Why doing homework with your child won’t make them a better student (unless you have higher education and money)
All parents want to spend time with their children. And almost everyone wants their children to play a sport, do their homework regularly, or play an instrument. Many times they want to do all this with them, thinking that this will improve their skills and their academic performance. But it seems that no, that even if quality time is spent with them, this is not enough for the children to get good grades. A recent investigation, published this April 2023 by the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), concludes that what really matters is the socioeconomic level of the parents.
With a sample of more than 8,000 children between the ages of seven and 11, the study determines that the fact that parents and children do activities together does not affect their school success, “despite the parents’ guilt for not doing so.” They explain in a statement. Data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which involves a nationally representative sample of people born between 2000 and 2002, was used to analyze teacher assessments of children’s progress in math and creative subjects, and the amount of time spent parents spent time with them in activities like doing homework together, reading with them, adding and subtracting. Everything, according to the conclusions, has a very small impact on the academic evaluation of the kids.
Exactly, the data indicates that minors whose parents help them frequently, were only 1.8% more likely to be evaluated “above average” by their teachers. Meanwhile, the time parents spent in musical or creative activities with their children had no effect. But nevertheless having parents with college degrees and from a high socioeconomic class practically doubles the possibility that teachers will evaluate children favorably.
“These results show that spending time with children doing homework or playing an instrument is much less significant for academic achievement than class, income, and parents’ educational level,” explains Professor Lin Ding, lead author in the text. of the study. “For example, parents from different social classes may read to their children, but the selection of reading materials and the explanation that comes with it may differ,” adds Ding.
“Something that is undeniable is that socioeconomic status affects children’s upbringing and school skills,” explains Marta Guerra, a psychologist at the Cláritas Institute. “Now, spending time with the children is a variable with which care must be taken when drawing conclusions, since the quality of that shared time must be taken into account,” adds the expert. To support the conclusion mentioned in the study, it would be necessary to analyze how the data was collected and the analyzes that have been carried out, although the probabilities that it is true are high. “One reason that explains the previous conclusion is that, no matter how much time parents can spend with their children, even if it is quality time, it will have more weight that these children live in houses where they have, for example, their own room , suitable for studying, a good mattress or quality food”, he explains.
“Indeed, the level of studies of the parents affects the academic performance of the children,” emphasizes Ismael Sanz Labrador, professor of Economics at the Juan Carlos University and at the London School of Economics: “On May 16, the results of PIRLS (Progress in Reading Comprehension), an international reading test aimed at fourth grade students, in which more than 45 countries participate, including Spain. In its last edition, from 2016, this association was already seen between the educational level of the parents and the academic results of the children”. Sanz explains that both this test and the PISA —International Program for Student Assessment— always calculate the socioeconomic level of the parents, taking into account their educational level, the profession of both and the resources that are at home (room for you alone , internet or computer).
In addition, according to the expert, the latest data from the Ministry of Education on the school dropout rate in 2022 show that the probability of leaving school without having completed high school, secondary or basic education is 36.1% if the mother has, at most, Primary School studies ―the data from the Ministry were made with mothers, but the expert equates the values to fathers―. “On the contrary, if they have higher education, the dropout rate drops to 3.6%,” he confirms. “In short, if from a young age you internalize that your mother and father have higher education, the usual thing is that you also take them”, he emphasizes: “What’s more, you don’t even consider the opposite. While if there has been no one in your family who has gone to university, this means an important leap because nobody has paved the way for you, you do not have anyone to advise you and then you wonder if you continue studying or not ”.
As the expert explains, at the age of four or five, the fact that they read you stories, comics, the language you hear affects you positively: “There are studies that show that, already at this age, there is a difference in the richness of vocabulary of children of parents with higher studies compared to those who do not and this is also important in non-cognitive skills -empathy, patience, impulse control or concentration-“.
For Sanz, the differences begin to be marked in Infant and Primary. “It is in these courses when you have to try to make an effort to achieve equal opportunities. Promoting compulsory education from 0 to 3 years and from 3 to 6 years is a very necessary measure for children from disadvantaged backgrounds because the alternative for them is not going to be reading stories or comics, but watching TV and little else. If the parents want and can, it is essential that they go to the Nursery School as soon as possible ”, she explains. For the expert, education is the most viable and realistic way to approach equality. Another measure to fight against the inequality proposed by Sanz would be to lower the ratio of students per classroom, especially in “those most disadvantaged areas so that they have a more personalized education”, since doing it globally “is very difficult and involves a budget very high”
The importance of time with children
Spending time with the children is important, especially if they show interest, according to Sanz. That is, if he is asked how school was, how his homework is going, or who he has played with in the yard today. “But not with a supervisory spirit. These types of issues that denote that you care about your child’s education make them feel that you participate in school life and influence their well-being, such as when you meet the tutor or meet the mothers and fathers of the center. Although the study is right, I believe that parents who do not have a high socioeconomic level can thus have a very positive influence on their children and their academic performance”.
The 16 years are key. Sanz maintains that “this is where some young people stop studying” and, therefore, “it is a critical moment and getting involved is essential”. Sonia López Iglesias, educational psychologist, points out that “if their families are not present and available they will not obtain good results, especially in Secondary and Baccalaureate.” In her opinion, even if the student has a good situation, if she feels that her parents do not show interest in her studies, do not value her effort or do not offer help, surely her results will suffer. “A child or adolescent needs to feel the warmth and interest of their parents, share time with them to build a secure attachment,” says the educational psychologist. For this expert, if a child does not feel this emotional connection, it will be difficult for him to be able to overcome academic difficulties.
The same is the opinion of Rafael Guerrero, child and adolescent psychologist at Darwin Psicólogos, for whom spending quality time with children playing, doing shared leisure tasks or even with school tasks strengthens the parent-child bond and develops their brain: “We know that music, art, sports and any activity that allows children to freely express themselves in the presence of their parents will help develop their prefrontal cortex, a determining structure in life in general and in academic performance in particular”.
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