I received an email from one of my regular readers. She was complaining that her son in Junior High had too much homework each night. She asked me my opinion about homework. Here's my answer-

Homework is a problem because of its name. Who likes WORK? If we called it "home exploration" or "home problem-solving" or "home practice," perhaps families would accept it more readily.

Homework is assigned for various reasons. Sometimes students need more practice in a skill that was taught in class. Also, parents should know what their children are studying and be able to converse with them about the subject.

But, to me, the most important purpose behind homework is to assist the child in developing independent study skills. They can carry this talent with them throughout their lives.

A good teacher does NOT assign homework as a punishment. Plus, any teacher worth her salt will make sure that the student knows exactly HOW to do the assigned homework. A good teacher doesn't send an assignment home unless the student has the tools to complete it.

The amount of homework that is assigned can be overwhelming, especially in grades 7 through 12. Many times, the teachers don't confer with each other and a student who moves through six or more classes a day can end up with quite a load of homework.

When this happens, it doesn't hurt for the parent to keep track of the assignments. If the burden becomes so great that it affects the child's well-being, then a phone call to his homeroom teacher would be an acceptable first step. Tell the teacher how much time your child is spending on homework and ask if the teacher would contact the other teachers involved and perhaps schedule the work differently.

If this doesn't work, then a conference with the principal might be in order. Of course, there is always the possibility that the teachers think that the parent is coddling the child. It would help if there were more than one parent inquiring about the amount of homework.

If your child has a problem getting his homework completed, perhaps it is also caused by laziness. And, some kids just naturally resist giving up "playtime" when they are home.

Unless the child chooses to do it himself, don't make him do his homework the minute he gets home from school. Let him play for a while. Starting the homework before dinner is a good idea, but the entire amount does not need to be done then.

Take some time to sit with your child and look over the assignments. Even if the student is a senior in high school, showing an interest in what he is studying is important. Sure, you might not be able to help with Advanced Math or Physics, but at least you can see what the topics are.

Have a quiet home during homework time. Keep the TV off. The entire family should support the efforts of the student as he tries to get his work done.

When the homework is completed, be sure to identify a "drop spot" near the front door. Book bags, gym clothes, homework, and anything else related to the next day of school can be placed there. That way, the morning routine is more organized and nothing is forgotten on the kitchen table.

If homework becomes a regular family argument, then you need to find the cause. Calling the school's guidance counselor might give you some help. Maybe there's a bigger problem than homework.

If you are having some difficulties with homework or another school topic, feel free to get in touch with me.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.