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A parent's view of homework: I waver between tolerance and outright hatred

From new mathematical methods to the appropriate level of help, mother-of-three Toni Hargis shares her pet peeves about homework

L ike many parents, I have a complicated relationship with homework. One day I’m reminding my children to get to work – vocabulary doesn’t happen by osmosis – and the next I’m struggling to understand the work myself, let alone find the time to help.

I’ve had nearly two decades of helping my children (now aged 22, 19 and 12) with everything from simple addition to Spanish verb endings. Homework has covered the gamut of straightforward memorization or comprehension, to detailed research of family matters, complete with photographs and tales supplied by me.

There are some things I accept about homework: teachers can’t spend the entire lesson making sure all children keep up and most students need time for new topics to sink in. Unfortunately, however, there are a few items on my dislike list too.

Parental involvement

First there’s the dreaded instruction to “Ask a parent to help”. Many of us also work full-time, have other children needing homework help, dinner or a lift somewhere. While we love helping our children learn, we don’t always have the time to build a small scale ark at the end of a long day.

Inviting parental involvement can also be a slippery slope. My approach is usually to brainstorm ideas then see how much the child can do on their own. But I’m well aware of parents who roll their sleeves up and do 99% of it themselves. Therein lies the dilemma – I don’t want to do my child’s homework for them, but I also don’t want their lovingly created ark to get laughed off the playground just because it looks like a child made it.

An introductory email at the beginning of the school year, spelling out exactly how you’d like us to help our children, would be extremely useful. Do you want to see all their mistakes or should we go over homework, catch mistakes and have them try again? How much of their homework should we help with? Is it okay to write a note on the homework pointing out the exact place where the penny didn’t drop?

New information

My pet peeve is the extra questions or challenges thrown in at the end of a homework sheet. This can range from an extra set of brackets suddenly appearing in the order of operations maths homework, to a newer verb added to the “Use this verb in a sentence” assignment.

It may seem harmless – a good exercise in independent learning, even – but parents have a one in three chance of this ending well. Some children rise to the challenge and give it a go, others are frustrated they can’t do the work, and the last third simply say “Why do optional homework?” and resist all persuasion. Most of us aren’t teachers and simply don’t know how to introduce new concepts or topics without tears – theirs and ours. What’s more, while many children are quite happy to take instruction in the classroom, bristle when their parent tries it around the kitchen table. I get that sometimes it’s a race against the syllabus, but if parents are expected to cover new material, please give us tips on how to teach.

New methods

It appears I can no longer do long division and multiplication. Or at least, I can’t do it the way my children are taught. If I’m going over their homework, I can tell them whether their answers are right or wrong, but for the life of me I can’t tell them why in terms they understand. (The phrase “Carry the one” is like a foreign language to them.) For me to help them, they first have to teach me their method so that I can see where they’ve gone wrong. If they don’t fully understand that method, it all falls apart very quickly.

Cheat sheets – where teachers share their method with parents – would be really useful. There are now excellent internet tutorials on many academic subjects; sending us links to these if they use the same methods would be extremely helpful. Last year, when my youngest was studying operations of arithmetic (Brackets, Operation, Divide, Multiply, Add, Subtract, or BODMAS to me), his terminology was so different to mine, I had to email his teacher to confirm that I had remembered the method correctly. Her availability to me was much appreciated – I know teachers have a life outside of school.

Too many subjects per night

The kids may have five or more lessons a day but problems arise when subject-specific teachers all give homework on the same night. Even if students don’t have after-school activities, life (in the form of a sibling trip to A&E or a panic shop for new gym shoes) can get in the way, making hours of homework a challenge.

Teachers can help by allowing students a day or two extra to hand the work in work so that they can plan when they’ll do each assignment. After all, time management is a life skill we all need. Alternatively, collaborate with colleagues to ensure that pupils aren’t being given every single subject for homework on the same night.

As I said, it’s complicated. Most parents want what’s best for their children; we want to help them do well, but we vacillate between tolerance and outright hatred of homework, depending on what else we have to juggle. Teachers can’t win either as there are usually complaints when there’s no homework at all. We need a middle ground, where teachers teach and parents support the learning at home, both parties respect each other’s’ roles and communicate regularly about the how best to help the individual child.

Toni Hargis is a British author and blogger, currently living in Chicago, US.

Follow us on Twitter via @GuardianTeach . Join the Guardian Teacher Network for lesson resources, comment and job opportunities , direct to your inbox.

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Is homework robbing your family of joy? You're not alone

Children are not the only ones who dread their homework these days. In a 2019 survey of 1,049 parents with children in elementary, middle, or high school, Office Depot found that parents spend an average of 21 minutes a day helping their children with their homework. Those 21 minutes are often apparently very unpleasant.

Parents reported their children struggle to complete homework. One in five believed their children "always or often feel overwhelmed by homework," and half of them reported their children had cried over homework stress.

Parents are struggling to help. Four out of five parents reported that they have had difficulty understanding their children's homework.

This probably comes as no surprise to any parent who has come up against a third grade math homework sheet with the word "array" printed on it. If you have not yet had the pleasure, for the purposes of Common Core math, an array is defined as a set of objects arranged in rows and columns and used to help kids learn about multiplication. For their parents, though, it's defined as a "What? Come again? Huh?"

It's just as hard on the students. "My high school junior says homework is the most stressful part of high school...maybe that’s why he never does any," said Mandy Burkhart, of Lake Mary, Florida, who is a mother of five children ranging in age from college to preschool.

In fact, Florida high school teacher and mother of three Katie Tomlinson no longer assigns homework in her classroom. "Being a parent absolutely changed the way I assign homework to my students," she told TODAY Parents .

"Excessive homework can quickly change a student’s mind about a subject they previously enjoyed," she noted. "While I agree a check and balance is necessary for students to understand their own ability prior to a test, I believe it can be done in 10 questions versus 30."

But homework is a necessary evil for most students, so what is a parent to do to ensure everyone in the house survives? Parents and professionals weigh in on the essentials:

Understand the true purpose of homework

"Unless otherwise specified, homework is designed to be done by the child independently, and it's most often being used as a form of formative assessment by the teacher to gauge how the kids are applying — independently — what they are learning in class," said Oona Hanson , a Los Angeles-area educator and parent coach.

"If an adult at home is doing the heavy lifting, then the teacher never knows that the child isn't ready to do this work alone, and the cycle continues because the teacher charges ahead thinking they did a great job the day before!" Hanson said. "It's essential that teachers know when their students are struggling for whatever reason."

Hanson noted the anxiety both parents and children have about academic achievement, and she understands the parental impulse to jump in and help, but she suggested resisting that urge. "We can help our kids more in the long run if we can let them know it's OK to struggle a little bit and that they can be honest with their teacher about what they don't understand," she said.

Never miss a parenting story with the TODAY Parenting newsletter! Sign up here.

Help kids develop time management skills

Some children like to finish their homework the minute they get home. Others need time to eat a snack and decompress. Either is a valid approach, but no matter when students decide to tackle their homework, they might need some guidance from parents about how to manage their time .

One tip: "Set the oven timer for age appropriate intervals of work, and then let them take a break for a few minutes," Maura Olvey, an elementary school math specialist in Central Florida, told TODAY Parents. "The oven timer is visible to them — they know when a break is coming — and they are visible to you, so you can encourage focus and perseverance." The stopwatch function on a smartphone would work for this method as well.

But one size does not fit all when it comes to managing homework, said Cleveland, Ohio, clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Cain Spannagel . "If their child has accommodations as a learner, parents know they need them at home as well as at school: quiet space, extended time, audio books, etcetera," she said. "Think through long assignments, and put those in planners in advance so the kid knows it is expected to take some time."

Know when to walk away

"I always want my parents to know when to call it a night," said Amanda Feroglia, a central Florida elementary teacher and mother of two. "The children's day at school is so rigorous; some nights it’s not going to all get done, and that’s OK! It’s not worth the meltdown or the fight if they are tired or you are frustrated...or both!"

Parents also need to accept their own limits. Don't be afraid to find support from YouTube videos, websites like Khan Academy, or even tutors. And in the end, said Spannagel, "If you find yourself yelling or frustrated, just walk away!" It's fine just to let a teacher know your child attempted but did not understand the homework and leave it at that.

Ideally, teachers will understand when parents don't know how to help with Common Core math, and they will assign an appropriate amount of homework that will not leave both children and their parents at wits' ends. If worst comes to worst, a few parents offered an alternative tip for their fellow homework warriors.

"If Brittany leaves Boston for New York at 3:00 pm traveling by train at 80 MPH, and Taylor leaves Boston for New York at 1:00 pm traveling by car at 65 MPH, and Brittany makes two half hour stops, and Taylor makes one that is ten minutes longer, how many glasses of wine does mommy need?" quipped one mom of two.

Also recommended: "Chocolate, in copious amounts."

parents views on homework

Allison Slater Tate is a freelance writer and editor in Florida specializing in parenting and college admissions. She is a proud Gen Xer, ENFP, Leo, Diet Coke enthusiast, and champion of the Oxford Comma. She mortifies her four children by knowing all the trending songs on TikTok. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram .

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The Value of Parents Helping with Homework

Dr. selena kiser.

  • September 2, 2020

Young girl and mom high-fiving while working on homework.

The importance of parents helping with homework is invaluable. Helping with homework is an important responsibility as a parent and directly supports the learning process. Parents’ experience and expertise is priceless. One of the best predictors of success in school is learning at home and being involved in children’s education. Parental involvement with homework helps develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom. Parents helping students with homework has a multitude of benefits including spending individual time with children, enlightening strengths and weaknesses, making learning more meaningful, and having higher aspirations.

