Archive for the ‘Homework’ Category

Leave Parents Alone When it Comes to Homework

October 7, 2012


I always tell the parents of my students when they inquire about homework that it is NOT their job to do homework. They already had their lifetime supply of homework when they were a child. Why should they have to revisit primary school homework as an adult?

I am expected to give homework as it is part of my school’s philosophy. Even so, I am very careful that the homework is merely a revision of what I am covering in class. There is nothing new and it’s certainly not a random worksheet designed to keep the students occupied.

I then encourage my students to merely read their homework on the first night (they don’t have to actually begin it), and if there is anything they don’t understand, to circle it and let me know about it the next school day. Explaining the homework is NOT the responsibility of parents, it’s the responsibility of teachers. No parent should ever feel compelled to sit down and figure out their child’s schoolwork.

The home is for quality family time not the stresses and arguments that occur when children rely on their parents to spoon feed them their homework answers.

That is why I found this article particularly grating:

TEACHERS want parents to sign homework contracts so mums and dads acknowledge what is expected of them and their children.

The age-old homework debate about what’s too much and what’s not enough has been thrust back into the spotlight after Federal Parliament set up an inquiry into teaching, including the “influence of family members”.

Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates said parents needed to be involved in their children’s after-school learning.

“It’s at the point of enrolment. You sign-up, like a contract (and) it provides expectations … some schools already do it.”

It comes as the Australia Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos has conceded homework had become a burden for some families who were struggling with modern life.

“There are growing levels of parental anxiety (with homework). Every parent wants their kids to have an edge,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“I’ve heard it said before that homework is a burden on parents.”

He said some parents claimed their kids got too much and others wanted more. Some parents did homework for their children.

Age-appropriate homework was proven to help children learn. However, schools with students from lower socio-economic backgrounds should get more government funding to help set up systems such as homework centres, he said.

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said he understood how parents had become anxious about helping with their children’s schoolwork.

“It’s our job to make sure we work with them and point out to them that your child doesn’t need to get everything right,” Mr Langbroek said.

He said parents had complained to him, saying, “I’m not a teacher”.

Click on the link to read Parents Urged to do the Job of a Teacher

Click on the link to read This is What You Get for Doing Your Homework

Click on the link to read Experts Call For Homework to Be Abolished

Click on the link to read The Case in Favour of Homework

This is What You Get for Doing Your Homework

August 17, 2012

An after-school program offered its students the opportunity to make a rap-session for those who completed their homework. The result is a rap video that has gone viral:

Both the song and video were produced as part of the Beats And Rhymes after-school program at the North Community YMCA in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kids who participate in the program are rewarded with a chance to flex their rap skills on camera if they keep up with their schoolwork.

“Each student has to complete their homework in order to participate in the after-school rap session, which encourages self-expression, hard work and dedication, all while fostering talent in these young kids,” writes Erik Thompson of local news outlet City Pages. “Qualities which will clearly be beneficial to them as they make their way through life.”

Professional beat producers and videographers helped the kids craft their final product, but the creative drive behind Hot Cheetos & Takis is 100 per cent ‘Y.N. RichKids crew.’

Click on the link to read Parents Urged to do the Job of a Teacher

Click on the link to read Student Walks By Without Helping Injured Janitor

Click on the link to read Experts Call For Homework to Be Abolished

Click on the link to read The Case in Favour of Homework

Parents Urged to do the Job of a Teacher

March 1, 2012

It is my belief that the job of a parent is to parent and the job of the teacher is to teach. Sure it’s wonderful when parents take it upon themselves to help reinforce skills taught in class. I am always appreciative of parents that spare some time to revise concepts covered during the school day. But essentially, I am paid to ensure that the parents can spend textbook-free quality time with their children. This is in my view essential to maximising the relationship of child and parent. Children often show a reluctance to work through school material with their parents and parents often get very anxious when trying to get their children to concentrate and listen to their explanations.

It is my job to see it that parents are free to spend time with their children without having to go through the ordeal of maths and science work. That’s what they pay me for.

But unfortunately, it seems that we are not doing a good enough job. It seems as if parents have often been given little choice but to try to fill in the gaps we have left behind. You hear too many stories of parents frantically trying to complete their own childs’ homework, sometimes struggling to work out the answers themselves:

A quarter of parents in Reading admit that helping their children with homework leads to family arguments, according to a survey.

Research by tuition provider Explore Learning also showed 9.2 per cent rarely helped their children with homework with more than two thirds struggling when they did.

Maths confuses parents the most with 41.2 per cent of parents finding the subject hard to grasp compared to the 11.1 per cent of parents who find English difficult.

Nationally, nearly a third of parents admitted homework had caused friction in the family with Reading not straying far from the average when it came to struggling in maths and English.

It’s time we let parents bond with their children instead of getting them to do our dirty work. Homework, if administered at all, should be revision of concepts covered in the class. If the children are not capable of doing it independently it shouldn’t have been given to them in the first place.

