09/24/2014 06:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can Just 30 Minutes a Day Make a Difference in a Child's Education?

I am a musician. I play several instruments and I was a band director before going into administration. I will be the first to admit that practicing is not the most fun a kid can have, but it isn't the worst time spent either. I started music lessons at age 5. To get me to practice, my parents used everything from reward charts to physically sitting with me while I practiced. My parents understood the importance of practice in order to reach a proficient level on an instrument. After getting to a point where I understood the difference practicing made in my skill level, practice became enjoyable, AND 30 minutes a day was not enough for me. It was then that I realized that I wanted to play and enjoy music for the rest of my life.

I also played soccer and basketball. My dad became my soccer team's coach and we practiced weekly. At home, my father would kick the ball with me every day and run mini-practices with my neighborhood friends several times a week. He understood the importance of practice in order to reach a proficient level in a sport. After getting to the point where I understood how practice was making me a much better player, soccer practice became fun, AND I wanted more. It was then that I realized that I wanted to play soccer for a long time and eventually coach my son's team, which I now do.

I am also an avid reader and a true lifelong learner. My parents saw to that. I had to do my homework before music or sports. They sat with me when I was being difficult and praised me when I did well. They rewarded me with recognition when I brought home a good grade and taught me what I did wrong when I had a poor grade. They made education a priority. Once homework became more interesting and (dare I say) fun, I wanted to learn more about my areas of interest. That's when I realized that I wanted to be a lifelong learner and today I am never without a book.


All three of these examples have a couple things in common. First there was a parent that cared and was an active participant in all three activities. Secondly, there was practice! Lots and lots of practice.

With anything a child wants to learn and master, there must be an allotted time for practice. Typically, no one will argue when a coach sets several practices a week to prepare for the big game. No one argues with the band director or drama director when they set a month-long practice schedule before the show. Why do parents question daily homework or study sheets that need to be completed before a test?

Homework is practice. You should practice at least 30 minutes a day on your academics just as you would an instrument or a sport. If you play multiple instruments or multiple sports, do you get one 30 minute practice session for both? Of course not, you practice 30 minutes for baseball then 30 minutes for soccer etc. The same goes for reading and math, science and social studies.

Parents must be active participants in their child's academic career. That does not mean doing the homework for their child. That would be counterproductive. You can be an active participant by making sure you remind them to do the homework, by seeing to it that it gets completed, and by reviewing the homework when it is completed, Homework is your child's academic practice. He/she needs rewards and consequences and a great deal of encouragement. Let's make learning a priority and practice every day.