Optional Homework: To Do or Not to Do, That is the Question

There are various schools of thought when it comes to homework. Some experts say it’s needed to reinforce what’s learned during the day. Others say it’s too much and children need a break to rest their minds. So who do you listen to when homework is optional?

Balance work and play

Homework is a fairly timed-honored tradition. It’s been part of the school experience for years. But recently, the age at which we get homework has been lowered – and the amount has increased.

Making homework optional seems to be an easy solution to what’s a growing problem in families: sacrificing time to do homework and missing out on important bonding. With optional homework, families need to decide what’s best.

School is still important, but how do you balance education and family when no one is enforcing the education part? And should the drills really be enforced at home over bonding and play?

Talk to your children

Don’t ask them if they want to do the homework. Unless it’s a fun craft project or coloring page, chances are you’re going to get a flat out no. Instead, talk to them about the school day. You’ll have to go a bit deeper than just, “How was your day?”

Take 15-20 minutes after school when you’ve all had a chance to relax. Then really explore what your children did during their school day. Ask them about their math, science, social studies, reading, etc. and listen to what they have to say.

Keep the conversation going by asking leading questions. Instead of, “Did you have math today?” try, “What did you learn in math today?”

Once you’ve established a dialogue about their school activities, it will be easier for them to admit if they’re having trouble with something. You can also ask them to show you what they’ve learned so that they can demonstrate what they know.

If your child appears to have a strong grasp of the day’s subject, great! There’s no real need to engage in the homework activities. Instead, you can focus on family time, play, and creativity.

A strengthening tool, not a teaching replacement

If your child is struggling, sitting down to work through a couple of homework problems can be a huge help. Your child may need some one-on-one practice in order for the concept to click.

Be open to letting your children make their own choices. If they finish a handful of problems and feel they have a good grasp of the subject, let them stop and pursue something else. There’s no reason for them to continue.

If your children are still struggling after an entire page of drills, no amount of homework is going to teach it to them. Perhaps it’s simply the wrong approach. At this point, the homework is a waste of time (yours and theirs).

Instead, try other resources to help your child understand the issue. The Internet is a great resource for alternative teaching methods for all kinds of subjects. Instead of focusing on the homework, try showing them another way to view the lesson. And then they can demonstrate their new found knowledge on the assigned sheet.

It’s optional – don’t stress about it

Because homework is optional, there is no reason to stress about it. Don’t pressure your children. This is the perfect time to let them make their own choices. If you are letting them decide here what they want to do, they’ll feel more in control of their academic life. But also make sure they understand the repercussions of not doing their homework – on test scores and report cards.

In short, whether your child does the homework or not should be based around your child’s needs. Some children need the extra study; others do not and would benefit from using that time for something else.

There’s no across-the-board answer. But before you jump into either camp, it would be best to sit down with your children and really talk about their needs. The answer may surprise you.

What’s your rule when it comes to optional homework?

Tags : education   school   homework   

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