Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking the Work out of Homework

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking the Work out of Homework

Article excerpt

SCHOOL HAS started again, and so have the same old arguments. I bet you've had this one: "Turn off that TV," you say. "Get off your bed and sit at your desk. This year, you're doing your homework the right way."

"Awww," your kid says. "Do I have to?"

Good question, kid. I've done my homework. I've found an expert who says studying in front of the TV may be OK. He lets his kids do it. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, is a nationally-known researcher on homework. "Here's the way we do it at our home," Cooper said. "We don't care when or how you do your homework, as long as you get it done. If the grades are good, the assignment is complete, and the homework is in on time, then it's OK. "If the grades start dropping or the teacher starts complaining, then we have to establish restrictions. And that rule is ironclad." But making kids follow your homework rules may teach them the wrong lesson. "Homework teaches kids responsibility for their own time," he said. "They learn discipline, study habits, and time management. These skills don't show up on achievement tests, but they are important. "If you tell your child, `You're going to do your homework in your room at your desk, with no noise in the background,' you've taken away their ability to develop these skills." Cooper has spent more than 10 years trying to find out if homework works. His reasons are partly personal: He wanted to help his own two kids. Homework accounts for "about 20 percent of the time American children were spending on academic tasks. No one knew if it was time well-spent," he wrote. No wonder parents are confused: "American attitudes have flip-flopped several times this century." In the 1960s, homework cramped kids' style. Since the 1980s, its value has been on the rise "as we've grown concerned about our children's ability to compete in a global economy. …

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