The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Homework

In  an  effort  to  prepare children  to  be  successful  in

school,    parents   tend   to  follow the  school’s  curriculum.

Schools  function as they do in most cases because they are bound

by certain constraints.   They are constrained by a  building,  a

classroom setting,  a teacher with many children, and a specified

curriculum  which must be covered on a  pre-determined  schedule.

Parents  are not bound in this way,  and should use their greater

freedom  to enrich their children’s lives in ways impossible  for

the school to match.
I  have  never been able to understand why  parents  imitate

schools when,  theoretically,  the sky is the limit.   Instead of

introducing  a child to the world outside of the school building,

many  parents  buy another workbook from the  drugstore  so  that

their child will do even more of what schools are doing.   At the

very  least  this shows a lack of creativity on the part  of  the

parent.  At worst, it indicates how brainwashed parents have been

to  feel that schools are the only place where children learn and

teachers  are  the  only  ones responsible  for  and  capable  of

developing the minds of their children.
Let  us start with the purpose and problem of homework.   To

my  mind,  one  important  purpose  of  homework  is  to  develop

responsibility  in the child.   In actual fact,  the  person  who

feels  most responsible is the parent.   When a child does not do

his homework,  teachers tend to call up the parent and  complain.

I  believe  this is a problem between the child and the  teacher,

not  the  parent.   As a result,  a parents’ involvement  in  his

child’s  education  usually  is  an  extension  of  the  school’s

involvement.   Homework is really school work done at home.   The

only  way  parents should get involved with this endeavor  is  ifhomework is truly homework,  i.e. something that can only be done

at home or outside of school.   Several examples are:  a visit to

a museum,  a study of birds in your backyard, or a survey of the

various occupations of parents, relatives and neighbors.  Parents

interactions with children at home can be much more creative than

the school work their children bring home.  Instead of making the

the  home a battlefield,  true homework should have the potential

for bringing the family together and foster communication.
Parents  can  also  help  their children  by  fostering  the

development  of  verbal  and  communication   skills.   Encourage

communication  by including  the  entire family in discussions or

language  games.   Take children shopping and point out names and

categories.   Try  to  avoid  yes/no responses  when  talking  to

children.   Instead  of “Did you have fun in school today?”  say,

“What  did you enjoy most about  school today?”   Recite  nursery

rhymes  together.    Make   speech enjoyable   by  talking  about

things  children like not about  their difficulties.    You   and

your children could create an  on-going story.  Make conversation

around the dinner table interesting and give everyone a chance to

participate.    Read  poems at home to each other.   All of these

activities have the potential to make children more successful at

school.
One of the greatest threats to learning and communication in

the  home  is television.   It saps children  of  their  creative

energy.   They  become passive learners.   Since learning is not a

passive activity , many children come to school at a disadvantage

because  they expect to  be   entertained.   Teachers  can   only

present  the material.   The students must take an active part in

learning  it.   As a matter of fact,   we talk about needing word

attack skills in order to learn to read.  The student must do the

attacking.    Many  parents,    however,   use  television  as  a

babysitter  and as a means of  avoiding  conflict  in the  family

by  limiting  interactions. Until parents find a solution to this

dilemma,   their efforts  to help their children be successful in

school will be less and less effective.
.PA

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