Monday, April 9, 2012

My Kid Is Drowning in Homework - Why Parents Should Be Speaking Up and How

Mathematics homework
Mathematics homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thea is only 3 and is nowhere near the homework assigning level, thank goodness. And yet, already it is an issue I come back to frequently in my mind, particularly as I get my fabulous 5th graders ready for middle school.  Speaking to some middle school teachers and hearing to expect at least 1 1/2 hours of homework every night and that no regard is taking for homework assigned by other teachers.  Yikes.  From a teacher perspective I have made my stance clear on how I feel about homework and how over-assigned it is, but what about for parents?  What can you truly do as a parent when sending your child to school to help them handle the insanity of homework as well as to maybe, just maybe, start a dialogue with their teachers?  Here a few things to start you out.

  • Get clarification on general statements.  If a teacher throws out an arbitrary number for homework minutes like I used to do on orientation day, ask them what it looks like.  When they say 50 minutes of homework, which child are they referring to?  Are they referring to a well-adjusted, high-level learner, or to a more sluggish paced child?  Which child will spend 50 minutes? Is that the maximum any child will spend?  At the very least it may make the teacher think about the 10 minutes X grade level rule so many of us have used as our standard.
  • Ask whether there will be punishment involved.  What happens to the child that does not do their homework?  Different teachers have different policies.  Some take away recess, something I shy away from because I don't think I have the right to, others give them a chance to make up for it.  Some, like me, simply ask them to bring it the following day or try to not assign much.  This is going to directly effect your child and their view of homework, so do ask what will happen if they don't hand something in.
  • Figure out your parental level of involvement.  Are you supposed to help or is this homework only for the child?  How are you allowed to help?  Would the teacher rather know if the child cannot complete a task by themselves (one would hope so!).  These are all important questions to ask as well and leads directly to the next point.
  • Ask what the purpose of homework is.  Is it used for grading?  Is it used for assessment?  Why does their homework look like it does and what is the end result of that homework?  This discussion goes way beyond just a general statement but it is vital.  Too often we assume that whatever a teacher assigns must have value otherwise it wouldn't be assigned.  Having been that teacher I can tell you that is not the case!  So find out what the purpose is.
  • Search your soul.  Many of us think homework should be something certain because of what we experienced but even for this youngish teacher, school has changed drastically since I graduated.  Make sure that your homework expectations are not based on what you feel helped you as a learner, figure out instead what will help your child, after all you do know them better than the teacher but they are not you, no matter how much we see the resemblance.
  • Ask questions.  I am never bothered when parents ask me questions, in fact, I cherish their feedback and often wisdom about their child.  I differentiate assignments, I give class time and I try to not involve parents much simply because it is not them that need to learn a concept.  Yet I still fail sometimes, I still learn from my mistakes and I don't always have the answer to something.  So start a dialogue and start it early, it can be something as simple as a line or two in an email and does not need to be often.  It will benefit all parties involved all year.
  • And finally, stand your ground.  As a parent I will expect Thea to apply herself in school and to give school her best in the hours she is there.  Once she is home, homework should not take up the majority of her afternoon and evening.  As she gets older, sure, there will be projects, papers, reading etc.  But she should not be having to give up most of her free time for worksheets or other repetitive tasks, and I will discuss this with her future teachers.  You can do this nicely and it may lead to a very interesting conversation.  Simply said; it is ok for parents to question a teacher's homework philosophy.

7 comments:

laura said...

I teach 8th grade and am on the Leadership Team in my middle school. I do not assign homework unless a student has been absent for an extended period of time. I see no reason to. Almost no one in my middle school does. I was surprised to hear, however, that at my next Leadership meeting we would be discussion homework - how to get teachers to START giving it next year. I am trying to prepare myself for this meeting... I hope I'm not heading into a losing battle. Any advice/thoughts?

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Laura, I am sorry to hear that. I would definitely be ready to discuss and read up on research. Alfie Kohn is a great place to start. I would also be ready to stand up for why you do the things you do and offer up ideas, solutions, and advice. There are so many reasons why not to assign homework, or at the very least still let teachers keep their autonomy in the decision.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is in the 8th grade and often drowns in homework - from projects to reading to research to worksheets - you name it, she gets it. She doesn't get time to relax and recharge. I wrote a letter, a heartfelt plea that this be looked into. A promise was made that it would be addressed.
At the end of last term her report card stated that SHE needed to improve her time management so that she could get more time to relax at home... My battle continues.

Mark Barnes said...

Laura, if your staff wants to go to a homework model, ask anyone in favor of this ridiculous notion to produce valid research that demonstrates a clear connection between learning and homework.

If they quote Robert Marzano or Harris Cooper, pull up this blog post, http://resultsonlylearning.blogspot.com/2011/12/exposing-bad-homework-research.html. Plus, you can tell them that LA Unified Schools, the second-largest in the nation, are minimizing the value of HW and disallowing completely at some grades.

Finally, challenge your peers to teach a unit without HW and see how learning goes. If they're honest, they'll see that their own unit test scores don't decrease.

Good luck.

drkengoldberg said...

I am a strong believer in parents having the final say about homework. I don't object to teachers assigning homework but I do object to teachers having authority that overrides the decisions parents make in their own homes. On my website, you can find a comprehensive explanation of my position. www.thehomeworktrap.com.xx

Amanda Bowers said...

My son is in 2nd grade and every day he comes home with 3-4 worksheets to get through plus reading assignments. I never had much homework until middle school so I am confused as to why, in 2nd grade, a child could require so much after-school reinforcement.

CherubMamma said...

I'm almost positive that my THREE YEAR OLD is going to be starting homework today in his Head Start class. He's my foster son and I am required to send him to school. I've been reeling all morning about him bringing home homework!!! It's a losing battle where I live. Homework is in every single grade and almost all of it is worthless. Needless to say, I finally pulled my forever kids and started homeschooling them this year. I couldn't take the crazy anymore.

 

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