How to do Homework: Simple Recommendations for Parents

How to do Homework: Simple Recommendations for Parents

By: Yana Weinstein

A lot of our posts are aimed at students (39 posts so far), and many more at teachers (87 posts) – but we also want to involve parents in conversations about strategies for effective learning. So, dear parents of grade-school children: this one is for you!

As our kids grow older, most of us face a similar situation: an increase in the amount of homework that our kids bring home. Of course, there’s a lot of variation in how kids react to homework, and how we parents handle the requirement: some kids will enjoy it and do it without being asked, while others need more prodding; and some parents will be real sticklers about when and how homework is done, whereas others may let kids handle it more independently. 

Some parents even reject the whole notion of homework – there is a small but significant movement to “ban homework” because some feel that the time it consumes and the disagreements it causes at home after school are simply not worth it. Is there any truth in that, from a scientific perspective?

Yes and no. Here are three simple recommendations we can make, based on scientific evidence, about homework:

  1. The quality of the homework is much more important than the quantity. Look at what your kid is doing – if you think it is just busy work, you could relax the requirement that they must complete it before TV (if that’s your rule); but if you judge that it is valuable, you might want to encourage them more enthusiastically to attempt it.

  2. The main point of good homework is that it lets children independently practice something they learned at school. As such, the goal should not be necessarily to “get everything right”, but to make an effort to actually attempt the task at hand. Then, children should make sure to get feedback (either from you, or from their teacher) and try to understand where they went wrong.

  3. If you do give feedback on your child’s homework attempts, try to make it about the content of the homework rather than how much of it they did correctly. That is: focus on how to turn mistakes into learning experiences rather than punishments.

  4. Children should be doing roughly 10 mins of homework per night per grade (so a 3rd grade student might spend 30 minutes per night on homework). If your child is getting much more than this recommended amount, you may want to speak to their teacher and ask them about their reasons for assigning a heavy homework load – or whether your child might need some more support at school.

How do you manage homework in your home? What are your rules? I would love to hear about how you handle this with your kids.

A version of this article aimed at teachers was published on tes. If you’d like to read more on the research behind homework, you can read this post by Dr. Paul Kirschner on our blog.