3 Myths about Homework

  • Written by Erica Peterson, Campus Manager, Dartmoor School, Woodinville
Students hate it. Teachers love it. Parents dread it because it is so hard to get done. Homework is an opportunity for students to develop long-term memory of the skills they learn in school, but for many families, homework causes nothing but headaches as parents and students wrestle over its accomplishment.  Sometimes in an effort to make the grade, families waste time and energy fighting over things that aren’t actually important when it comes to completing homework. Fortunately, common misconceptions that cause parents extra grief can be avoided. The following are a few of the most widespread fallacies.

#3. My student should not stop working until all homework is complete.

While it is true that distractions negatively impact the completeness and accuracy of homework, students still need to take strategic breaks, especially when the time required for homework completion is an hour or more.  Strategic breaks can help increase the flow of blood to a student’s brain and remedy low blood sugar. Breaks that include a healthy snack and some exercise are particularly valuable. Also, the brain’s ability to focus waxes and wanes in cycles; in fact, a human’s ability to maintain focus at the highest levels of concentration only lasts for about ten minutes. Altering the type of activity in which the brain is engaged at moments of low attention relieves stress and allows re-engagement by working with the natural attention cycles of the brain.

#2. My student should do the hardest task first.

Actually, many students, particularly those who have trouble with self-confidence, benefit from starting off with a task that is easy enough to allow them to build momentum and have a sense of accomplishment. Starting with the easiest task helps students overcome procrastination and remember that they are capable.  A student who is already nervous or reluctant to approach homework will have a far greater obstacle to surmount if they have to start off with an object of dread. The worse the initial step looks, the sweeter escape will appear.

#1. My student refuses to do homework because she is lazy.

In adults as well as students, procrastination on a task is a sign that the individual anticipates a negative experience as a consequence of completing the task. If a student is reluctant to do her homework, it is most likely because something about the homework experience is significantly unpleasant. The most strategic approach to reducing procrastination is to find out why a student dislikes his or her homework so much. It is very common for students to anticipate that they will fail at their homework because they are not sure how to break down a large task into manageable steps, or because they had trouble learning the skill they should be practicing, or because the homework requires them to exercise a cognitive skill that is weak. The best remedy for procrastination in these situations is alleviating the issue causing distress. Helping the student determine how break down a task, re-teaching topics, or getting professional help to teach the student how to cope with a weak cognitive area—these tactics overcome natural reluctance by directly addressing the source of students’ negative feelings about homework.  Frequently, students do not know how to identify the origin of their negative anticipation, so discovering the source of dread can be difficult. However, it is always well worth the time and effort.

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