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The Horror of Homework


This photo was taken by Flickr user | Mathieu |; it was used under Creative Commons license

Last week we asked listeners to share their concerns about education. Over the next few months, Day to Day will be doing a series of reports on education, and we'd like your help thinking through what sorts of issues we should be covering. You can leave your suggestions in the comments field below, or you can use the Contact Day to Day form if you'd like to leave us a private note.

One of the concerns listeners cited last week was homework. Universally dreaded—but often poorly understood—homework seems to be an ever-increasing burden on students. Here are a few tips to prevent a nightly nuclear meltdown:

1 — According to the NEA and the PTA, there should be a 10-minute rule. That means no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level. 10 minutes for 1st Grade, 20 for 2nd, and so on. That would mean by 12th grade, no more than 2 hours a night. That might sound like a lot, but many high school students report having 3-4 hours of homework a night.

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2 — Even 10 minutes per level might be too much for grade-school students, though. Studies have shown homework provides little to no benefit for K-6 students, and that simply encouraging reading after school can be more effective. Conversely, learning work habits - i.e., how to complete an assignment in a place other than school/work is a good tool to have. Maybe it's not the subject matter itself, but the process that's most valuable.

3 — Parents, what if you find yourself in a nightly battle with your kid to complete the homework assignment? Make sure your child has a place to do the homework free from distractions, and try to get the assignment done before your child gets too tired. If it's still taking too long, talk to your child's teacher in a non-confrontational way. Maybe she can dispense with the time-consuming word search. Or maybe completing every other math problem is ok. Teachers, what about dispensing with the mind-numbing rote homework (write each vocabulary word 3 times) and instead give homework that's more creative (write a story about your pet cat as a superhero.)

4 — And finally, it's always good to remember that children—like us—respond better to praise than criticism. When you go over their homework, praise what they got right; work with them to correct mistakes. And, if all else fails, remember you are not alone.

Have you come up with some additional strategies you'd like to share?

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