How Parental Involvement with Homework Impacts Students

Parental involvement with homework impacts students in a positive way. One of the most important reasons for parental involvement is that it helps alleviate stress and anxiety if the students are facing challenges with specific skills or topics. Parents have experience and expertise with a variety of subject matter and life experiences to help increase relevance. Parents help their children understand content and make it more meaningful, while also helping them understand things more clearly.

Also, their involvement increases skill and subject retention. Parents get into more depth about content and allow students to take skills to a greater level. Many children will always remember the times spent together working on homework or classroom projects. Parental involvement with homework and engagement in their child’s education are related to higher academic performance, better social skills and behavior, and increased self-confidence.

Parents helping with homework allows more time to expand upon subjects or skills since learning can be accelerated in the classroom. This is especially true in today’s classrooms. The curricula in many classrooms is enhanced and requires teaching a lot of content in a small amount of time. Homework is when parents and children can spend extra time on skills and subject matter. Parents provide relatable reasons for learning skills, and children retain information in greater depth.

Parental involvement increases creativity and induces critical-thinking skills in children. This creates a positive learning environment at home and transfers into the classroom setting. Parents have perspective on their children, and this allows them to support their weaknesses while expanding upon their strengths. The time together enlightens parents as to exactly what their child’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Virtual learning is now utilized nationwide, and parents are directly involved with their child’s schoolwork and homework. Their involvement is more vital now than ever. Fostering a positive homework environment is critical in virtual learning and assists children with technological and academic material.

Strategies for Including Parents in Homework

An essential strategy for including parents in homework is sharing a responsibility to help children meet educational goals. Parents’ commitment to prioritizing their child’s educational goals, and participating in homework supports a larger objective. Teachers and parents are specific about the goals and work directly with the child with classwork and homework. Teachers and parents collaboratively working together on children’s goals have larger and more long-lasting success. This also allows parents to be strategic with homework assistance.

A few other great examples of how to involve parents in homework are conducting experiments, assignments, or project-based learning activities that parents play an active role in. Interviewing parents is a fantastic way to be directly involved in homework and allows the project to be enjoyable. Parents are honored to be interviewed, and these activities create a bond between parents and children. Students will remember these assignments for the rest of their lives.

Project-based learning activities examples are family tree projects, leaf collections, research papers, and a myriad of other hands-on learning assignments. Children love working with their parents on these assignments as they are enjoyable and fun. This type of learning and engagement also fosters other interests. Conducting research is another way parents directly impact their child’s homework. This can be a subject the child is interested in or something they are unfamiliar with. Children and parents look forward to these types of homework activities.

Parents helping students with homework has a multitude of benefits. Parental involvement and engagement have lifelong benefits and creates a pathway for success. Parents provide autonomy and support, while modeling successful homework study habits.

  • #homework , #ParentalInvolvement

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How important is homework, and how much should parents help?

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parents views on homework

A version of this post was  originally published  by Parenting Translator. Sign up for  the newsletter  and follow Parenting Translator  on Instagram .

In recent years, homework has become a very hot topic . Many parents and educators have raised concerns about homework and questioned how effective it is in enhancing students’ learning. There are also concerns that students may be getting too much homework, which ultimately interferes with quality family time and opportunities for physical activity and play . Research suggests that these concerns may be valid. For example, one study reported that elementary school students, on average, are assigned three times  the recommended amount of homework.

So what does the research say? What are the potential risks and benefits of homework, and how much is too much?

Academic benefits

First, research finds that homework is associated with higher scores on academic standardized tests for middle and high school students, but not elementary school students . A recent experimental study in Romania found some benefit for a small amount of writing homework in elementary students but not math homework. Yet, interestingly, this positive impact only occurred when students were given a moderate amount of homework (about 20 minutes on average).

Non-academic benefits

The goal of homework is not simply to improve academic skills. Research finds that homework may have some non-academic benefits, such as building responsibility , time management skills, and task persistence . Homework may also increase parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling. Yet, too much homework may also have some negative impacts on non-academic skills by reducing opportunities for free play , which is essential for the development of language, cognitive, self-regulation and social-emotional skills. Homework may also interfere with physical activity and too much homework is associated with an increased risk for being overweight . As with the research on academic benefits, this research also suggests that homework may be beneficial when it is minimal.

What is the “right” amount of homework?

Research suggests that homework should not exceed 1.5 to 2.5 hours per night for high school students and no more than one hour per night for middle school students. Homework for elementary school students should be minimal and assigned with the aim of building self-regulation and independent work skills. Any more than this and homework may no longer have a positive impact. 

The National Education Association recommends 10 minutes of homework per grade and there is also some experimental evidence that backs this up.

Overall translation

Research finds that homework provides some academic benefit for middle and high school students but is less beneficial for elementary school students. Research suggests that homework should be none or minimal for elementary students, less than one hour per night for middle school students, and less than 1.5 to 2.5 hours for high school students. 

What can parents do?

Research finds that parental help with homework is beneficial but that it matters more how the parent is helping rather than  how often  the parent is helping.

So how should parents help with homework, according to the research? 

  • Focus on providing general monitoring, guidance and encouragement, but allow children to generate answers on their own and complete their homework as independently as possible . Specifically, be present while they are completing homework to help them to understand the directions, be available to answer simple questions, or praise and acknowledge their effort and hard work. Research shows that allowing children more autonomy in completing homework may benefit their academic skills.
  • Only provide help when your child asks for it and step away whenever possible. Research finds that too much parental involvement or intrusive and controlling involvement with homework is associated with worse academic performance . 
  • Help your children to create structure and develop some routines that help your child to independently complete their homework . Have a regular time and place for homework that is free from distractions and has all of the materials they need within arm’s reach. Help your child to create a checklist for homework tasks. Create rules for homework with your child. Help children to develop strategies for increasing their own self-motivation. For example, developing their own reward system or creating a homework schedule with breaks for fun activities. Research finds that providing this type of structure and responsiveness is related to improved academic skills.
  • Set specific rules around homework. Research finds an association between parents setting rules around homework and academic performance. 
  • Help your child to view homework as an opportunity to learn and improve skills. Parents who view homework as a learning opportunity (that is, a “mastery orientation”) rather than something that they must get “right” or complete successfully to obtain a higher grade (that is, a “performance orientation”) are more likely to have children with the same attitudes. 
  • Encourage your child to persist in challenging assignments and emphasize difficult assignments as opportunities to grow . Research finds that this attitude is associated with student success. Research also indicates that more challenging homework is associated with enhanced academic performance.
  • Stay calm and positive during homework. Research shows that mothers showing positive emotions while helping with homework may improve children’s motivation in homework.
  • Praise your child’s hard work and effort during homework.   This type of praise is likely to increase motivation. In addition, research finds that putting more effort into homework may be associated with enhanced development of conscientiousness in children.
  • Communicate with your child and the teacher about any problems your child has with homework and the teacher’s learning goals. Research finds that open communication about homework is associated with increased academic performance.

Cara Goodwin, PhD, is a licensed psychologist, a mother of three and the founder of  Parenting Translator , a nonprofit newsletter that turns scientific research into information that is accurate, relevant and useful for parents.

Homework Help for Reluctant Children

  • Posted October 15, 2018
  • By Heather Miller

mother and two daughters doing homework at kitchen table

It’s hard to fault the child who resists doing homework. After all, she has already put in a long day at school, probably been involved in afterschool activities, and, as the late afternoon spills into evening, now faces a pile of assignments. Parents feel it, too — it’s no one’s favorite time of day.

But despite its bad rap, homework plays an important role in ensuring that students can execute tasks independently. When it’s thoughtfully assigned, homework provides deeper engagement with material introduced in class. And even when it’s “just” worksheets, homework can build the automatic habits and the basic skills required to tackle more interesting endeavors. Finally, homework is a nightly test of grit. Adult life brings its share of tasks that are both compulsory and unenjoyable. Developing the discipline to fulfill our responsibilities, regardless of whether they thrill us, begins in middle childhood.

So how to help the avoidant child embrace the challenge, rather than resist it?

The first step, especially with kids 13 and under, is to have them do their homework at a communal space, like a dining room or kitchen table. If other children are in the home, they can all do their homework at the same table, and the parent can sit nearby to support the work effort. This alleviates some of the loneliness a reluctant child might associate with assignments. The alternative — doing homework at a bedroom desk — can result in the child guiltily avoiding the work for as long as possible. Like all forms of procrastination, this has the effect of making the entire process take much longer than it needs to.  

When parents turn the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they work better and more efficiently.

Many parents are under the impression that they shouldn’t have anything to do with their children's homework. This comes from schools emphasizing that homework is a child's responsibility, not the parents'. While it is absolutely true that parents should not do their children's homework, there is a role for parents — one that's perhaps best described as “homework project manager.” Parents can be monitoring, organizing, motivating, and praising the homework effort as it gets done. And yes, that means sitting with your child to help them stay focused and on task. Your presence sends the message that homework is important business, not to be taken lightly.

Once you’re sitting down with your child, ask him to unload his school bag and talk you through his various assignments. Maybe he has a school planner with all his homework listed, or a printout from school, or perhaps his work is listed on the classroom website. Many children attend an afterschool program where, in theory, they are doing homework. They’ll often claim that they’ve done all their homework, even though they’ve only done some. Together, make a quick and easy “Done/To Do” list. Writing down what she has finished will give her a sense of satisfaction. Identifying what she still needs to do will help her to focus on the remaining assignments. Over time, this practice will help your child build an understanding that large tasks are completed incrementally.

Next, ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking. Doing this helps a child feel in control of the evening’s tasks and prompts him to reflect on his work style. Discuss the first task of the night together. Ask your child to think about the supplies he is likely to need, and ensure they’re at the ready. This “pre-work” work helps a child think through a task, understand it, and prepare to execute it with gusto.

