A day of school, an hour or two on the soccer field, 30 minutes of piano practice, and suddenly it’s dinner time. Your child is tired, grumpy, and overwhelmed at the prospect of several hours of reading and geometry still to come. You know you are about to enter a war zone with homework at the heart of the battle.
Does your child have too much homework? Is homework only busy work? Will homework make your child smarter? The answers: yes, yes, and probably not. At least according to Denise Clark Pope, director of the Stanford University School of Education Stressed Out Students (S.O.S.) project.
“The value of homework is overrated,” says Pope, author of Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students. Based on her studies, Pope believes overburdened students are more prone to cheating, depression, unhealthy study habits, and a distorted view of success.
The campaign against homework is garnering popularity. Administrators in wealthy communities with high-achieving students appear to be the first to heed the message. Recently, David Ackerman, principal at Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, made national news when he advised his staff to limit homework to reading assignments only.
Despite this growing movement, in most communities homework isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The U.S. Department of Education offers parental advice on winning the nightly homework wars. 
  • Designate a work area: Promote strong study habits by creating a quiet, comfortable, well-lit place to tackle homework without distractions.
  • Ask open-ended questions about homework assignments: Allow your child to express displeasure or excitement about a project. Discussing an assignment focuses your child’s attention and also keeps you in touch with what the school is teaching.
  • Encourage efforts to achieve: Ask your child to share his finished homework. Praise him for a job well-done. If your child expresses interest in a particular topic or assignment, encourage him to ask his teacher about opportunities for extra credit.
  • Offer assistance: If your child is struggling, help out. Offer hands-on support. Having mom or dad occasionally type up a paper isn’t going to make or break a child’s academic career.
  • Express high expectations: Your student will rise to the occasion when given clear, concise directives. When expectations aren’t met, try re-examining them with your child. Continue to praise your child’s efforts while encouraging future success.
March 27, 2007