Why Homework Matters: It’s Not About The Grades

For parents and kids alike, homework can be a tough nut to crack. It seems like there are two types of people in the world, with regards to homework. There are those who don’t mind it very much, and those for whom doing homework is like pulling teeth.

The homework situation is complicated by the fact that it’s hard to predict a person’s attitude toward it based on their family life. Some kids from academically oriented families love doing their after-school assignments, while some simply can’t stand them. At the same time, some kids from families who aren’t academically oriented can’t get enough of their worksheets, while others would rather do anything else if given the choice.

Even clean up their rooms.

The common perception among parents and kids is that homework is all about improving academic performance, and that the sole reason for doing homework is to get better grades on tests and in classes. However, recent research in child and adolescent development tells us that there’s more to the homework than just grades: many parents and kids might be surprised to learn that homework can teach important life skills.

The Non-Academic Benefits of Homework

In education circles, a war rages about the academic benefits of homework. For years, studies have linked homework to higher scores on both classroom and standardized tests for kids across all grade levels, but recently, some studies have shown that homework really only helps kids at the middle school and high school level. At the same time, teachers and school administrators stress the importance of beginning homework as early as first grade. As most parents know, the amount of homework elementary school age children do now is much greater than it was only twenty years ago. A paper published in the Journal of Advanced Academics tells us why: homework can help kids develop a wide variety of life skills that can be applied outside the classroom.

How Homework Helps Younger Students

  • Manage Time. Since homework has to happen in a relatively small time window, i.e. after school and before bed, kids learn to plan their work accordingly, and develop effective ways to use their time.
  • Set Goals. Homework can do this in two ways. First, it can be a vehicle to achieve a long-term goal, such as improving grades in a particular subject area, and second, it can teach kids to achieve short-term goals, such as “I’m going to finish this assignment before dinner.”
  • Develop Patience. In many households, homework happens in the time after school between when kids get home and when they get to do an activity of their choice. Regularly completing homework assignments before before TV or chill time teaches kids the important skill of delayed self-gratification.
  • Develop Efficiency. By completing daily homework assignments, kids learn to work smart and use their energy wisely.
  • Become Reflective. As kids get older and parents allow them more freedom in deciding how they use their after-school time, they learn to prioritize their wants and needs. They learn to schedule their afternoons and evenings accordingly. This process teaches kids to think carefully, reflect, decide, make a plan, and finally, put their plan into action

The Role of Parents

The parent’s role in homework changes over the course of a child’s academic career. During elementary school, the parent’s primary job is to make homework part of the regular daily routine. That’s not always easy. Because in the big picture, the beginning of homework tends to arrive not long after the end of toddlerhood. Right when a mom, dad, or caregiver thinks they might be getting a break, homework comes along.

This time is crucial, though, and the adults on the scene can’t afford to let up. The habits kids develop early in their academic careers are crucial. They’re the habits that will carry them through the challenges of middle school and high school. Not all kids come hard-wired with a homework gene. Those are the ones who need the most help.

Oftentimes, positive and proactive study habits have to be taught and retaught. It helps parents to remember that they’re doing more than helping kids with schoolwork. They’re also instilling skills that will translate directly into life after school. If parents introduce homework and life skills to a child gradually, beginning in elementary school, over time they become a consistent part of day-to-day life. Then the transition to a higher workload in middle school and high school may prove less difficult.

Towards the end of middle school, the parent’s job shifts. It goes from homework planner and helper to time manager. The lion’s share of the responsibility for completing the work falls to the child. Throughout the entire process, from first grade through high school graduation, parents need to be there to help, guide, and support their children. The ultimate goal is, of course, fostering the values of consistency, independence, and personal responsibility.