Managing Homework

Presenter Kyra Sedgwick, left, reacts as Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chairman Dick Askin reminds her that she was just nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for "The Closer" for the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, during the nominations announcement in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 19, 2007. AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Should teachers assign homework to elementary, middle and high school students? And if so, how much?

As part of The Early Show's Back-to-School series last season, child psychologist Dr. Lawrence Balter talks about something that has become a hotly debated issue in the last few years.

The issue of homework has been debated for decades, says Dr. Balter. In the early 1900s in the U.S., some educators claimed that homework caused tuberculosis, nervous conditions and heart disease and, in the 1930s, some cities banned it as child labor.

In 1999, a study by the University of Michigan re-ignited the debate. It found that homework levels had increased significantly between 1981 and 1997. For example, the amount of schoolwork for 9-year-olds in the U.S. had increased by 40 percent to more than two hours a night.

What has also contributed to the debate, explains Dr. Balter, is that many children have a lot of extracurricular activities, parents are overworked and they feel that something has to give. Many educators have called it "homework meltdown."

Although there might be some controversy, Dr. Balter says studies show that doing homework has an overall positive effect on school achievement. "I think homework is very important, primarily because it reinforces what the student has learned in class, and it encourages self-discipline and time management, which they will need later," he adds.

So here are some tips he offers parents on how they can best help their children with homework:

Set a Regular Time - Teach children how to plan their day and schedule their time. Choose a time that is conducive, not immediately after school.

Set Priorities - Limit the amount of after-school activities that children have. Homework should come first.

Allow Breaks and Don't Rush - Kids work at different rates. Don't rush them. They need time to stretch or snack, and short time spans are easier to manage.

Show Interest - They should discuss what the homework assignment is, determine how comfortable the child is with doing the work and follow up. Help, if needed, and make sure they do it. If your child is having a problem getting the work done, talk to the teacher about it.

Don't Be Too Critical - That's a big turnoff. Don't expect perfect work. Compliment them on improvements and achievements.

Stick to the Routine - If you set up a system, then you don't have to nag every day. It becomes part of the daily activities. Just try to stick to the routine. Check the assignments when they are completed and let your child know that you are satisfied.

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