Experts Call For Homework to Be Abolished

December 12, 2011

I was once strongly opposed to homework, but I have since softened my approach. It’s not that I believe homework is a good thing, it’s just that I have observed what children do withn the extra time and I can’t say it’s productive. Quite apart from playing in the backyard or walking the dog, kids are more likely to spend their waking hours on the computer or watching television.

Whilst experts believe abolishing homework will free up time for healthy activities, the truth is that it will only result in more time in front of a screen.

CHILDREN are spending too much time “sitting around”, looking at screens and doing homework, when they should be outside playing.

New Deakin University research suggests parents should encourage children to play the old-fashioned way outside with mates rather than nagging them to complete homework or allowing them to watch TV or use computers, the Geelong Advertiser reports.

Associate head of research at Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Professor Jo Salmon, yesterday said pushing kids outdoors to play would help improve the health and happiness of children.

Parents needed to set rules around the amount of screen time children were allowed every day, and enforce a limit of two hours in total, Professor Salmon said.

They should also try not to place too much academic pressure on their kids and recognise that playing outside and being active was probably better for children than sitting inside practising spelling or sums.

While previous generations of children would come home from school, have a quick snack and then head straight outside to play until dinner time, most children now came home from school and propped on the couch, their bed or at a desk, she said.

Recently named one Australia’s top child health researchers by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Salmon said while she was an optimist by nature, she was concerned for the future health of Australian children.

I was once an optimist too. I hoped that instead of homework, my students could help wash dishes or take on some other household duties. I hoped they could go to the library and borrow books. But that is not what happens in reality.

So I am now faced with a choice. Do I prescribe homework that serves as revision for skills taught during the week in class or do I just let them use the extra time for more television and video games?

The Case in Favour of Homework

September 24, 2011

I used to be philosophically opposed to homework in all forms.  That was, until I witnessed how my students used their after-school time.  It was then, that I realised that ten to fifteen minutes a night would constitute the only meaningful activity some of these students would take part in on a given night.

I am still hardly a proponent of homework, but I do share some of the opinions of author and teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh:

The radio presenter Alan Jones doesn’t believe in homework because children should have time to play outside and learn skills that only time after school with your family can teach. Normally, I would agree. But do children today have these types of experiences after school?

Families are so busy working that when children come home, they often sit in front of the TV for hours or play computer games. Children spend hours every day networking on Facebook. Exhausted parents do not realise just how dangerous these modern technological tools can be.

Technology can open a world of excitement to children. Yet it can also glorify gangster lifestyles through MTV, and encourage the use of bad language and ”text speak” in social networking.

An hour of homework a night distracts children from such activities and enables them to practise what they were taught at school. Excellent learning requires constant revisiting, and homework is the perfect tool to reinforce facts and skills. Teachers often find that children forget what they learnt the day before. At high school, you may not see your history or geography teacher for a few days until the next lesson. Without any homework in between to bridge the gap, often teachers take two steps forward, then one step back in the following lesson.

It is the school’s responsibility to inform parents that homework has been set – easily done through a diary system. The school should also ensure the homework set is of quality and not some assignment that can essentially be downloaded from the internet. Equally, it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure homework gets done.

I object to her call for an hour of homework per day, but I do currently favour 10-15 minutes of revision work, to consolidate on skills and concepts currently being covered in class.
Anthony Purcell from the brilliant blog Educationally Minded employs a similar strategy for homework inspired by his will to see his students gain some confidence from working independently:
Well, I have taught math in the past. My thoughts on homework was that if students had homework, they didn’t get finished in class. I never assigned homework. Homework was there if they didn’t get finished in class, but most times students did.

Now that I teach Science, it’s the same way. A lot of what we do is in class, hands-on activities. Homework are the questions they didn’t get to because they were goofing off or not focused in class.

In my opinion, teachers who teach the entire period and allow no work time are not good teachers. Students need to know they are being successful and have confidence. They can’t have a teacher telling them they are correct when they are at home.

This topic remains a very contentious one.  I look forward to reading your opinions on this much discussed issue.

Should Primary Students Get Homework?

June 12, 2011

I have dwelled on this very question throughout my career thus far.  At the moment I am ‘for’ homework with the following conditions:

  1. It be no longer than 15 minutes a night
  2. That it not be new work but rather revision of class work
  3. That students have time to read questions and see me if they need clarification rather than go straight to their parents in a panic
  4. That it not be given in busy or stressful weeks such as the week of National Testing

Why am I “for’ homework?  Whilst ideally my homework would be to help set the table or to share the days learning with a parent, in reality it is not for me to prescribe domestic chores or family interactions.  I then have to weigh up what is better for the child – the opportunity to fit in a bit of revision or the inevitability that most students will go home and vegetate in front of the computer or TV.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg disagrees with me:

HOMEWORK in primary school is needless, does not contribute to academic performance and adds unnecessary stress to families, child development experts say.

“It’s hijacking family life, it’s bound to cause arguments and it’s turning kids into couch potatoes,” said prominent child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.