Last but not least, introduce a timer to the evening’s proceedings. Challenge your child to estimate how long the first assignment will take. Then ask, “Do you want me to set the timer for the full amount of time you think you’ll need, or a smaller amount?” Then, set the timer with the understanding that the child must work without interruption until the timer goes off. Even questions are verboten while the timer runs. The goal here is to enable the child to solve problems independently, through concentration. This not only builds concentration powers, it builds creativity, critical thinking, resilience, and resourcefulness. In my experience, the theatricality of being timed helps relax children who would otherwise feel daunted by a mountain of homework.

As each piece of work gets done, parents can add meaningful positive reinforcement. Exclaiming, “Another assignment done! And done well!” helps your child feel like what they are doing matters.

By turning the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they complete the work much more efficiently and at a higher standard than they might otherwise.

Helping the Homework Resisters

  • Have children do their work at a communal table. Stay nearby, to alleviate the loneliness that some kids feel — and to prevent procrastination.
  • Ask your child to unload her backpack and talk through assignments.
  • Help your child make a "Done/To Do" list.
  • Ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking — fostering a sense of control.
  • Use a timer. Challenge your child to estimate how long an assignment will take, and ask if she wants to set the timer for that full amount of time, or less. 
  • Your role: To monitor, organize, motivate, and praise the homework effort as each piece is done. 

Additional Resource

  • More about Heather Miller's work to help parents create healthy routines on weeknights

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parents views on homework

Here’s what you need to know about homework and how to help your child

parents views on homework

Professor of Education, University of Florida

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Many parents and educators view homework as an important indicator of classroom rigor. The Back-to-Basic movement , which emphasizes the need for schools to teach basic academic skills in particular, has increased the emphasis on homework as a measure of a school’s success.

In fact, many parents and students judge the difficulty of a course or teacher by the amount of homework assigned. Furthermore, many educators believe that asking parents to help their children with homework is a particularly effective strategy for enhancing children’s achievement.

Many parents, too, agree that their involvement will make a positive difference. In a 2014 study conducted by the US Department of Education, 90% of parents reported that they set aside a place at home for their child to do homework, and 85% reported that they checked to see that homework had been completed.

But does helping with homework really improve student achievement? As a high school and college teacher who has assigned homework, and a mother of two sons who were not always too enthusiastic about completing homework, I have studied the many ways that families from different income levels support their children’s academic success.

I have come to believe that homework can not only enhance children’s achievement but can be a powerful opportunity for parent-child nurturing. But research also tells us that it is not just any homework assignment that will have that kind of impact.

Here is what we are learning about homework.

When parent involvement helps

Despite a widespread belief that parent involvement in homework is good for kids, researchers are discovering that it can have both positive and negative effects.

In 2008, three researchers – Erika A Patall , Harris Cooper and Jorgianne Civey Robinson – conducted an extensive review of research on the effects on students of parent involvement in homework. They found that the effects of parent involvement appear to be strongly influenced by four factors:

  • the nature of the homework assignment
  • the particular involvement strategy used by the parent
  • the child’s age and ability level
  • the time and skill resources in the home.

parents views on homework

The researchers found that homework assignments in which students are expected to memorize facts, and the parent is expected to teach school skills, provide less meaningful opportunities for parent and student interaction in the learning process.

In contrast, homework assignments in which students choose a project that requires in-depth investigation, thought and some creative license enable meaningful parent participation. Parents can play supportive roles in discussing the project with their child, which is more enjoyable both for the child and parent.

For example, students may demonstrate math skills; share ideas and obtain reactions to written work; conduct surveys or interviews; gather parents’ memories and experiences; apply school skills to real life; or work with parents or other family partners in new ways.

Strategies for parents

In addition, how parents help their child with homework appears to have distinct effects on student achievement.

Most parents engage in a wide variety of involvement strategies, such as creating “school-like routines” in which they make rules about when, where or how homework is done. They also interact with the teacher about homework and provide general oversight or monitoring of homework completion.

In some instances, parents control these structures; in others, parents follow the student’s lead.

For instance, parents may engage in the learning processes with the child (eg, engage in homework tasks with the child or in processes that support the child’s understanding of homework). Parents may also help their child learn self-management skills (eg, coping with distractions).

The strategies that parents use may vary depending on their beliefs about child-rearing and broader cultural values. Yet these different parent involvement strategies appear to have distinct effects on student achievement.

Strategies that support a child’s autonomy and also provide structure in the form of clear and consistent guidelines appear to be the most beneficial.

For example, in a 2001 study , researchers reported that parent homework involvement that supported autonomy was associated with higher standardized test scores, class grades and homework completion.

In contrast, direct aid (doing the homework for the student) was associated with lower test scores and class grades.

In another study , parent involvement in homework was reported by students to have a detrimental effect if the parent tried to help without a request from the child or was perceived as intrusive or controlling by the child.

Age matters

Researchers have also noted that the age and ability level of a child strongly influenced the amount of help with homework that parents provided and its subsequent benefits to the child.

Parents reported spending more time helping their elementary-age children with homework than their secondary school-age children. Parents of low-ability students reported spending more time helping with homework than did parents of high-ability students.

parents views on homework

While teachers and parents of elementary-aged children were more likely to work together to help students complete their assignments, parents of secondary school students often did not monitor their adolescents’ homework as faithfully as when their children were younger. This, in part, is because they were not expected or asked to do so by secondary teachers.

As a result, low-ability students in middle and high school were less likely to complete homework or to achieve academically.

Another factor was that parents of older students often reported feeling increasingly less able to help with homework.

What can educators do?

These research findings have important implications for how teachers design homework assignments and how parents and teachers might participate in the homework process.

First, students (and parents) need to know why they should be doing a particular homework assignment. What skill is to be practiced/reinforced? Why does this skill matter?

Teachers need to explicitly communicate the purpose of a particular homework assignment and emphasize how the skills they are learning in a homework assignment can be applied in the real world.

Second, educators should design homework assignments that are more meaningful and allow for creativity. Students should be able to have a choice in how they carry out an assignment.

Third, students have different learning styles, and educators need to consider how they might need to express their learning differently (via audiotapes, videotapes, posters and oral presentations rather than the standard written report).

Fourth, teachers should design interactive homework assignments that involve students in interactions with peers and with family and community members. For example, authors Alma Flor Ada and F Isabel Campoy have developed an approach of creating family storybooks that are used as reading and writing texts in the classroom.

Another group of researchers designed “interactive” homework assignments that guided students on how to conduct conversations with family members in math, science and language arts.

Another team of educators worked with teachers and parents to develop curricular approaches that brought students’ cultural backgrounds and families’ “funds of knowledge” into the classroom. For example, class lessons and homework were based on how parents use math in cooking or sewing or how workers use reading and math to build a house.

Homework is a daily activity for most students that takes time, energy and emotion, not only for students but for their families as well. Given these investments, it is important that homework be a more beneficial learning experience, in which parents too can bring their interesting and enriching skills.

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Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

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The Case for (Quality) Homework

parents views on homework

Janine Bempechat

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Any parent who has battled with a child over homework night after night has to wonder: Do those math worksheets and book reports really make a difference to a student’s long-term success? Or is homework just a headache—another distraction from family time and downtime, already diminished by the likes of music and dance lessons, sports practices, and part-time jobs?

Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at 6:30 p.m. She doesn’t get to bed until 9. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics. She eats dinner at 9:15 and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.

Parental concerns about their children’s homework loads are nothing new. Debates over the merits of homework—tasks that teachers ask students to complete during non-instructional time—have ebbed and flowed since the late 19th century, and today its value is again being scrutinized and weighed against possible negative impacts on family life and children’s well-being.

Are American students overburdened with homework? In some middle-class and affluent communities, where pressure on students to achieve can be fierce, yes. But in families of limited means, it’s often another story. Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework. Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week. In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).

parents views on homework

Recent years have seen an increase in the amount of homework assigned to students in grades K–2, and critics point to research findings that, at the elementary-school level, homework does not appear to enhance children’s learning. Why, then, should we burden young children and their families with homework if there is no academic benefit to doing it? Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.

On the contrary, developmentally appropriate homework plays a critical role in the formation of positive learning beliefs and behaviors, including a belief in one’s academic ability, a deliberative and effortful approach to mastery, and higher expectations and aspirations for one’s future. It can prepare children to confront ever-more-complex tasks, develop resilience in the face of difficulty, and learn to embrace rather than shy away from challenge. In short, homework is a key vehicle through which we can help shape children into mature learners.

The Homework-Achievement Connection

A narrow focus on whether or not homework boosts grades and test scores in the short run thus ignores a broader purpose in education, the development of lifelong, confident learners. Still, the question looms: does homework enhance academic success? As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits. Researchers rely on correlational research in this area of study given the difficulties of randomly assigning students to homework/no-homework conditions. While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement. Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.

As noted above, findings on the homework-achievement connection at the elementary level are mixed. A small number of experimental studies have demonstrated that elementary-school students who receive homework achieve at higher levels than those who do not. These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope. Within the body of correlational research, some studies report a positive homework-achievement connection, some a negative relationship, and yet others show no relationship at all. Why the mixed findings? Researchers point to a number of possible factors, such as developmental issues related to how young children learn, different goals that teachers have for younger as compared to older students, and how researchers define homework.

Certainly, young children are still developing skills that enable them to focus on the material at hand and study efficiently. Teachers’ goals for their students are also quite different in elementary school as compared to secondary school. While teachers at both levels note the value of homework for reinforcing classroom content, those in the earlier grades are more likely to assign homework mainly to foster skills such as responsibility, perseverance, and the ability to manage distractions.

Most research examines homework generally. Might a focus on homework in a specific subject shed more light on the homework-achievement connection? A recent meta-analysis did just this by examining the relationship between math/science homework and achievement. Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school. As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently. In addition, the authors point out that parents tend to be more involved in younger children’s math homework and more skilled in elementary-level than middle-school math.

