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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Homework tricky subject for students and parents

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

(Photo)
Skyluar Thompson, a seventh grade student at Sikeston Junior High School, does her homework.
SIKESTON -- With most local schools in session for a month now, students and their parents are still adjusting to their back-to-school routines.

And among the biggest of these adjustments is homework. While it's natural for parents to want to help their children, parents need to know just how involved they should be in their child's homework assignment.

The presence of a parent in their children's education is monumental, said Martha Black, executive director Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in Charleston and East Prairie, which offers after school programs for students.

"A lot of students we have worked with just need someone to sit at the table with them while they do their homework," Black said. "Just having a warm body who cares about them being there with them provides support."

Parents have to understand the importance of homework, Black said.

"Homework helps build pathways in the brain. If you don't practice it enough, you don't build pathways. It gives you the extra practice so it becomes part of the memory system."

The purpose of homework is for review, practice or to prepare students for new learning, said Dr. Marisa Bowen, Sikeston R-6 assistant superintendent of curriculum and middle grades.

"When given, homework should have a clear purpose and this purpose should be shared with the students. Students should see homework as helping them become better learners," Bowen said.

Teachers will follow-up homework with feedback in order for students to know whether they are using the skill or process correctly, Bowen said.

If children ask for help, parental guidance is OK, said Richard Bavaria, vice president of education at Sylvan Learning Centers. Showing them how to research the answer is best; doing the homework for them is not an option.

''Kids don't want parents to do their homework for them. They might say they do, but most kids know they need to know the information to get them through the rest of the year,'' he said.

Sometimes students just need parents to talk them through a tough assignment, either by suggesting ways to break it up into more manageable chunks or by helping them set specific goals.

''Homework shouldn't be a battle. It should be expected. It's as much a part of school as getting up and getting dressed each morning,'' says Anna Weselak, president of the National PTA.

Black agreed.

"Once they get into that habit with the expectation, the children will complete their homework regularly," Black said.

The Center has found when children successfully complete their homework, then they have less problems in school, Black said.

Parents should also be positive about homework, Bowen said.

"The attitude you express about homework will be reflected in your child's attitude," Bowen said.

Other dos and don'ts for parents suggested by Bowen:

-- Talk with your child's teacher about his/her homework rules. If you do not know the purpose of the homework, ask.

-- Help your child with time management. Establish a set time each day for doing homework.

-- Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Make sure the materials your child needs are available, such as paper, pencils, dictionary, etc.

-- Watch for signs of failure and frustration. Allow short breaks if the child is having trouble keeping the his/her mind on assignments.

-- Reward progress. If your child has been completing his/her homework and has been working hard for a specific length of time, it does not hurt to give small rewards (ride bike, play video game, etc.).

Just how much homework should a child have each night?

Based on various research over the years, the amount of minutes per day for students ranges anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes for primary, 30 to 90 minutes for upper elementary, 50 to 120 for middle school to junior high and 60 to 180 for high school students, according to Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning -- a nonprofit organization created to help educators in the nation's heartland bridge the gap between research and practice.

A standard recommended by the PTA and the National Education Association is to expect about 15 minutes of homework per night per grade level, so a first grader would have 15 minutes, a fourth grader an hour, and so on.

"The parental role is so important with a child's success," Black said. "Most of the time if the parent is not invested, the kid isn't either,"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.