We always hear how important parental engagement in homework is. That providing support with homework can increase student attainment or boost their skills, just with a little effort from smiling, happy, pristine parents. But in reality, things are different, parents don’t always have time to help with homework.
We get it. Sometimes after a long, tumultuous day at work, an hour sat seething in traffic and the sheer panic of forgetting to pick the kids up from football, you don’t feel like doing homework. You did enough homework when you were actually at school! And when it comes down to it, your kids probably don’t feel like doing it either. Right?
So why do schools keep setting it?
Good question. In the UK, homework used to be officially encouraged. The government set guidelines on how much homework students should complete and schools bent over backwards to comply. This created a culture where teachers set homework simply to meet these guidelines.
However in 2012, amid growing parent dissatisfaction, the guidelines were scrapped and schools were free to set as little or as much homework as they saw fit. Many schools continued to use the guidelines unofficially whilst others set original homework policies. Very few did away with homework altogether.
That’s because it works.
Homework and academic performance
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a charity whose aim is to improve the attainment of the poorest schools in the UK. They found that, over the course of their time at secondary school, regular homework tasks could contribute up to 5 months progress to students’ learning.
The European Journal of Psychology of Education echoes this sentiment, with findings that suggest students who consistently do homework are more likely to be engaged and show a better attitude towards learning in class.
And, In 2014, a Department for Education report found that students who spent between two and three hours doing homework in Year 9 were ten times more likely to achieve five A*-C (8-5 in Attainment 8 grades) at GCSE level.
Why is parental involvement important?
As a parent, your role in encouraging homework could make all the difference to your child’s assessment results. But, just as support and encouragement can help mould your child into a super-learner, forcing the matter too much can have the opposite effect.
Whilst parental involvement is important, too much time spent on homework can result in heightened anxiety levels, lack of sleep, headaches, exhaustion and weight loss. It can also condition students to become disenfranchised with education, causing their work ethic inside the classroom to decline.
Striking a balance is important, and as a parent you can find that balance. If you really think that your child is struggling with the amount of homework set, speak to the teacher and make sure that the work being set is suitable for your child. Often a little support goes a long way and you’ll find that, with some help from mum or dad, homework can be less stressful and even (dare we say it?) fun!
How does homework help parents?
When we say that homework is for parents as well as pupils, we don’t mean that parents have a lot to learn about World War II or pythagoras theorem. What we mean is that parents can build a better understanding of their child’s progress at school by engaging in quality homework tasks together.
Seeing how they work and what they take away from their homework task can also be a good indicator of their maturity and self-sufficiency. It can also give you pointers as to where your child’s strengths lie and where you might need to focus efforts for improvement.
It also gives you a better understanding of the curriculum they are being taught. Many parents even enjoy ‘learning along’ with their child, keeping their own brains active whilst providing even stronger support.
Parental involvement in homework also teaches some valuable life lessons. Students learn that asking for help and support with difficult tasks enables them to improve, and that mistakes are all part of the process. They learn that perseverance and practice strengthens skills and broadens horizons.
Despite the pain that homework can be for parents, it’s all part of the whirlwind that is parenting. Trying to remain supportive whilst standing saturated in the rain on sports day, practicing for a dance show in the living room when all you want to do is sleep, dealing with puberty induced temper tantrums: parenting is not renowned for its ease. But it’s these difficulties that make the rewards of being a parent so much sweeter.
Helping with homework, much like the other parental duties, isn’t a walk in the park. But when it comes to your kids, you want the best for them in everything they do. Because it’s worth it. It’s worth it to see their smile as they cross the finish line on sports day, as they finish a perfect routine at the dance recital, as they grow into mature young adults.
Homework has too many benefits for us to cast it aside. Instead, we should ask how we can make homework work for parents. How we can evolve homework into something that brings families together, instead of causing friction. How school and home life can live in harmony. And the answer is simple. Homework needs parents.