Dealing with the doldrums of homework

If getting your child to complete homework is a daily struggle, follow these expert tips to assist you - and your child - in getting it done.

Homework in high school can be extremely brutal. Depending on how difficult the subject is for your child, some teens spend as much as 90 minutes or more per day on homework. Teens frequently have little time to do anything else.

The surge of homework over the years

“There’s been a surge in the amount of homework children in the early grades of high school are having to do,” says Harris Cooper, a psychology and neuroscience professor. According to one study, homework among high school students has more than tripled since 1981, far above the recommended 10 to 20 minutes per day in first grade plus ten minutes for each grade level following.

Another explanation for the increased workload may come as a surprise: “Many parents request additional homework because they want their children to be achievers, especially in the early grades,” Dr Cooper explains. But how big of a difference does homework make for high school students? Denise Pope, who released a review of the most prominent homework research from the last two decades, discovered that homework in primary school provides no academic benefit but is very beneficial in high school.

The downside of homework

“An enormous workload, as well as the conflicts over getting it done,” says Kenneth Goldberg, author of The Homework Trap, “may cause students to acquire a distaste of learning.” Other experts agree that “busywork,” such as retracing spelling words with different coloured crayons, and tasks that teach new concepts rather than reviewing what was learned in class, are equally harmful.

How you can help your child navigate homework difficulties

If you’ve been encouraging your teen to start homework as soon as they get home from school, you might want to reconsider. If you let your teen unwind first, they’ll probably do a better job and be less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Allow your teen to choose where he or she will study

Your teen may prefer to work at their own desk, while other children work best reclining on the floor or at the kitchen table. Allow your teen to select what works best for them as long as they get their homework done and electronic devices are turned off.

Don’t do their homework for them

While many parents are tempted to help their teens by doing their homework for them, this has no benefit for your child, and won’t help their performance in the classroom.

Be prepared to assist when asked

Knowing when to ask for help is a lesson in and of itself.

“Teens are often embarrassed to ask for help because they believe it means they’ve failed,” says Janine Bempechat, a professor of psychology and human development. This is not to say that you should offer your teen the answer. Instead, ask leading questions or provide hints. If your teen still can’t figure it out, send the following note to the teacher: “My child is oblivious to this question. Could you please go through it with her?”

Handle the drama

If your teen suffers a breakdown while working on a difficult task, consider the advice of Charles Fay, author of From Bad Grades to a Great Life! If your teen wants to quit, don’t push them (or scold them, or punish them).

Instead, tell them, “You might want to think carefully about what you’re going to tell your teacher when she asks why you didn’t do it,” before offering to help.

If your teen gets stressed out about homework on a regular basis, make a rule about how much time you anticipate him or her to spend on it each day based on what the teacher expects. Then, kindly explain to the teacher that the assignment went longer than the time limits he or she established.

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