When homework hurts

Educators are supporting the argument against endless assignments outside of class time. Here’s what you can do to support your child at home

If you’re exhausted from homework battles, take heart — Michael Kennedy understands that a fight to get homework completed is not conducive to learning.

That’s why at March Academy, “we really don’t assign regular homework,” explains Kennedy, March Academy principal, teacher and himself a parent. Instead, teachers at the Ottawa private school assign reading and piano to be done at home every day, and Kennedy suggests parents be consistent with setting aside a time for that. “Work it into a schedule that works for everyone,” he says. “Just like brushing your teeth.”

Michael Kennedy

Although academics are important, says Kennedy, he says education comes in many forms, including helping around the house, which promotes well-roundedness for the real world. “Assigning age-appropriate chores helps children learn a sense of responsibility. And that’s important too.” Kennedy says that March Academy provides a parent handbook with tips for nurturing their child’s education.

Occasionally, students at March Academy are assigned project work that they do at home. When this happens, “make sure you set aside a space where your child can work and won’t be disturbed by other household distractions,” says Kennedy. “And make sure they have all the tools they need — like pencils or paper or a computer if they are doing something online. Being organized really reduces stress levels.”

Sometimes, homework just doesn’t go smoothly. “If your child is having difficulty with their homework and it’s resulting in arguments, just stop,” says Tim Mook Sang, principal of St. Laurent Academy. “It likely means that your child hasn’t grasped the material delivered in class. The point of homework is not to learn new material, but to reinforce material that has already been learned in class.” He suggests a discussion with your child’s teacher to figure out where the gaps are. “Maintain that communication with your child’s teacher. They can better assess what your child needs to know before they leave the classroom,” says Mook Sang. “And it’s different for every student.” As he points out, St. Laurent Academy’s philosophy is that one size does not fit all. “Our academic pathways are individualized so that each student and teacher are familiar with the goals and the criteria to achieve those goals.” Mook Sang says that the academy’s teachers are good at determining not only what, but how students learn. “A teacher can explain how to ride a bike,” says Mook Sang. “But we want to make sure that each student can ride the bike themselves before they leave the classroom. That makes a big difference.” 


Tim Mook Sang

Homework struggles are something that education consultant and learning strategist Andrea Laurel Ives says “just about every parent faces. And the challenge is going to be unique for each child within the family.”

Ives suggests being proactive: modelling organizational skills; creating a collaborative team with educators; and reaching out to resources in the community. “Remember, you are your child’s first teacher, so you’ll be the first to know when your child is facing a major challenge,” she says. Ives says to look for subtle verbal and non-verbal clues at home, where your child feels safe and supported, and to be proactive about the idea of homework.

“Even at the JK/SK level, provide your child with their own school-like desk in their rooms or in the home office. And each day, establish a simple routine of emptying each child’s backpack onto the desk while you’re discussing the day’s school topics,” suggests Ives.


For younger children, Ives says to name the desk area something fun and catchy. For older students, being prepared and organized is the key to success in middle and secondary school. “Set an example by showing them how you prepare your desk and work tools, materials or computer for the next day,” says Ives. “Demonstrating your home organizational skills, time management ability and how you have all your material ready is a terrific way to

Andrea Laurel Ives

help your child achieve personal success.”


Children of all ages benefit from having individual paper full-year wall calendars to make note of their assignment deadlines, special events, birthdays and holidays. In her book, “The 5 Rs of Education,” Ives emphasizes the importance of parents and teachers being on the same page. Collaboration teaches children about the meaning of T.E.A.M.: Together, Everyone

Achieves More, says Ives. “I also encourage parents and teachers to openly discuss with

children about ‘learning differences’ and that there are many ways to learn concepts, not

only the way it may be taught at school,” she says. “Knowing that other children also have

education challenges can relieve a lot of anxiety about homework.”

More from Andrea Laurel Ives

Part 1 and Part 2 of “The 5 Rs of Education: Guiding Children Beyond Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic TOWARD Reflection and Resilience” by Andrea Laurel Ives are available free of charge as PDFs by emailing Luv2Lern@live.ca.