To Do or Not to Do Homework?
By Dorte BladtThe school year is going full steam ahead, and my practice is full of busy, chatty, laughing school children and their frazzled mothers.
Many of these kids are in my practice because they struggle at school; with reading, writing, concentrating or even sitting still. A recurrent topic with these loving, frazzled mothers is the never ending battle the family has about homework.
"We always have to fight to get our children to do their homework. We have to bribe them, they never concentrate or do it neatly, and most of the time I pretty much end up doing it for them" one mother complains.
Homework is an interesting subject; we adults think of it as an integral part of going to school and learning - we all did it. Teachers tell me that it is the parents who ask for homework, to get more of it for their children.
However, is homework really necessary for academic success? Kids are at school for 6 hours per day, 5 days per week.
When I started looking into this topic, I was surprised about the heated debate going on for and against homework and even more surprised about some of the research facts.
For example, in the USA the proportion of 6-8 year olds who were assigned homework every night went from 34% in 1997 to 64% in 2002. The children of that age more than doubled their homework load in that time frame; however the increase in homework was not associated by any increase in scores on achievement tests.
Professor Harris Cooper of Duke University in USA concluded that there is very little correlation between the amount of homework and academic performance in primary school and only moderate correlation in middle and high school.
Many countries with the highest scoring students on achievement tests, such as Japan, Denmark, and the Czech Republic, have teachers who assign little homework. Meanwhile, countries such as Greece, Thailand, and Iran, where students have some of the worst average scores, have teachers who assign a lot of homework.
So, how do we get our young ones to succeed in life? Because that is really what we all want, isn't it? For them succeed, be happy and healthy, and not have to struggle to make ends meet for the rest of their lives? How can we
encourage them to learn, be interested in the world and solve problems?
To me one very important fact is that 90% of stimulation to brain comes from movement of the spine. Our brains work better when we move regularly; we concentrate better, think clearer, focus on tasks, get ideas and find solutions. Movement such as walking, running, biking, swimming, throwing a football, jumping on a trampoline, climbing a tree, rolling down a hill, balancing on a log, crawling through bushes, playing soccer, tennis and netball.
Anything and everything! So when they have been sitting for 6 hours at school, it may be time to get outside and move.
Playing an instrument and singing are both powerful stimulators of the brain, and have both been shown to increase concentration and learning ability.
Spending time together as a family and with friends talking and laughing, helping with cooking and household chores, has been shown to decrease depression and antisocial behaviour in children.
Having meals together as a family is the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioural problems for children aged 3 to 12.
This was the conclusion of a national survey in the USA conducted by the University of Michigan - they found family meals were a better predictor of achievement scores than the amount of time spent studying.
The American Educational Research Association states that "Whenever homework crowds out social experience, outdoor recreation and creative activities, and whenever it usurps time that should be devoted to sleep, it is not meeting the basic needs of children and adolescents".
- Remember it is your child's homework - encourage, help, motivate, brainstorm, be a sounding board, but don't do the work.
- Persuade them to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
- If you struggle to get your child to do the given task, maybe send him/her outside for some time to burn off some energy & focus the brain.
- Feed your child good, wholesome brain food every day - avoid anything that is packaged & contains numbers.
- Let your child see you do your homework every day; paying bills, reading & completing tasks.
- If it becomes a fight, leave it - it is not your responsibility.
- Talk to your child about important topics to help them focus & think.
- Read with your child every day.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842