Why your kids should do homework


Dear Adele,

My children attend in-person school and seem to be required to complete copious amounts of homework. My ‘mom’s group’ and I are ready to throw up our hands in frustration at trying to complete the work, supervise the children, and factor in everything else we have to do in the evenings. Some moms say they just don’t do homework at their house and inform the school of that choice. Some moms admit to finishing homework for their children so the kids don’t get into trouble at school for incomplete work. Others see little value in some of the assignments that come home. What do you think? Is it worth all the effort?

Overwhelmed Olive


Dear Overwhelmed Olive,

Last year a young mother in my network expressed concern about her seven-year-old. The teacher was calling home regularly complaining of behaviour problems, the child’s report card was decidedly troubling, and her boy preferred to sit in the cloakroom during the lessons rather than participate in the class. It was obvious something was wrong with this bright little boy trying to cope with first grade.

Among other things the young mother and her husband decided to put in place a 30-minute homework session each evening and on the weekends. She obtained a structured learn how-to-read book and helped her son through the sequential lessons, night after night. Her husband spent an additional 15 minutes nightly reading with the boy. In spare moments, they played number games that reinforced basic mathematical skills. Both parents were positive and encouraging as the boy made gains in his ability to handle the academic work of first grade.

I spoke with the young mother recently and she was delighted to tell me that her child was now reading above grade level in second grade and that his recent report card met grade level expectations in every subject. Phone calls from the teacher are rare now, and her son has gone from disliking school to looking forward to going every morning.

This young mother credits the majority of the child’s improvements to nightly homework and parental involvement. She recalls the first few evenings there was ‘the fight’ and resistance from the boy but now the homework time has become as routine as dinner and bath time. The parents are consistent and provide positive, encouraging one-on-one coaching virtually every single day. When I asked this mom’s opinion on the value of homework she said,

“It’s worth it! Confidence, academic improvement and a more positive attitude to school is the result.”

I spoke with Sandra Grainger, former career primary teacher about the value of homework, and she said,

“Homework affords students the opportunity to reinforce and apply taught concepts. A quiet environment with no distractions helps this process. Parent’s interest and words of encouragement helps kids feel good about their tasks. Providing an opportunity to have them teach you or siblings about what they have learned makes it a family affair and encourages lifelong learning.’

I spoke with Larry Jones, former career high school teacher and department head about the value of homework, and he said,

“The curriculum is too complex and the time to short for the absorption of all the material during class time. When it comes to developing skills in hockey, piano or dance everyone accepts that practice, practice, practice is the key. In academics, practice can prepare a child for what will be taken in class the next day or can cement the ideas discussed in the lessons of the current day.”

 “Practice makes perfect” says, Mr. Jones and when asked if there were any disadvantages to homework he said emphatically, “No! There are none!’

I spoke with Mr. Peter Zion, former career secondary school principal about the value of homework to students in secondary schools and he said,

“Appropriate use of homework will encourage students to develop time management skills. A student must develop a schedule to ensure that all tasks are completed during a given time period. In addition, the development of time management skills will encourage decision-making, problem-solving independent thinking and research skills.”

“Homework will encourage the importance of practice, in that for one to get better at a concept, knowledge or skill some repetition is necessary, with the result that a student will get better with each repetition. The concept/ knowledge will be easier to understand and apply and the skill will be easier to demonstrate.”

Mr. Zion added that homework will encourage better study habits, may discourage time on mobile devices or in front of the television, and should improve student achievement.

You may be interested in what the research has to say about the value of homework and find the article entitled ‘Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework’ by the Centre for Public Education, an interesting read. The research suggests that homework is a more positive factor in improving student outcomes for certain groups such as older students, those from higher income homes, those with learning disabilities and Asian American children. Homework may have impact with nonacademic benefits such as improved responsibility, time management skills, study habits and the completion of tasks. One and a half to 2 ½ hours nightly for high school students seems optimum and one hour for students in middle school. The amount of homework completed is more associated with positive outcomes than the amount of homework assigned. After school programs with homework help may affect achievement but impacts improved behaviour, greater motivation and better work habits. Research has mixed results about the impact of parental involvement. Further research is needed on the kinds of homework that results in improved student achievement.

So, there you have a few opinions Overwhelmed Olive. Homework has impressive value and the educators, researchers and one young mom bear witness to this fact. Why not work out a new routine for your family which builds in regular homework/study time as surely as there are meals, baths and bedtime in your family’s schedule? Cut back on anything else that excludes the homework sessions and stay the course, supporting your kids in their learning. I doubt you will regret it when you see improved performance and competence in their academic learning achievement. This paves the way for lot of choice in post-secondary training and careers, that poor grades and deficient work habits will preclude.

I will finish with a few quotations which might inspire you Overwhelmed Olive:

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. As a result, a genius is often a talented person who has simply done all of his homework.” — Thomas A Edison

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

Do your homework and know your business better than anyone. Otherwise, someone who knows more, and works harder will kick your ass.”  — Mark Cuban

Sincerely, Adele

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at maryadeleblair@gmail.com and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

Photo: Jessica Lewis, Unsplash