Most studies show homework either has a negative impact or no impact on the achievements of primary school students, he said.

“The whole thing is a farce, it is modern-day cod liver oil; people think it’s good for them but it’s not.” 

In a study, soon to be published in the journal Economics of Education Review, US researchers assessed 25,000 Grade 8 children and discovered only maths homework had a significant improvement on test scores.

Helen Walton, president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Association, said homework, which is set by individual schools, was a source of ongoing family stress.

“Our position is we don’t like the ‘must do’ attitude about it, that if kids don’t do it there will be consequences. It should be optional. Homework is a stressful time for parents because kids are tired and hungry and distracted and it becomes a struggle.”

Educational consultant Dr Ian Lillico said homework for primary school children was a major contributor to childhood obesity.

The founder of the Boys Forward Institute and author of The Homework Grid, said homework should consist of interactive learning opportunities like a game of Scrabble with parents or a visit to the theatre.

Dr Shelly Hyman said daughter Samsara, 8, has too much homework: “The tears and the argument that go on, especially because my daughter goes to after-school care, where is the free time?”

What is your take on homework?  Is it responsible for creating stress at home?

Parents, Don’t Do Your Kids’ Homework!

February 7, 2011

The other day I took my daughter to the museum to see an exhibit on Africa.  We sat down to do an African inspired craft activity where I witnessed a loving mother helping her daughter design and decorate her artwork.  I use the word “help” very loosely, because in fact she was basically doing the whole thing for her.  Soon the child’s father joined them.  What ensued was a disagreement between the child’s father and mother over what design strategy to use and what colours worked best.  What was supposed to be an activity for the child, became a chance for the parents to let their child sit aimlessly while her parents took over.

This is a common syndrome when it comes to homework.  Parents often end up doing their child’s homework.  Whilst I understand that they do this out of love as well as to diffuse some of their child’s anxiety over the complexity of the set task, I strongly urge parents to desist from this practice.  Even though in the short-term the child is grateful that the homework can now be submitted without too much heartache, in the long-term they have neither demonstrated capability in successfully mastering the task nor have they managed to calmly work through a challenge.  I accept that parents use homework as a chance to spend some quality time with their kids on a weeknight (where time with the kids is often at a premium), but there are better ways to show your children that you love them and support them.

Whilst there are some strong arguments for abolishing homework (which I will cover at a later date), I’d instead like to focus on what homework should be and how parents can help without feeling a need to take over:

  1. Homework should be revision.  It should not introduce a new concept or skill.  It should simply be a vehicle for students to demonstrate how well they understood what was covered in class that week.  If the child is bringing home work that was not introduced in class, I advise you to see the teacher.
  2. Most teachers give a few days to complete the homework.  I strongly urge my students to use night one to read over the homework and circle any question that they don’t understand.  Then, instead of approaching their parents, come see me the next day.  Of course, I am not restricting the parents from helping their kids, I am merely offering my help as the first option.  In my opinion, parents have already spent most of their youth completing homework, they have paid their debt to education and should now be allowed to enjoy a homework-free life.
  3. When the student approaches the teacher early on about difficulties in the homework, they are showing a great deal of responsibility and assertiveness.  This isn’t lost on the teacher.  So if the students maintains this sort of dialogue with their teacher, extensions are likely to be given should they struggle to meet the deadline.
  4. The best help you can give your children, when assisting them through a homework task is patience and perspective.  Offer your services by all means, but ensure that unlike the girl at the craft table, they end up having ownership of their work.  Kids are not proud of their parents homework, they are proud of their own achievements.  Whilst instilling independence and confidence in children may sometimes feel like an overwhelming proposition, the payoff is huge.  I would rather my students hand in a piece of homework that they took ownership of that was full of mistakes than a brilliant piece ultimately done by mum or dad.

We can easily look at parents who are doing their children’s homework in a judgmental light, whilst calling them enablers and accusing them of spoiling their children.  This is not the right approach.  These parents are often loving parents that don’t know how best to act in a complex situation.

Hopefully the above tips are of some assistance.

Homework: Is it a Good Thing?

December 12, 2010

I used to be a non-believer when it came to homework.  I used to think that my students work long and hard enough during the day, and that their evenings should be as comfortable and stress-free as possible.  I believed that beyond reading practice, the only work Primary kids should do after school is help their parents with chores such as setting the table and maintaining a clean room.

Homework can be nothing more than a device in keeping kids busy.  It can, if administered improperly, do precious little to extend the child and develop their skills.  But what I’ve found is, homework, when properly considered and developed, can help students revise and build on concepts covered in class.  For example, worded questions featuring relevant, everyday situations, can be a great homework activity to complement maths skills taught in class.

Whilst I still think that the best work a child can do at home is contribute to the running of the house, that really isn’t any of my business.  Realistically speaking, kids tend to waste a lot of time watching television and surfing the internet.  A few follow-up questions on concepts learnt in class seem both fair and beneficial to the child.

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