Do All Parents Hate Homework?
I remember talking to my good friend from work whose son attended an elementary school in a more "academically rigorous" district. My daughter was in the first grade then, her son in the second. She was expressing concern with the amount of homework he received, especially writing homework, and with the impact homework was making on their home life. Not only second grade students were doing homework for more than an hour every night, they were made to redo their homework the next day if it was done sloppily or with mistakes. I was horrified and suggested that she talked to other parents about it. My friend said, I tried but other parents appear to like it. They say that by working hard now, their students are acquiring good work habits. It amused me, because the district in question is known for its high percentage of Asian families, and I also experienced first hand that the attitude to homework is very different between cultures. This is real, folks - not all parents hate homework, and in some districts around us parental surveys returned desire to keep homework on existing levels and even increase it.
But Is Homework in Elementary School Really Necessary?
Research shows again and again a lack of significant correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school. I personally think that these findings are especially relevant for students in grades K-2 where kids absolutely need to spend their after school time in enjoyable activities of their own choosing. After all, for better or for worse, the kids of that age spend hours in school every day learning nothing but reading, writing, and basic math skills. With this amount of intense repetition in school, why would they need even more time at home to practice the same skills?
I think it's reasonable to expect a certain amount of homework for upper elementary grades (3-5) - no more than 10 minutes per grade as long as it's relevant and tailored to students' levels. I think it's reasonable, for example, to ask students to research a certain topic or to do a few problems to reinforce math unit. I certainly don't find it reasonable when entire projects are pushed to students and parents to execute at home, and the students are graded on those projects. It was painful when in the second grade our students did a heritage country study report, and a few kids with working single parents were shamed for not being able to complete their project.
What About Reading?
Don't get me wrong - I believe that every child should be reading during their free hours, or they should be read to. In our school, kindergartners had a "book bag" program where they would receive one book a week home from school. First graders and up had a weekly library visits, so school was making sure that even kids without books at home had appropriate reading material. But I don't like the idea of tracking reading minutes and signing reading logs. It turns an activity that most kids and parents want to do into an activity that they must do through a schedule enforced by school. Intrinsic motivation is removed and the pressure to read might kill the joy of reading and listening to books for reluctant readers.
Homework in Middle School
I saw some people saying that homework is not necessary even in middle school. I don't agree with this thought, because, as the number of subjects increases, they don't happen as often as they do in elementary school and, with all the group work and instruction time happening in the classroom, kids do not have enough time for individual practice or review to reinforce the concepts. I just wish that homework did not go from almost none in elementary school to quite a bit in the first weeks of the middle school. For the first time ever Smarty has homework that takes longer than 10 minutes. She still struggles with the idea that teachers expect students to actually show their work and not just to write down answers to homework problems, because they are "too easy". I wish middle school homework started a bit slower and with clearer expectations, but I think that managing homework for multiple subjects will help kids develop and strengthen executive skills needed for success in higher grades, so I am definitely in favor of having it... as long as it does not exceed one hour on a school night. I just really don't want weekend homework, because we want to be able to have fun, see friends, and relax during the weekend without worrying about unfinished homework.
If your kids attend a school outside their home, do they get homework and how much?
More Thoughts for Public School Students and Their Parents
From my blog:
- An interview before the start of a new school year
- Get a peek inside your students' minds
- Demystifying homework struggles
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