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Friday, August 31, 2012

More Homework, Please! (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

   For many, the first week of school is coming to an end and this means many parents are probably wondering about the H word: homework.   Some parents are hoping there will not be too much homework for various reasons while others are saying “Bring it on!” In terms of research, the jury is still out.  There are staunch supporters on both sides.  For me, however, I was on the fence but now I say “More homework, please!” So, why the switch?

   Well, I had an epiphany this summer.  Last year, my son’s Math teacher gave him a little booklet called “The Math Whiz” and you are supposed to play a magic game with it.  It is basically six pages stapled together with numbers written all over on five of them. The game goes like this: He would ask someone to pick a number on the first page and told them to keep it a secret. Then, he would turn each page and ask if the secret number was on that page until he got to the last page. Meanwhile he is doing some kind of computation in his head and magically arrives at your secret number! He would repeatedly play this game with our family and friends.  He was completely indulged by their reactions. “Wow, how did you do that?!” or “You are so smart!” He would flash a big smile, and not reveal the magic, but instead told you to pick another secret number. There begins another round of the game. Well, just a few days ago while we were cleaning his homework area, he came across The Math Whiz! Of course, he wanted to play the game again.  Guess what happened this time?

    Yes, you got it! My math whiz struggled with the game. Although he arrived at the correct answer, he kept getting confused when doing the mental computations.  Of course, this was a great teachable moment and I certainly seized it by letting him know that we easily forget what we learn if we do not practice it regularly. You can look at any dementia or Alzheimer's research and find this conclusive evidence. It also helped that my husband chimed in at this point. I will not chant “Practice makes perfect” because I feel this is not a realistic goal parents ought to be promoting and given my child’s personality, this will only provoke anxiety in him and negatively impact his academic performance. However, I will happily say “Practice makes you sharper!” and that alone is enough for me to chant “More homework, please!”

    Of course, there are other bonuses too: when doing their homework, they are away from the tv, computer,  and video games.  Moreover, they cannot get into mischief or trouble if they are busy doing their homework.  Also, homework is a concrete way to beautifully connect the school to home life, which research conclusively states is key in a child’s academic achievement.  As always, parents are the most important role models for their kids so below are ten strategies to use when encouraging good homework habits.
10 Strategies for Homework Help
1.    Model a positive attitude about homework and education, in general.
2.    Have a designated homework area with minimal distractions and good lighting. 
3.    Make sure materials/supplies are readily available.
4.    Give your child a healthy snack before starting homework.
5.    Use planners or agenda books to help organize their materials and time for homework.
6.    Encourage your child to do the easier assignments first so a feeling of accomplishment is experienced rather than frustration with harder homework. Some education experts advocate for the reverse order so the child is not exhausted and frustrated by the time they get to the more difficult homework.  Ideally, if you have multiple assignments, you can do the easy-hard-easy order. You be the judge of which order works best for your child.
7.    Be available and look for opportunities to praise your child.
8.    Engage in “homework-like” activities such as reading a book or balancing a checkbook/online accounts while your child does homework.
9.    If your child needs help, provide guidance rather than giving your child the answers.
10.  Give your child breaks if necessary, especially when frustrated. If your child regularly gets frustrated then consult with his teacher about any potential, academic difficulties. 

Best wishes for a wonderful school year!


  1. When doing homework, keep your child away from any distractions. Reserving a room for studying is the best way to do so. No computers, no phones, no other kinds of distractions inside that room, aside from books, books, and more BOOKS. If they have to use the computer for typing and researching, you would need to accompany them while doing those.

    Daniele Ickes

  2. Daniele: So true! Thanks for your comment!