The age old question of how much time should be spent on homework troubles most parents. We need to strike a balance on the amount of time that should be spent by the child and the quality of the time they should spend on this task. We also need to know how to support our child with the homework without ‘taking over’ the task.
We spoke with Tom Cunnane, principle of Kill National School on the subject. We first asked why did children get homework. “The idea behind giving a child homework is to consolidate what has been done in the classroom, to promote independent learning. It also helps to keep parents in touch with the child’s school work” says Tom. He continued, “parents should be careful to support the child in doing their homework. This support is provided by ensuring that you agree a suitable time for homework with your child. You should also ensure that the child has a suitable place to work with minimum distraction (e.g. don’t have the TV on in the room). Show an interest in what you child is doing and if required by the school, sign the homework.” When asked what a parent should do if a child is having difficulty with homework, Tom advised that you should try to help the child with the issue and also speak to the class teacher immediately. “With the new structure in classrooms in terms of mixing children with special needs in general classrooms, the teachers will very often differentiate homework to suit individual children’s abilities. This system has to work for every child so if your child is having difficulty, the teacher may be able to give homework to suit your child’s capabilities”, said Tom, “therefore it is always important to keep in contact with the teacher if there are any homework problems”.
So how long should your child spend doing his/her homework? At second level, the recommended times are printed in your child’s school journal and these act as guidelines for the students and parents. For primary school children, most schools also print the recommended times in the school journals so you can check this. Tom Cunnane recommended the following guidelines:
Junior/senior infants- no formal homework, perhaps some colouring or word cards but not much more.
1st & 2nd class- 20 minutes
3rd & 4th class- 30 minutes
5th & 6th class- maximum of 1 hour
Tom recommends that if you are satisfied that your child has worked diligently for the recommended times above and still has not completed the homework, you should stop the child and write a note to the teacher explaining this. This helps the teacher to also gauge how much homework to give.
For second level students, as we have said previously, check their journals for recommended times. Also, given that they are older and have more maturity, you do not need to supervise their homework as closely as primary level but providing the correct environment is still vitally important. It is important that you check their journals every week to ensure that they are handing in homework assignments and that there are no issues around the quality of the homework completed. Most journals provide a weekly summary page where teachers can record issues so a weekly check on these pages will provide you will information on how your child is performing.