In sum, the relationship between homework and academic achievement in the elementary-school years is not yet established, but eliminating homework at this level would do children and their families a huge disservice: we know that children’s learning beliefs have a powerful impact on their academic outcomes, and that through homework, parents and teachers can have a profound influence on the development of positive beliefs.

How Much Is Appropriate?

Harris M. Cooper of Duke University, the leading researcher on homework, has examined decades of study on what we know about the relationship between homework and scholastic achievement. He has proposed the “10-minute rule,” suggesting that daily homework be limited to 10 minutes per grade level. Thus, a 1st grader would do 10 minutes each day and a 4th grader, 40 minutes. The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association both endorse this guideline, but it is not clear whether the recommended allotments include time for reading, which most teachers want children to do daily.

For middle-school students, Cooper and colleagues report that 90 minutes per day of homework is optimal for enhancing academic achievement, and for high schoolers, the ideal range is 90 minutes to two and a half hours per day. Beyond this threshold, more homework does not contribute to learning. For students enrolled in demanding Advanced Placement or honors courses, however, homework is likely to require significantly more time, leading to concerns over students’ health and well-being.

Notwithstanding media reports of parents revolting against the practice of homework, the vast majority of parents say they are highly satisfied with their children’s homework loads. The National Household Education Surveys Program recently found that between 70 and 83 percent of parents believed that the amount of homework their children had was “about right,” a result that held true regardless of social class, race/ethnicity, community size, level of education, and whether English was spoken at home.

Learning Beliefs Are Consequential

As noted above, developmentally appropriate homework can help children cultivate positive beliefs about learning. Decades of research have established that these beliefs predict the types of tasks students choose to pursue, their persistence in the face of challenge, and their academic achievement. Broadly, learning beliefs fall under the banner of achievement motivation, which is a constellation of cognitive, behavioral, and affective factors, including: the way a person perceives his or her abilities, goal-setting skills, expectation of success, the value the individual places on learning, and self-regulating behavior such as time-management skills. Positive or adaptive beliefs about learning serve as emotional and psychological protective factors for children, especially when they encounter difficulties or failure.

Motivation researcher Carol Dweck of Stanford University posits that children with a “growth mindset”—those who believe that ability is malleable—approach learning very differently than those with a “fixed mindset”—kids who believe ability cannot change. Those with a growth mindset view effort as the key to mastery. They see mistakes as helpful, persist even in the face of failure, prefer challenging over easy tasks, and do better in school than their peers who have a fixed mindset. In contrast, children with a fixed mindset view effort and mistakes as implicit condemnations of their abilities. Such children succumb easily to learned helplessness in the face of difficulty, and they gravitate toward tasks they know they can handle rather than more challenging ones.

Of course, learning beliefs do not develop in a vacuum. Studies have demonstrated that parents and teachers play a significant role in the development of positive beliefs and behaviors, and that homework is a key tool they can use to foster motivation and academic achievement.

Parents’ Beliefs and Actions Matter

It is well established that parental involvement in their children’s education promotes achievement motivation and success in school. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and their achievement-related beliefs have a profound influence on children’s developing perceptions of their own abilities, as well as their views on the value of learning and education.

Parents affect their children’s learning through the messages they send about education, whether by expressing interest in school activities and experiences, attending school events, helping with homework when they can, or exposing children to intellectually enriching experiences. Most parents view such engagement as part and parcel of their role. They also believe that doing homework fosters responsibility and organizational skills, and that doing well on homework tasks contributes to learning, even if children experience frustration from time to time.

Many parents provide support by establishing homework routines, eliminating distractions, communicating expectations, helping children manage their time, providing reassuring messages, and encouraging kids to be aware of the conditions under which they do their best work. These supports help foster the development of self-regulation, which is critical to school success.

Self-regulation involves a number of skills, such as the ability to monitor one’s performance and adjust strategies as a result of feedback; to evaluate one’s interests and realistically perceive one’s aptitude; and to work on a task autonomously. It also means learning how to structure one’s environment so that it’s conducive to learning, by, for example, minimizing distractions. As children move into higher grades, these skills and strategies help them organize, plan, and learn independently. This is precisely where parents make a demonstrable difference in students’ attitudes and approaches to homework.

Especially in the early grades, homework gives parents the opportunity to cultivate beliefs and behaviors that foster efficient study skills and academic resilience. Indeed, across age groups, there is a strong and positive relationship between homework completion and a variety of self-regulatory processes. However, the quality of parental help matters. Sometimes, well-intentioned parents can unwittingly undermine the development of children’s positive learning beliefs and their achievement. Parents who maintain a positive outlook on homework and allow their children room to learn and struggle on their own, stepping in judiciously with informational feedback and hints, do their children a much better service than those who seek to control the learning process.

A recent study of 5th and 6th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ involvement with homework distinguished between supportive and intrusive help. The former included the belief that parents encouraged the children to try to find the right answer on their own before providing them with assistance, and when the child struggled, attempted to understand the source of the confusion. In contrast, the latter included the perception that parents provided unsolicited help, interfered when the children did their homework, and told them how to complete their assignments. Supportive help predicted higher achievement, while intrusive help was associated with lower achievement.

Parents’ attitudes and emotions during homework time can support the development of positive attitudes and approaches in their children, which in turn are predictive of higher achievement. Children are more likely to focus on self-improvement during homework time and do better in school when their parents are oriented toward mastery. In contrast, if parents focus on how well children are doing relative to peers, kids tend to adopt learning goals that allow them to avoid challenge.

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Homework and Social Class

Social class is another important element in the homework dynamic. What is the homework experience like for families with limited time and resources? And what of affluent families, where resources are plenty but the pressures to succeed are great?

Etta Kralovec and John Buell, authors of The End of Homework, maintain that homework “punishes the poor,” because lower-income parents may not be as well educated as their affluent counterparts and thus not as well equipped to help with homework. Poorer families also have fewer financial resources to devote to home computers, tutoring, and academic enrichment. The stresses of poverty—and work schedules—may impinge, and immigrant parents may face language barriers and an unfamiliarity with the school system and teachers’ expectations.

Yet research shows that low-income parents who are unable to assist with homework are far from passive in their children’s learning, and they do help foster scholastic performance. In fact, parental help with homework is not a necessary component for school success.

Brown University’s Jin Li queried low-income Chinese American 9th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ engagement with their education. Students said their immigrant parents rarely engaged in activities that are known to foster academic achievement, such as monitoring homework, checking it for accuracy, or attending school meetings or events. Instead, parents of higher achievers built three social networks to support their children’s learning. They designated “anchor” helpers both inside and outside the family who provided assistance; identified peer models for their children to emulate; and enlisted the assistance of extended kin to guide their children’s educational socialization. In a related vein, a recent analysis of survey data showed that Asian and Latino 5th graders, relative to native-born peers, were more likely to turn to siblings than parents for homework help.

Further, research demonstrates that low-income parents, recognizing that they lack the time to be in the classroom or participate in school governance, view homework as a critical connection to their children’s experiences in school. One study found that mothers enjoyed the routine and predictability of homework and used it as a way to demonstrate to children how to plan their time. Mothers organized homework as a family activity, with siblings doing homework together and older children reading to younger ones. In this way, homework was perceived as a collective practice wherein siblings could model effective habits and learn from one another.

In another recent study, researchers examined mathematics achievement in low-income 8th-grade Asian and Latino students. Help with homework was an advantage their mothers could not provide. They could, however, furnish structure (for example, by setting aside quiet time for homework completion), and it was this structure that most predicted high achievement. As the authors note, “It is . . . important to help [low-income] parents realize that they can still help their children get good grades in mathematics and succeed in school even if they do not know how to provide direct assistance with their child’s mathematics homework.”

The homework narrative at the other end of the socioeconomic continuum is altogether different. Media reports abound with examples of students, mostly in high school, carrying three or more hours of homework per night, a burden that can impair learning, motivation, and well-being. In affluent communities, students often experience intense pressure to cultivate a high-achieving profile that will be attractive to elite colleges. Heavy homework loads have been linked to unhealthy symptoms such as heightened stress, anxiety, physical complaints, and sleep disturbances. Like Allison’s 6th grader mentioned earlier, many students can only tackle their homework after they do extracurricular activities, which are also seen as essential for the college résumé. Not surprisingly, many students in these communities are not deeply engaged in learning; rather, they speak of “doing school,” as Stanford researcher Denise Pope has described, going through the motions necessary to excel, and undermining their physical and mental health in the process.

Fortunately, some national intervention initiatives, such as Challenge Success (co-founded by Pope), are heightening awareness of these problems. Interventions aimed at restoring balance in students’ lives (in part, by reducing homework demands) have resulted in students reporting an increased sense of well-being, decreased stress and anxiety, and perceptions of greater support from teachers, with no decrease in achievement outcomes.

What is good for this small segment of students, however, is not necessarily good for the majority. As Jessica Lahey wrote in Motherlode, a New York Times parenting blog, “homework is a red herring” in the national conversation on education. “Some otherwise privileged children may have too much, but the real issue lies in places where there is too little. . . . We shouldn’t forget that.”

My colleagues and I analyzed interviews conducted with lower-income 9th graders (African American, Mexican American, and European American) from two Northern California high schools that at the time were among the lowest-achieving schools in the state. We found that these students consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night. Math was the only class in which they reported having homework each night. These students noted few consequences for not completing their homework.

Indeed, greatly reducing or eliminating homework would likely increase, not diminish, the achievement gap. As Harris M. Cooper has commented, those choosing to opt their children out of homework are operating from a place of advantage. Children in higher-income families benefit from many privileges, including exposure to a larger range of language at home that may align with the language of school, access to learning and cultural experiences, and many other forms of enrichment, such as tutoring and academic summer camps, all of which may be cost-prohibitive for lower-income families. But for the 21 percent of the school-age population who live in poverty—nearly 11 million students ages 5–17—homework is one tool that can help narrow the achievement gap.

