Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Complex Issue of Homework Part 1

I have very mixed feelings about homework. As a parent, I hated it. It caused all kinds of problems for my son with attention difficulties and I often felt like the heavy. In fact, I thought the best part of summer vacation was the lack of homework.

I wasn’t all that fond of homework as a teacher, either. I knew it had some value but I also knew how stressful it was for my students and their families.
When researching for this post, I found some tips and resources that would have been helpful to me as a parent and a teacher. I hope you find these tips helpful to you.

Good Homework
  • Introduces/encourages the development of organizational skills
  • Introduces/encourages the development of time management skills
  • Introduces/encourages the development of independent work habits
  • Is at the student’s independent level – is not too hard or too easy
  • Has a purpose that students understand
  • Reinforces what was learned in class
  • Gives practice to strengthen new skills
  • Informs teachers as to whether their teaching is effective
  • Informs parents as to what their children are learning

As a teacher, I can tell you that assigning homework that meets these criteria is not easy. Especially if the students in the class represent a range of skills and abilities. And every class has students that represent a range of skills and abilities.

Issues that make homework challenging
  • The work is too hard.
  • The reading level is too hard.
  • The work seems too easy or lame.
  • The child dislikes school and does not want to continue the misery at home.
  • The child has no desire to please the assigning teacher.
  • Struggling over homework provides the child with parent attention.
  • Attention issues interfere with listening during the lesson(s) when the skill/information was presented.
  • Attention issues make settling down and attending to homework close to impossible.
  • The child doesn't understand the directions/what is expected.
  • The child sees no point in working on the assignment.

Homework is not a simple subject! The good thing is many people have put a lot of thought into the issues surrounding homework and have provided suggestions. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Next week’s post will provide more.

Face it, kids often have very little power over what happens in their lives, especially about school. They have to go to school for 6 hours a day. They have to do homework. However, it’s possible to give kids some control over how they go about doing their homework. Consider these variables:
Who Most kids need some guidance during homework. Who does your child work best with? Mom? Dad? Sibling? Grandparent? Neighbor? I know of some parents who pay an older sibling (or trade off chores) to be the homework helper.
What What does your child want to work on first? Are there other choices – like type of paper used, color pen, etc.? What good thing happens when some/all of the work is done?
Where The place where homework is done can be important and quite individual. Some kids like to work close to other people, others prefer to work alone. Some kids need supervision, others do best when allowed to be independent.
When Right after school? After a play break? After dinner? First thing in the morning?
How Music on? At a desk? Sprawled on the floor? On the computer?

Each of these variables will be expanded upon in The Complex Issue of Homework Part 2. Meanwhile, please write some of your ideas or thoughts in the Comments box.


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