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Homework Tips and Information for Parents

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

 

 General Homework Tips for Parents

  • Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework.
    Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions, such as people coming and going.
  • Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.
    Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.

  • Help your child with time management.
    Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don't let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

  • Be positive about homework.
    Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires.

  • When your child does homework, you do homework.
    Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read too. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook.

  • When your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers.
    Giving answers means your child will not learn the material. Too much help teaches your child that when the going gets rough, someone will do the work for him or her.

  • When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it.
    Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that the school and home are a team. Follow the directions given by the teacher.

  • If homework is meant to be done by your child alone, stay away.
    Too much parent involvement can prevent homework from having some positive effects. Homework is a great way for kids to develop independent, lifelong learning skills.

  • Stay informed.
    Talk with your child's teacher. Make sure you know the purpose of homework and what your child's class rules are.

  • Help your child figure out what is hard homework and what is easy homework.
    Have your child do the hard work first. This will mean he will be most alert when facing the biggest challenges. Easy material will seem to go fast when fatigue begins to set in.

  • Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration.
    Let your child take a short break if she is having trouble keeping her mind on an assignment.

  • Reward progress in homework.
    If your child has been successful in homework completion and is working hard, celebrate that success with a special event (e.g., pizza, a walk, a trip to the park) to reinforce the positive effort. 

100 Years of Homework

In the early 20th century, the mind was viewed as a muscle that could be strengthened through mental exercise. Since exercise could be done at home, homework was viewed favorably. During the 1940s, schools began shifting their emphasis from memorization to problem solving. Homework fell out of favor because it was closely associated with the repetition of material. In the 1950s, Americans worried that education lacked rigor and left children unprepared for the new technologies, such as computers. Homework, it was believed, could speed up learning.

In the 1960s, educators and parents became concerned that homework was crowding out social experience, outdoor recreation and creative activities. Two decades later, in the 1980s, homework again came back into favor as it came to be viewed as one way to stem a rising tide of mediocrity in American education. The push for more homework continued into the 1990s, fueled by rising academic standards.

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