Community and School Support

Often, community organizations and afterschool programs can step up to provide structure and services that students’ need to succeed at homework. For example, Boys and Girls and 4-H clubs offer volunteer tutors as well as access to computer technology that students may not have at home. Many schools provide homework clubs or integrate homework into the afterschool program.

Home-school partnerships have succeeded in engaging parents with homework and significantly improving their children’s academic achievement. For example, Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed the TIPS model (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork), which embraces homework as an integral part of family time. TIPS is a teacher-designed interactive program in which children and a parent or family member each have a specific role in the homework scenario. For example, children might show the parent how to do a mathematics task on fractions, explaining their reasoning along the way and reviewing their thinking aloud if they are unsure.

Evaluations show that elementary and middle-school students in classrooms that have adopted TIPS complete more of their homework than do students in other classrooms. Both students and parent participants show more positive beliefs about learning mathematics, and TIPS students show significant gains in writing skills and report-card science grades, as well as higher mathematics scores on standardized tests.

Another study found that asking teachers to send text messages to parents about their children’s missing homework resulted in increased parental monitoring of homework, consequences for missed assignments, and greater participation in parent-child conferences. Teachers reported fewer missed assignments and greater student effort in coursework, and math grades and GPA significantly improved.

Homework Quality Matters

Teachers favor homework for a number of reasons. They believe it fosters a sense of responsibility and promotes academic achievement. They note that homework provides valuable review and practice for students while giving teachers feedback on areas where students may need more support. Finally, teachers value homework as a way to keep parents connected to the school and their children’s educational experiences.

While students, to say the least, may not always relish the idea of doing homework, by high school most come to believe there is a positive relationship between doing homework and doing well in school. Both higher and lower achievers lament “busywork” that doesn’t promote learning. They crave high-quality, challenging assignments—and it is this kind of homework that has been associated with higher achievement.

What constitutes high-quality homework? Assignments that are developmentally appropriate and meaningful and that promote self-efficacy and self-regulation. Meaningful homework is authentic, allowing students to engage in solving problems with real-world relevance. More specifically, homework tasks should make efficient use of student time and have a clear purpose connected to what they are learning. An artistic rendition of a period in history that would take hours to complete can become instead a diary entry in the voice of an individual from that era. By allowing a measure of choice and autonomy in homework, teachers foster in their students a sense of ownership, which bolsters their investment in the work.

High-quality homework also fosters students’ perceptions of their own competence by 1) focusing them on tasks they can accomplish without help; 2) differentiating tasks so as to allow struggling students to experience success; 3) providing suggested time frames rather than a fixed period of time in which a task should be completed; 4) delivering clearly and carefully explained directions; and 5) carefully modeling methods for attacking lengthy or complex tasks. Students whose teachers have trained them to adopt strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring, and planning develop a number of personal assets—improved time management, increased self-efficacy, greater effort and interest, a desire for mastery, and a decrease in helplessness.

parents views on homework

Excellence with Equity

Currently, the United States has the second-highest disparity between time spent on homework by students of low socioeconomic status and time spent by their more-affluent peers out of the 34 OECD-member nations participating in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (see Figure 2). Noting that PISA studies have consistently found that spending more time on math homework strongly correlates with higher academic achievement, the report’s authors suggest that the homework disparity may reflect lower teacher expectations for low-income students. If so, this is truly unfortunate. In and of itself, low socioeconomic status is not an impediment to academic achievement when appropriate parental, school, and community supports are deployed. As research makes clear, low-income parents support their children’s learning in varied ways, not all of which involve direct assistance with schoolwork. Teachers can orient students and parents toward beliefs that foster positive attitudes toward learning. Indeed, where homework is concerned, a commitment to excellence with equity is both worthwhile and attainable.

In affluent communities, parents, teachers, and school districts might consider reexamining the meaning of academic excellence and placing more emphasis on leading a balanced and well-rounded life. The homework debate in the United States has been dominated by concerns over the health and well-being of such advantaged students. As legitimate as these worries are, it’s important to avoid generalizing these children’s experiences to those with fewer family resources. Reducing or eliminating homework, though it may be desirable in some advantaged communities, would deprive poorer children of a crucial and empowering learning experience. It would also eradicate a fertile opportunity to help close the achievement gap.

Janine Bempechat is clinical professor of human development at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

An unabridged version of this article is available here .

For more, please see “ The Top 20 Education Next Articles of 2023 .”

This article appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Education Next . Suggested citation format:

Bempechat, J. (2019). The Case for (Quality) Homework: Why it improves learning, and how parents can help . Education Next, 19 (1), 36-43.

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Focus on the Family

Parents’ Role in Homework

parents views on homework

What can you do then to support your children in learning and help them take ownership?

When I was a classroom teacher, it wasn’t hard to tell which kids were getting too much outside help from their parents. A project and poster would look like a graphics team had created it, or a homework paper would be perfect, but the student would fail the test on the same material.

Today the urge to get overinvolved in homework is just as great, and perhaps even greater because some experts say that many parents “consumed with overprotective zeal” are coddling their kids through homework, correcting their errors or even doing the papers for them Karen Guzman, “Whose homework is it?” The News & Observer , Charlotte, NC, May 3, 2005, Section E, pp. 1-3 .

Telltale clues of overinvolvement are when parents say “ Our project is taking a lot of time,” or “ We have so much homework tonight!” Actually, it’s the child’s project and homework, and even though parents are just trying to help, if they take over, kids start thinking, Why care or put out so much effort? Mom and Dad will do it for me!

What can you do then to support your children in learning and help them take ownership? The first step is to build responsibility . Kids who learn responsibility at home (by doing a few daily, age-appropriate chores and completing their own homework assignments) tend to be more competent and successful at school.

You should provide an organized study area (with good light, paper, and color-coded file folders to keep papers in, and let them choose some of their own supplies) because disorganization causes stress and distracts from the learning process. Children need a break and physical play after school, but then you need to establish a fixed place in your house and a regular time for homework and reading because it helps build a strong “mental set” for studying.

Another thing you can do is show your child how to break assignments into doable bites so the pressure won’t be on the night before due date (when you’re more tempted to pick up the ball and do the project for him so he won’t get a zero) — but then expect your child to do the work. Teach good study strategies that build on your child’s learning strengths — but let him or her keep the “ownership” of the homework and school responsibilities.

And if he’s done a math problem incorrectly, show him how to work a similar problem but let him be the one to correct it on his worksheet. When parents repeatedly bail kids out if they fail to do their work, the kids don’t learn responsibility or use their own abilities. But when you encourage self-reliance and responsibility, you’ll be empowering your child with an “I can do it” kind of attitude.

Adapted from Handbook on Choosing Your Child’s Education , a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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Q&A: Does homework still have value? An education expert weighs in

by Vicky Hallett, Johns Hopkins University

homework

The necessity of homework has been a subject of debate since at least as far back as the 1890s, according to Joyce L. Epstein, co-director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University. "It's always been the case that parents, kids—and sometimes teachers, too—wonder if this is just busy work," Epstein says.

But after decades of researching how to improve schools, the professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Education remains certain that homework is essential—as long as the teachers have done their homework, too. The National Network of Partnership Schools, which she founded in 1995 to advise schools and districts on ways to improve comprehensive programs of family engagement, has developed hundreds of improved homework ideas through its Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program.

For an English class, a student might interview a parent on popular hairstyles from their youth and write about the differences between then and now. Or for science class, a family could identify forms of matter over the dinner table, labeling foods as liquids or solids. These innovative and interactive assignments not only reinforce concepts from the classroom but also foster creativity, spark discussions, and boost student motivation.

"We're not trying to eliminate homework procedures, but expand and enrich them," says Epstein, who is packing this research into a forthcoming book on the purposes and designs of homework. In the meantime, the Hub couldn't wait to ask her some questions.

What kind of homework training do teachers typically get?

Future teachers and administrators really have little formal training on how to design homework before they assign it. This means that most just repeat what their teachers did, or they follow textbook suggestions at the end of units. For example, future teachers are well prepared to teach reading and literacy skills at each grade level, and they continue to learn to improve their teaching of reading in ongoing in-service education.

By contrast, most receive little or no training on the purposes and designs of homework in reading or other subjects. It is really important for future teachers to receive systematic training to understand that they have the power, opportunity, and obligation to design homework with a purpose.

Why do students need more interactive homework?

If homework assignments are always the same—10 math problems, six sentences with spelling words—homework can get boring and some kids just stop doing their assignments, especially in the middle and high school years. When we've asked teachers what's the best homework you've ever had or designed, invariably we hear examples of talking with a parent or grandparent or peer to share ideas.

To be clear, parents should never be asked to "teach" seventh grade science or any other subject. Rather, teachers set up the homework assignments so that the student is in charge. It's always the student's homework. But a good activity can engage parents in a fun, collaborative way.

Our data show that with "good" assignments, more kids finish their work, more kids interact with a family partner, and more parents say, "I learned what's happening in the curriculum." It all works around what the youngsters are learning.

Is family engagement really that important?

At Hopkins, I am part of the Center for Social Organization of Schools, a research center that studies how to improve many aspects of education to help all students do their best in school. One thing my colleagues and I realized was that we needed to look deeply into family and community engagement. There were so few references to this topic when we started that we had to build the field of study. When children go to school, their families "attend" with them whether a teacher can "see" the parents or not. So, family engagement is ever-present in the life of a school.

My daughter's elementary school doesn't assign homework until third grade. What's your take on 'no homework' policies?

There are some parents, writers, and commentators who have argued against homework, especially for very young children. They suggest that children should have time to play after school. This, of course is true, but many kindergarten kids are excited to have homework like their older siblings. If they give homework, most teachers of young children make assignments very short—often following an informal rule of 10 minutes per grade level . "No homework" does not guarantee that all students will spend their free time in productive and imaginative play.

