The Symbolic Value of Homework

January 04, 2019

Homework is often a battleground.  Refrains such as, “It’s stupid,”  “I hate it,”  “It’s not fun,” and variations on these themes occur across the country starting in the afternoon, continuing through until about 9:00 at night.

Of course there are the dutiful soldiers who don’t complain (more often the girls), get started on their own, get out their material, complete the assignment (putting checks next to the completed task in the assignment book) and even putting it  back in the backpack so it can be found the next day in school.

In so many ways much of school and homework are like reminders of the past, of days gone by.  Take a peek at their book bags. Kids will still break out those zippered three-ringed binders with loose loose-leaf paper (yes, they still are using paper), dividers, pencils, pens and all the other stuff that goes with it.   In many ways, it’s still a real throwback to eras gone by.  I think if someone who hasn’t been around  since say 1970 was beamed in to a modern day homework session, it wouldn’t be all that strange or foreign.  Much would be recognizable.

As parents it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggling, the angst, teeth gnashing and displays of emotion, as the child rolls around on the floor doing everything to get out of doing homework.

I never have known whether homework has legitimate value as a learning tool for reinforcing or broadening skills.  I do think homework has symbolic value and if you think of homework as a symbolic process that school (society) imparts on children then you as a parent will not get so caught up in the roller coaster of emotions and reactions.

Without stating it directly, the symbolic process of homework conveys an underlying value that says something like the following:

In order to be a functioning member of society you need to learn a few things, like getting out of bed and showing up on time.  As adults you will probably have deadlines for different tasks doing this thing we call a ‘job’ and it is in your interest to meet the deadlines.  Just hanging out and watching TV or going on the internet is not going to cut it.”

If kids were given this message directly in lecture form they would certainly tune it out and stare into the attention-deficit ether, not listening to a word of it. So the message is given indirectly through homework, starting in first grade continuing all the way through high school and even college.

As overseers, parents should practice their role and stance, with no strong reactions, no large arguments. Your job as parent overseer is to be empathetic, while shrugging your shoulders and conveying a message like, “I know.  It’s not fun, but you have to deal with it.  That’s your job,” without actually saying the words.

You too, are giving indirect messages.

Nonverbal body language conveys plenty.

So does homework.


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Copyright, 2018 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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