The following text is an excerpt of a speech on the subject of homework hold by the author at a PTA in Tamale (Ghana) in 1996. If you have any comments or corrections, please write to the author at  mattgig@freesurf.ch.

Overview "Homework"

What Is Homework?
Why Homework?
Homework Is Important!
How Is Homework To Be Done?
What Can I Do To Help My Child?
Structures Concerning Homework

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What is Homework?

Homework includes all work for school outside the regular time table. Work for school does not only include the work done during school time, there are other obligations a child has to fulfil in order to make progress in school. All this work outside the regular time table is called homework. Homework however doesn't include punishment, which may be handled in a similar way, but is different from the purposes and aim of homework. Thus homework includes the following parts:

Daily homework: Generally every teacher gives homework in every subject. In some subjects however there is no need for homework at some days or in general. Homework is most likely in core subjects as Language (especially English) and Mathematics.

Special needs tasks: Some children have special needs (e.g.. they have missed some topics or not completely understood some topics in the past). To help them according to their needs, there is special homework for them which is normally not done by other children in the same class. For a short period this kind of homework can take up a lot of time.

Preparations for tests: In some subjects  children are tested for their knowledge or their know-how. Depending on the ability of a child to receive new information and the long term storage capability, children have to revise the handled topics from time to time. This part of the homework takes up a lot of time for some children, but it is important to revise on a regular basis. Otherwise the child tends to forget crucial information.

Project work: Especially older children may work on a long term project which they have to present in class on a certain day. Some children spend a lot of time and effort on those activities, which can be very rewarding in a more general way than regular school activities.

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Why Homework?

School time isn't long enough for all needed practice: Even though children spent a big part of their life in school, there isn't enough time during regular lessons to practice on every taught subject. Thus, there is a need to practice outside the classroom - at home. Depending on their age and the growing ability of working on their own, homework becomes more and more important as children continue their advance in the school system.

Homework allows individual practice: Some children need more or less time to be able to handle a certain topic with ease. Homework allows them to practice according to their needs and without the pressure from other children in the classroom.

Homework allows children to catch up with their class: Some children have gaps in their education due to many reasons as illness, long term absence, differences between school systems, ungaining behaviour in class, teaching methods and others. Specially devised homework allows them to fill these gaps. However most teacher feel that it doesn't pay of to prepare individual training material as long as the general daily homework isn't done properly. Individual homework is not a substitute for missed lessons or general homework not done in the past.

Homework helps the building of responsibility: Homework prepares children for the demands they will face later on in university or in a certain non-academic profession by teaching them at an early age how to work on their own. We all know, how important it is to fulfil certain demands in an appropriate time. Homework is the first step to the ability to handle those matters successfully.

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Homework is important!

Considering all the thoughts mentioned it becomes evident that homework is a very important part not only of a successful carrier in school but even for later prosperity in life. Homework, and this should always be stressed, is not for the teacher, it is for the child's future.

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How is homework to be done

Homework must be complete: Homework  can only help to improve a child's abilities if it is done complete. If it is incomplete the child may have missed the most crucial part of it. Later on in life, a degree may not be given or an order not be paid for if part of the expected work is missing.

Homework should look neat and tidy: Homework is most successful when it is done properly. Doing the homework carefully enables the child to think about it and reflect things done in school or consider otherwise obtained additional information. These activities improve the learning process and make a child more successfully. Thriving for quality should be implanted in a child's life as early as possible.

Homework takes its time: To do the homework properly takes a lot of time. But you should be aware that this time is well spent. However if you feel that your child has to much homework (sitting hour after hour over it) you should inform the responsible teacher or the class teacher. It may be an individual or a general problem.

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What can I do to help my child?

Show interest in school matters: The best and easiest way to help your child in school, in general and not only concerning homework, is to show interest in the child's work and his or her progresses in school. It is however important to make sure the child understands that you are interested. Don't just ask what the child has done in school. Let the child explain what they have done. Take the time and listen to your child.

Check homework daily: Check the homework every day. You may discover some problems the child's teacher isn't aware of. The earlier this problem can be handled the more likely a success is.

Discuss homework with your child: If you can find the time (maybe even by cutting down on other activities) discuss the homework with your child. This doesn't mean that you should end up doing your child's homework, but give a hand where it is needed. Explain to your child why homework is an important part of school. Explain why it is  more important to do the homework properly than for instance watching television.

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Structures concerning homework

Homework comes first: In order to handle homework successfully it is important to give it a top priority. Let your child do the homework first and allow playing and other leisure activities only if the child has fulfilled all demands. This will eventually lessen the time spent on homework, as the child learns that efficient work is rewarded. Doing the homework late in the evening is not a good idea. Most children feel sleepy around that time and can hardly concentrate any more.

Homework should become a daily routine: If there is a possibility, set up a place where the child can do its homework undisturbed from others, especially younger members of the family. See that doing the homework becomes a daily routine, which is done at a certain time during the day, preferably as soon as possible after school.

Sign the homework: Some children tend to forget what their homework is or that they have homework at all, especially when friends ask them out for playing. Knowing that, many teachers let the children write their homework in some special booklets. Some teachers give special homework on a certain day in the week. Thus, it is easier for you to check the homework. Your signature is proof for the teacher that you have seen the homework and a sign for him or her that you take your part of the responability for your child's future.

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Homework is still of importance in a child's school carrier. But it helps the child to progress only, if it is done well. To support the child in doing the homework, parents should take an interest in their child's schoolwork. On the other hand, they shouldn't feel shy to contact the responsible teacher, if they think that their child is having a problem with the daily homework.

written by M. Giger in Tamale, 1996 (Update: 30.01.2002)