Some researchers and critics have consistently misinterpreted research findings. They have argued that homework should be assigned only at the high school level where data point to a strong connection of doing assignments with higher student achievement. However, as we discussed, some students stop doing homework. This leads, statistically, to results showing that doing homework or spending more minutes on homework is linked to higher student achievement. If slow or struggling students are not doing their assignments, they contribute to—or cause—this "result."

Teachers need to design homework that even struggling students want to do because it is interesting. Just about all students at any age level react positively to good assignments and will tell you so.

Did COVID change how schools and parents view homework?

Within 24 hours of the day school doors closed in March 2020, just about every school and district in the country figured out that teachers had to talk to and work with students' parents. This was not the same as homeschooling—teachers were still working hard to provide daily lessons. But if a child was learning at home in the living room, parents were more aware of what they were doing in school .

One of the silver linings of COVID was that teachers reported that they gained a better understanding of their students' families. We collected wonderfully creative examples of activities from members of the National Network of Partnership Schools. I'm thinking of one art activity where every child talked with a parent about something that made their family unique. Then they drew their finding on a snowflake and returned it to share in class. In math, students talked with a parent about something the family liked so much that they could represent it 100 times. Conversations about schoolwork at home was the point.

How did you create so many homework activities via the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program?

We had several projects with educators to help them design interactive assignments, not just "do the next three examples on page 38." Teachers worked in teams to create TIPS activities, and then we turned their work into a standard TIPS format in math, reading/language arts, and science for grades K-8. Any teacher can use or adapt our prototypes to match their curricula.

Overall, we know that if future teachers and practicing educators were prepared to design homework assignments to meet specific purposes—including but not limited to interactive activities—more students would benefit from the important experience of doing their homework. And more parents would, indeed, be partners in education.

Provided by Johns Hopkins University

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The New York Times

Motherlode | when homework stresses parents as well as students, when homework stresses parents as well as students.

parents views on homework

Educators and parents have long been concerned about students stressed by homework loads , but a small research study asked questions recently about homework and anxiety of a different group: parents. The results were unsurprising. While we may have already learned long division and let the Magna Carta fade into memory, parents report that their children’s homework causes family stress and tension — particularly when additional factors surrounding the homework come into play.

The researchers, from Brown University, found that stress and tension for families (as reported by the parents) increased most when parents perceived themselves as unable to help with the homework, when the child disliked doing the homework and when the homework caused arguments, either between the child and adults or among the adults in the household.

The number of parents involved in the research (1,173 parents, both English and Spanish-speaking, who visited one of 27 pediatric practices in the greater Providence area of Rhode Island) makes it more of a guide for further study than a basis for conclusions, but the idea that homework can cause significant family stress is hard to seriously debate. Families across income and education levels may struggle with homework for different reasons and in different ways, but “it’s an equal opportunity problem,” says Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman , a contributing editor to the research study and co-author of “ The Learning Habit .”

“Parents may find it hard to evaluate the homework,” she says. “They think, if this is coming home, my child should be able to do it. If the child can’t, and especially if they feel like they can’t help, they may get angry with the child, and the child feels stupid.” That’s a scenario that is likely to lead to more arguments, and an increased dislike of the work on the part of the child.

The researchers also found that parents of students in kindergarten and first grade reported that the children spent significantly more time on homework than recommended. Many schools and organizations, including the National Education Association and the Great Schools blog , will suggest following the “10-minute rule” for how long children should spend on school work outside of school hours: 10 minutes per grade starting in first grade, and most likely more in high school. Instead, parents described their first graders and kindergartners working, on average, for 25 to 30 minutes a night. That is consistent with other research , which has shown an increase in the amount of time spent on homework in lower grades from 1981 to 2003.

“This study highlights the real discrepancy between intent and what’s actually happening,” Ms. Donaldson-Pressman said, speaking of both the time spent and the family tensions parents describe. “When people talk about the homework, they’re too often talking about the work itself. They should be talking about the load — how long it takes. You can have three problems on one page that look easy, but aren’t.”

The homework a child is struggling with may not be developmentally appropriate for every child in a grade, she suggests, noting that academic expectations for young children have increased in recent years . Less-educated or Spanish-speaking parents may find it harder to evaluate or challenge the homework itself, or to say they think it is simply too much. “When the load is too much, it has a tremendous impact on family stress and the general tenor of the evening. It ruins your family time and kids view homework as a punishment,” she said.

At our house, homework has just begun; we are in the opposite of the honeymoon period, when both skills and tolerance are rusty and complaints and stress are high. If the two hours my fifth-grade math student spent on homework last night turn out the be the norm once he is used to the work and the teacher has had a chance to hear from the students, we’ll speak up.

We should, Ms. Donaldson-Pressman says. “Middle-class parents can solve the problem for their own kids,” she says. “They can make sure their child is going to all the right tutors, or get help, but most people can’t.” Instead of accepting that at home we become teachers and homework monitors (or even taking classes in how to help your child with his math ), parents should let the school know that they’re unhappy with the situation, both to encourage others to speak up and to speak on behalf of parents who don’t feel comfortable complaining.

“Home should be a safe place for students,” she says. “A child goes to school all day and they’re under stress. If they come home and it’s more of the same, that’s not good for anyone.”

Read more about homework on Motherlode: Homework and Consequences ; The Mechanics of Homework ; That’s Your Child’s Homework Project, Not Yours and Homework’s Emotional Toll on Students and Families.

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A daughter sits at a desk doing homework while her mom stands beside her helping

Credit: August de Richelieu

Does homework still have value? A Johns Hopkins education expert weighs in

Joyce epstein, co-director of the center on school, family, and community partnerships, discusses why homework is essential, how to maximize its benefit to learners, and what the 'no-homework' approach gets wrong.

By Vicky Hallett

The necessity of homework has been a subject of debate since at least as far back as the 1890s, according to Joyce L. Epstein , co-director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University. "It's always been the case that parents, kids—and sometimes teachers, too—wonder if this is just busy work," Epstein says.

But after decades of researching how to improve schools, the professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Education remains certain that homework is essential—as long as the teachers have done their homework, too. The National Network of Partnership Schools , which she founded in 1995 to advise schools and districts on ways to improve comprehensive programs of family engagement, has developed hundreds of improved homework ideas through its Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program. For an English class, a student might interview a parent on popular hairstyles from their youth and write about the differences between then and now. Or for science class, a family could identify forms of matter over the dinner table, labeling foods as liquids or solids. These innovative and interactive assignments not only reinforce concepts from the classroom but also foster creativity, spark discussions, and boost student motivation.

"We're not trying to eliminate homework procedures, but expand and enrich them," says Epstein, who is packing this research into a forthcoming book on the purposes and designs of homework. In the meantime, the Hub couldn't wait to ask her some questions:

What kind of homework training do teachers typically get?

Future teachers and administrators really have little formal training on how to design homework before they assign it. This means that most just repeat what their teachers did, or they follow textbook suggestions at the end of units. For example, future teachers are well prepared to teach reading and literacy skills at each grade level, and they continue to learn to improve their teaching of reading in ongoing in-service education. By contrast, most receive little or no training on the purposes and designs of homework in reading or other subjects. It is really important for future teachers to receive systematic training to understand that they have the power, opportunity, and obligation to design homework with a purpose.

Why do students need more interactive homework?

If homework assignments are always the same—10 math problems, six sentences with spelling words—homework can get boring and some kids just stop doing their assignments, especially in the middle and high school years. When we've asked teachers what's the best homework you've ever had or designed, invariably we hear examples of talking with a parent or grandparent or peer to share ideas. To be clear, parents should never be asked to "teach" seventh grade science or any other subject. Rather, teachers set up the homework assignments so that the student is in charge. It's always the student's homework. But a good activity can engage parents in a fun, collaborative way. Our data show that with "good" assignments, more kids finish their work, more kids interact with a family partner, and more parents say, "I learned what's happening in the curriculum." It all works around what the youngsters are learning.

Is family engagement really that important?

At Hopkins, I am part of the Center for Social Organization of Schools , a research center that studies how to improve many aspects of education to help all students do their best in school. One thing my colleagues and I realized was that we needed to look deeply into family and community engagement. There were so few references to this topic when we started that we had to build the field of study. When children go to school, their families "attend" with them whether a teacher can "see" the parents or not. So, family engagement is ever-present in the life of a school.

My daughter's elementary school doesn't assign homework until third grade. What's your take on "no homework" policies?

There are some parents, writers, and commentators who have argued against homework, especially for very young children. They suggest that children should have time to play after school. This, of course is true, but many kindergarten kids are excited to have homework like their older siblings. If they give homework, most teachers of young children make assignments very short—often following an informal rule of 10 minutes per grade level. "No homework" does not guarantee that all students will spend their free time in productive and imaginative play.

Some researchers and critics have consistently misinterpreted research findings. They have argued that homework should be assigned only at the high school level where data point to a strong connection of doing assignments with higher student achievement . However, as we discussed, some students stop doing homework. This leads, statistically, to results showing that doing homework or spending more minutes on homework is linked to higher student achievement. If slow or struggling students are not doing their assignments, they contribute to—or cause—this "result."

Teachers need to design homework that even struggling students want to do because it is interesting. Just about all students at any age level react positively to good assignments and will tell you so.

Did COVID change how schools and parents view homework?

Within 24 hours of the day school doors closed in March 2020, just about every school and district in the country figured out that teachers had to talk to and work with students' parents. This was not the same as homeschooling—teachers were still working hard to provide daily lessons. But if a child was learning at home in the living room, parents were more aware of what they were doing in school. One of the silver linings of COVID was that teachers reported that they gained a better understanding of their students' families. We collected wonderfully creative examples of activities from members of the National Network of Partnership Schools. I'm thinking of one art activity where every child talked with a parent about something that made their family unique. Then they drew their finding on a snowflake and returned it to share in class. In math, students talked with a parent about something the family liked so much that they could represent it 100 times. Conversations about schoolwork at home was the point.

