidance to their children. The dads and moms can help their children develop a good work ethic by insisting upon completion of the school work before leisure activities. This kind of training is so very helpful to youngsters when they go to college or university or enter the workforce. There they are totally on their own to do what is required to make the grade academically or satisfy an employer.

Jennifer Atkinson in “Why Homework is Important,” speaks about the many advantages of homework. She states that educators are trying to empower kids with confidence and knowledge with homework. These characteristics will enable them to be successful in all aspects of their life. Homework is an opportunity for parents and students to connect as well as reinforce skills and concepts learned in class. Jennifer says homework prepares students for upcoming learning and teaches independence and self- discipline. She states that it encourages initiative and teaches children how to complete tasks. She concurs that parents involved in children’s learning allows them to evaluate their own progeny’s progress and be more in sync with what is going on in the classroom. Jennifer suggests that homework should be varied, meaningful and provide some rote practice additionally.

An interesting article entitled “Is Homework Beneficial” by states that “studies show that homework improves student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results and the likelihood to attend college.” A 2006 study by Cooper, Robinson and Patall found that students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69 per cent of those from classes that didn’t have homework on both standardized tests and grades. A 2017 study by Bas, Senturk and Cigerci found that “a majority of studies on homework’s impact — 64 per cent in one meta study and 72 per cent in another — showed that take home assignments were effective at improving academic achievement.”

A 2017 article, published in Psychology Today, entitled “The Value of Homework” refers to the 10-minute rule. This is an idea supported by the American National Education Association and the American National Parent-Teacher Association. It suggests 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night as a guideline. A child in first grade would do approximately 10 minutes of homework, a child in fifth grade would do approximately 50 minutes of homework and a child in grade 12 would do approximately two hours of homework. This seems to be a reasonable way of approaching the question of how long a child should do school work in the evening and allows balance between school, home, and leisure activities outside of those two environments.

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the reasons why some adults do not support the idea of homework. I refer you to the Stanford research by Clifton B Parker, in 2014. Clifton concluded that too much homework may have negative effects on children and on their life outside of school. Homework can be associated with greater stress, sleep deprivation, and other health problems, and less time for friends and extracurricular activities. I will emphasize here that this study refers to “too much” homework, not just a reasonable amount of homework.

The article also reports that homework can increase stress on children and reduce the amount of leisure time available to them. Sometimes homework can lead to cheating because children do not finish the work themselves but obtain outside help. The Psychology Today article noted that homework can be problematic for children without access to the appropriate technology, a factor of which teachers and parents need to be aware.

So Just Wondering, may I suggest you build homework time into your child’s routine just as surely as his mealtime, bath-time and hockey practice. You will be setting him up for success with his academics and teaching him to prioritize work and play. Should he be unable to complete an assignment you can teach him how to approach his teacher and request an extension or to rearrange his schedule to allow the completion of the task as required. Failing that, allow your son or daughter to take the consequences of non-completion of assignments that his teachers feel is appropriate. This experience in self will be a valuable teacher.

I will conclude with some inspiring quotations about homework Just Wondering:

Nothing is more powerful for your future then being a gatherer of good ideas and information. That’s called doing your homework.” — Jim Rohn

A genius is a talented person who does his homework.” — Thomas Edison

Listen to your parents, do your homework, and listen to your teachers. Those are the real heroes.” — Carl Crawford

Sincerely, Adele

Photo: Jeremy Avery, Unsplash