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Hurdles to Homework
Homework problems often reflect our changing American society. "Most children don't come home to a plate of cookies and Mom saying, `Please do your homework,' explains a teacher in Residence at the U.S. Department of Education and a veteran Minnesota high school history, humanities and writing teacher. Many parents report returning home around dinner time after a hectic day at work, too tired to monitor assignments. Students' personal difficulties and competing priorities can also create obstacles to completing homework successfully.
Ms. Jones calls home if students regularly fail to complete assignments successfully. She often learns that parents and caregivers are not aware that a problem exists. "Parents often want their children to do homework shortly after arriving home," she explains. "This is especially true if the parent is still at work because it's a productive way for the children to spend time before mom or dad gets home." But Ms. Jones knows from experience that children with homework problems usually need to be supervised and held accountable for their work in order to complete it successfully. "I've heard the story many times," she laments." `When I get home from work, my child tells me that the homework is finished.' Some parents are tired and too busy with their homemaking responsibilities. They find it hard to take the time needed to check their child's assignments carefully."
Students have more activities and options that compete for their time: jobs, sports activities, church choir, television, and family chores. Some teachers express concerns about students who perceive homework to be useless drudgery, as well as the lack of a stigma for those who fail to complete assignments.
More children today also have personal difficulties that are associated with a host of problems in school, including the ability to complete homework successfully. These include:
1. troubled or unstable home lives;
2. lack of positive adult role models;
3. teenage pregnancies and parenting responsibilities;
4. chemical dependency problems; or
5. a high rate of mobility, found among families
Fortunately, a number of strategies are known to help overcome the obstacles. Used together, these strategies can make homework less stressful, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. The tips can also help students master the ability to learn independently.
The information in this booklet is based on sound educational research and the experiences of award-winning teachers who have shared their favorite assignments and best strategies for getting students to complete homework successfully. These teachers come from all around the country and put their talents to work in many kinds of schools and communities -- urban, inner-city, suburban, small town, and rural. They teach a broad range of subjects and at a variety of grade levels.
Echoing the sentiments of many of her colleagues, an Illinois high school art teacher, explains:
"When students think of homework, usually it's a negative thought. But it shouldn't be, because learning should be fun. I don't think anybody today can become truly educated if they don't learn to work on their own." Kids can also enjoy working on the internet and visiting kid-friendly sites such as Net Smart Kids web site.