How did you create so many homework activities via the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program?

We had several projects with educators to help them design interactive assignments, not just "do the next three examples on page 38." Teachers worked in teams to create TIPS activities, and then we turned their work into a standard TIPS format in math, reading/language arts, and science for grades K-8. Any teacher can use or adapt our prototypes to match their curricula.

Overall, we know that if future teachers and practicing educators were prepared to design homework assignments to meet specific purposes—including but not limited to interactive activities—more students would benefit from the important experience of doing their homework. And more parents would, indeed, be partners in education.

Posted in Voices+Opinion

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Parents Are Highly Involved in Their Adult Children’s Lives, and Fine With It

New surveys show that today’s intensive parenting has benefits, not just risks, and most young adults seem happy with it, too.

parents views on homework

By Claire Cain Miller

American parenting has become more involved — requiring more time, money and mental energy — not just when children are young, but well into adulthood.

The popular conception has been that this must be detrimental to children — with snowplow parents clearing obstacles and ending up with adult children who have failed to launch , still dependent upon them.

Listen to This Article

Open this article in the New York Times Audio app on iOS.

But two new Pew Research Center surveys — of young adults 18 to 34 and of parents of children that age — tell a more nuanced story. Most parents are in fact highly involved in their grown children’s lives, it found, texting several times a week and offering advice and financial support. Yet in many ways, their relationships seem healthy and fulfilling.

Nine in 10 parents rate their relationships with their young adult children as good or excellent, and so do eight in 10 young adults, and this is consistent across income. Rather than feeling worried or disappointed about how things are going in their children’s lives, eight in 10 parents say they feel proud and hopeful.

“These parents, who are Gen X, are more willing to say, ‘Hey, this is good, I like these people, they’re interesting, they’re fun to be with,’” said Karen L. Fingerman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies adults’ relationships with their families.

As for the adult children, she said, “You get advice from a 50-year-old with life experience who is incredibly invested in you and your success.”

Also, these close relationships don’t seem to be holding back young people from reaching certain milestones of independence. Compared with their parents as young adults in the early 1990s, they are much more likely to be in college or have a college degree, Pew found. They are somewhat more likely to have a full-time job, and their inflation-adjusted incomes are higher. (They are much less likely, though, to be married or have children.)

Experts say contemporary hyper-intensive parenting can go too far — and has only gotten more hands-on since the young adults in the survey were children. Young people say their mental health is suffering , and recent data shows they are much more likely to say this than those before them. Some researchers have sounded alarms that one driver of this is children’s lack of independence, and that overparenting can deprive children of developing skills to handle adversity.

The new data suggests that, indeed, young adults are more reliant on their parents — texting them for life advice when older generations may have figured out their problems on their own. But the effects do not seem to be wholly negative.

Professor Fingerman and her colleagues have found that close relationships between parents and grown children protected children from unhealthy behaviors, and young adults who received significant parental support were better able to cope with change and had higher satisfaction with their lives. It was a finding “we just couldn’t believe the first time,” she said, because of the assumptions about over-involved parents.

Both things can be true, said Eli Lebowitz, director of the Program for Anxiety Disorders at the Yale Child Study Center — “that they do rely a lot on their parents, and they do get a lot of positive support from them.”

In previous research , parents often expressed ambivalence about their continued involvement in their adult children’s lives. But the Pew study suggests that has changed, Professor Fingerman said, perhaps a sign they have come to embrace it.

Among parents, seven in 10 say they are satisfied with their level of involvement in their grown child’s life. Just 7 percent say they’re too involved, and one-quarter would like even more involvement. Young adults say the same.

Adriana Goericke, from Santa Cruz, Calif., texts with her daughter, Mia, a college sophomore in Colorado, a few times a day. They share pictures of their food, workouts or funny selfies.

When her daughter asks for advice, mostly about navigating friendships and dating, her mother said she sees her role as a sounding board: “She knows I’m not going to try and run her life, but I’m always there if she needs me.”

Mia Goericke has seen friends who can’t solve problems or make small decisions on their own, but she said that’s different from asking her mother for help. “She will usually ask me what my goals are and try to understand my thinking rather than just tell me what to do,” she said. “It’s like an incredible resource I have at my fingertips.”

When baby boomers were growing up, there was a belief, rooted in the American ideal of self-sufficiency, that children should be independent after age 18. But that was in some ways an aberration, social scientists said. Before then, and again now, it has been common for members of different generations to be more interdependent.

Parents’ involvement in young adults’ lives began to grow in the 1970s. The transition to adulthood became longer , and less clear-cut: It was no longer necessarily the case that at 18 children left home for college, marriage or jobs. Parenting gradually became more intensive , as people had fewer children and invested more in their upbringings.

Cathy Perry, 66, said she has a very different relationship with her sons, 32 and 36, than she had with her parents when she was that age. They all live in the St. Louis area, and text on a family group chat several times a week. Her older son shares updates on his children, and asks for advice on his career, finances and home remodeling.

As a young adult, she lived an 11-hour drive from her parents, and calls were charged by the minute. “I feel that I have a much closer and more open relationship with my kids, where they are more free to express their opinions on things I might not agree with,” she said.

Open, emotional conversations have become more of a priority for parents, research shows : “They may be the first generation of adults who have parents who actually grew up with the mind-set of talking about this kind of stuff,” Professor Lebowitz said.

In the survey, six in 10 young adults said they still relied on their parents for emotional support, and a quarter of young adults said their parents relied on them for the same, including 44 percent of daughters who said their mothers did.

About seven in 10 parents of young adults said their children ask them for advice, especially about finances, careers, physical health and parenting (among those with children). That’s a change from when they were young — half said they rarely or never asked their parents for advice.

There were gender differences: Young adults were somewhat more likely to say they had a good relationship with their mother than their father. Young women communicated with their parents more frequently than young men.

Cultural and policy factors play a role in parents’ involvement in their grown children’s lives. In the United States , parents and children often rely on one another for child care and elder care . In many immigrant families, it is common for multiple generations to live together or support one another. And technology has made it easier to stay in regular touch.

There is also an increasing understanding that children have different needs, and decreasing stigma around helping them, said Mark McConville, a clinical psychologist in Cleveland. Consider a bright teenager with ADHD, he said. A generation ago, his potential might have been written off. Now, it’s much more likely that his parents identify the issue and find programs to support him — and as a result, that he attends college.

He said a small subset of young adults struggle with starting independent lives (the subject of his book, “ Failure to Launch : When Your Twentysomething Hasn’t Grown Up … and What to Do About It”). But overall, “this new prioritization of their relationship with their kids and attending to their kids’ needs” helps children succeed, he said.

Economic factors have changed, too. Young people are more likely than in their parents’ generation to have student debt — 43 percent do in their late 20s, compared with 28 percent when their parents were that age, Pew found — and are buying homes later, if at all .

Partly as a consequence, parents support their children financially for longer periods — one-third of young adults told Pew they were not financially independent from their parents. They are a bit more likely to live with their parents than the previous generation.

But for many families, support in the form of money or housing can be beneficial to parents, too. Of young adults living at home, three-quarters helped with expenses. One-third of young adults gave their parents financial help in the last year, particularly in low-income families.

And a majority of adult children living at home and parents in that situation said it had a positive effect on their relationship.

“There’s a two-way street going on that I think we need to acknowledge,” Professor Fingerman said. “They’re not all kids living in the basement being pampered. They’re kids having relationships with their parents that are good ones.”

Audio produced by Tally Abecassis .

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. More about Claire Cain Miller

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The Paradox of Stay-at-Home Parents

American society is largely built around the assumption that one parent will stay home. So why is there so little material support for homemakers?

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In two-thirds of American families with children, all parents work outside the home. But American society is still largely built around the assumption that one parent does not. The lack of affordable child care and the laughable mismatch between school hours and work hours (including summer vacation , when parents are left to figure out who will care for their kids for three months), have beneath them the idea that a stay-at-home parent (read: mother) should be around to take care of things. Yet paradoxically—and much less remarked upon—American society also gives stay-at-home parents a raw deal, ignoring them in policy and providing little material or cultural support while using them as a political cudgel.

Stay-at-home parents as we think of them today—that is, one parent in a single-family household who is unattached to the formal labor force—are unusual by historical standards. As the population historian Steven Ruggles has written, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, a majority of American households were “corporate families” wherein all members, including the children, supported the family business, most commonly a farm. In the country’s high proportion of multigenerational households, mothers and grandmothers frequently juggled child care with their work, and children themselves joined in the production as soon as they were able.

Read: American family life should not be this volatile

The role of homemaking shifted as America industrialized and urbanized, and the dominant household model became one with a single male earner. (According to Ruggles’s analysis, this setup never exceeded 57 percent of married households, even at its peak in 1940. Many mothers , especially those who were low-income or immigrants, have always worked or been forced to work.) Stay-at-home parents were still performing vital work domestically, but that work started to be left out of the popular economic conception of “labor.” As Ivana Greco, a  stay-at-home mother who writes extensively on these issues, has noted :

In 1934, Simon Kuznets presented Congress with the research that would become today’s GDP calculation. However, he cautioned that it omitted the “services of housewives and other members of the family.” This omission had significant and lasting impacts on how American policymakers view homemaking. There is an aphorism in business that “what gets measured gets managed,” with the corollary that “what gets measured, matters.” The value of homemaking was not measured in the GDP, and so—in the eyes of many economists and politicians—it did not matter.

The decision to exclude stay-at-home parents from traditional economic metrics has largely walled them off from society’s attention and inclusion in social policies. Even the language around these parents is fraught, as distinguishing them from “working parents” implies that the labor done at home is less than. The right-leaning think tank American Compass has noted that “American entitlement programs are designed to support workers and provide only limited coverage for spouses who are not full-time workers themselves.” Stay-at-home parents do not receive their own Social Security benefits; unlike in other countries, there’s no mechanism for them to independently contribute or gain credit toward the program (and, if they rejoined the labor force, they may get lower payments because their caregiving years are excluded). They have uneven access to health insurance without their spouse and, depending on their work history, could be ineligible for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program despite the impact that their becoming disabled may have on their family. Recent proposals to expand access to child care, such as the Child Care for Working Families Act, are unhelpfully silent on stay-at-home parents.

While stay-at-home parents tend to be left out of public benefits, they are frequently used as a wedge in policy debates. For instance, opponents of large-scale public child-care funding are quick to point out surveys that find many parents prefer the idea of a stay-at-home parent. Future Senator J. D. Vance claimed in a 2021 Wall Street Journal op-ed that major public investment in child care would be bad for children, who would be better cared for by a parent at home. A lot of Democratic rhetoric, meanwhile, focuses on the needs of parents working outside the home without mentioning stay-at-home parents. When Vice President Kamala Harris announced in 2023 a series of executive actions on child-care affordability, she explained, “As we know, for millions of parents, childcare makes it possible to go to work and to be productive during the course of their day. Childcare helps these Americans stay in the workforce, go to job training, or secure a paid job and earn money for college or retirement.”

Both of these approaches ignore that homemakers need support too. Many stay-at-home parents are isolated in an age when they are the minority. In 2023, the organization Mother Untitled commissioned a study that included a survey of 1,200 college-educated stay-at-home mothers and women actively considering becoming one. Although most of the mothers surveyed were glad that they had the chance to be home with their children, half said leaving the workforce shrank the size of their mom-friend circle; a similar number reported that making friends as a stay-at-home parent was hard. The all-consuming nature of stay-at-home parenting makes outside child care an important resource for them too—sometimes, they simply need a break. Research has linked child-care availability to parental mental health (for both working and stay-at-home parents), and also to better parenting practices .

But though stay-at-home and working parents are frequently pitted against each other, in reality it’s perfectly possible to create a system that supports both cohorts. Norway and Finland are among the countries that provide the most robust aid to stay-at-home parents: home-care stipends of several hundred dollars a month for those with children under 3, caregiver credits that count toward retirement pensions, low-cost open services such as child-care centers where parents can drop in for a few hours. They are also among the best at using public dollars to provide substantial paid family leave for working parents and affordable external child-care options.

American stay-at-home parents, for now, receive more rhetorical than material support, but hints of bipartisan potential have appeared in proposals that have been advanced from across the political spectrum. Vance is the sponsor of the Fairness for Stay-at-Home Parents Act, which would close a loophole in the Family and Medical Leave Act whereby employees who elect not to return to work after having a child may be forced to pay back their health-care benefits from the leave period. Other ideas that have been floated include providing stay-at-home parents caregiving credits toward Social Security, making them eligible for SSDI , and creating more generous family-focused retirement plans.

Read: The devaluation of care work is by design

One of the simplest ways to ensure that parents who want to stay home can do so is also one of the boldest: Pay them . This idea has come up before, as in the 1970s Wages for Housework movement ; it argued that paying for domestic labor would acknowledge that housework is, in fact, labor. The U.S. has actually experimented with a limited version of this. As a recent report from the Niskanen Center think tank noted, a few states—beginning with Minnesota and Montana—have over the years offered low-income parents an at-home infant-care option, “where new parents who would otherwise be eligible for state child care subsidies while they work could instead opt to receive cash assistance to stay home with their infant child.”

Really supporting stay-at-home parents also means building infrastructure that allows them to build community, get breaks, and not feel so isolated. The U.S. has a smattering of offerings—New Orleans’s free We PLAY Center is one such example—but they are hardly widespread and receive little public funding.

It helps no one to keep stay-at-home parents so cloistered. The solution to the stay-at-home-parent paradox lies in addressing both sides of it: Creating policies and programs that give stay-at-home parents dignity and agency without using them as a reason to deny working parents the same.

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  1. The Value of Parents Helping with Homework

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COMMENTS

  1. A parent's view of homework: I waver between tolerance and outright

    Tue 14 Jul 2015 05.58 EDT L ike many parents, I have a complicated relationship with homework. One day I'm reminding my children to get to work - vocabulary doesn't happen by osmosis - and the...

  2. Is homework robbing your family of joy? You're not alone

    "Unless otherwise specified, homework is designed to be done by the child independently, and it's most often being used as a form of formative assessment by the teacher to gauge how the kids are...

  3. PDF Homework: A Guide for Parents

    ways Check in with your children every day. Studies show that students who have parental assistance in completing homework spend more time on home-work. Parents can help motivate their children and give them strategies for sustaining attention and combating the negative emotions often associated with homework.

  4. Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework

    School board members, educators, and parents may wish to turn to the research for answers to their questions about the benefits and drawbacks of homework. Unfortunately, the research has produced mixed results so far, and more research is needed. Nonetheless, there are some findings that can help to inform decisions about homework.

  5. The Value of Parents Helping with Homework

    Parental involvement with homework helps develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom. Parents helping students with homework has a multitude of benefits including spending individual time with children, enlightening strengths and weaknesses, making learning more meaningful, and having higher aspirations.

  6. Should parents help their kids with homework?

    Helping with homework is one of the most common things that parents say they do to support their children's learning. Many experts have found that helping with homework cultivates positive...

  7. Whose Homework Is It? : Different Types of Parents' Dependent Help

    Abstract Homework is considered a major means for connecting learning processes at school with the home/family sphere. This qualitative study illuminates parents' engagement in their children's homework by exploring (1) parents' and teachers' perceptions of homework goals and characteristics and (2) the types of parental help-giving with homework. Using a snowballing sample, 24 ...

  8. How important is homework, and how much should parents help?

    Help your child to view homework as an opportunity to learn and improve skills. Parents who view homework as a learning opportunity (that is, a "mastery orientation") rather than something that they must get "right" or complete successfully to obtain a higher grade (that is, a "performance orientation") are more likely to have ...

  9. How Parents Can Help Children Who Struggle with Homework

    In my experience, the theatricality of being timed helps relax children who would otherwise feel daunted by a mountain of homework. As each piece of work gets done, parents can add meaningful positive reinforcement. Exclaiming, "Another assignment done! And done well!" helps your child feel like what they are doing matters.

  10. Here's what you need to know about homework and how to help your child

    Many parents and educators view homework as an important indicator of classroom rigor. The Back-to-Basic movement, which emphasizes the need for schools to teach basic academic skills in ...

  11. Should Kids Get Homework?

    Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary. "Every child should be doing homework, but the ...

  12. The Case for (Quality) Homework

    Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework. Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week.

  13. Parents' Role in Homework

    The first step is to build responsibility. Kids who learn responsibility at home (by doing a few daily, age-appropriate chores and completing their own homework assignments) tend to be more competent and successful at school.

  14. (PDF) Parental Involvement in Homework

    It is focused on understanding: why parents become involved in their children's homework; which activities and strategies they employ in the course of involvement; how their homework...

  15. Q&A: Does homework still have value? An education expert weighs in

    Did COVID change how schools and parents view homework? Within 24 hours of the day school doors closed in March 2020, just about every school and district in the country figured out that teachers ...

  16. When Homework Stresses Parents as Well as Students

    Less-educated or Spanish-speaking parents may find it harder to evaluate or challenge the homework itself, or to say they think it is simply too much. "When the load is too much, it has a tremendous impact on family stress and the general tenor of the evening. It ruins your family time and kids view homework as a punishment," she said.

  17. Students' and Parents' Perceptions about Homework

    Parents hold relatively consistent views regarding the value and purpose of homework, with the majority believing that it is important for learning and academic achievement (Cooper et al., 2006 ...

  18. PDF Views of Students, Parents, and Teachers on Homework in Elementary ...

    have congruent views on the aims and effectiveness of homework. Another hypothesis was that differences would be found between parents' views of homework by religiosity. In addition, a negative association will be found between the teacher's years on the job and attitude towards homework assignment-such that the more

  19. Does homework still have value? A Johns Hopkins education expert weighs

    / Jan 17 The necessity of homework has been a subject of debate since at least as far back as the 1890s, according to Joyce L. Epstein, co-director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University.

  20. Swedish parents' perspectives on homework: manifestations of principled

    Parents views on reading homework. Irrespective of which school their children attended, reading homework was not only given to all children but was well-received by all parents. For example, of the four parents who generally spoke negatively about homework, Sub 7, noted that her son "gets reading homework (and) should read 10 minutes a day ...

  21. Teachers' perspectives on homework: manifestations of culturally

    These three themes concern the existence of homework, the purpose of homework and teachers' views on the role of parents in homework's completion. In the following, we present each theme, with evidence from Sweden followed by evidence from England. In so doing we acknowledge a key difference in the ways the two sets of teachers refer to the ...

  22. (PDF) Views of Students, Parents, and Teachers on Homework in

    Teachers are the most positive about homework, followed by students and finally parents. The confirmation was only partial, as the hypothesis was that students' views would be the least ...

  23. Parents Are Highly Involved in Their Adult Children's Lives, and Fine

    Among parents, seven in 10 say they are satisfied with their level of involvement in their grown child's life. Just 7 percent say they're too involved, and one-quarter would like even more ...

  24. ERIC

    Views of Students, Parents, and Teachers on Homework in Elementary School Davidovitch, Nitza; Yavich, Roman International Education Studies, v10 n10 p90-108 2017

  25. Stay-at-Home Parents Need Support Too

    Norway and Finland are among the countries that provide the most robust aid to stay-at-home parents: home-care stipends of several hundred dollars a month for those with children under 3 ...