Back to School and Thinking About Homework
This post is about the new school year and thinking about homework for K-2 public school parents and teachers. Back to homework is rarely without issues. I have previously written about this topic, but it is really a big issue for parents and teachers so worth discussing again.
As a public school teacher, parents, and even children would ask for no homework, homework they could help with, or homework that could independently be completed by the child. What is best? I will discuss each philosophy here, and try to give some perspective. Experts actually have no definitive agreement or research on weather or not homework has long term benefits. There are ongoing debates about the effectiveness of homework. The lack of agreement about homework explains why different schools and teachers have different guidelines regarding homework. However, the one area of total agreement is that children should read and be read to at home. Reading outside of school has huge academic benefits. Simply reading aloud to children or having them read beginning readers does not develop literacy without caregivers discussing the books and pictures, though.
This post is part of a series of posts by bloggers for public education, and here are links to more posts about going back to school.
Volunteer at Your Child’s School When You Have Little Time from The Resourceful Mama
What I Love About School Art Projects from Planet Smarty Pants
Dear Teacher… from Creative Family Fun
Free Weekly School Calendar from 3 Dinosaurs
10 Ways to be an Awesome Public School Mom from Thriving STEM
There are teachers and parents who want children to have no homework in K-2. This is actually very reasonable, but parents fear good homework habits cannot later be established. There is no proof homework actually has any long term benefit for young children, as well as no proof it doesn’t help. Some schools have no homework policies. I taught in a team of teachers who did not give homework worksheets or spelling tests. Children at this age are fairly stretched academically at school, and are often tired after school. Liken this to a tough day at the office, would you rather read an academic book or look through a magazine? Of course children and schools vary so this cannot be a one size fits all answer. In this situation, just a few pages of ideas may be sent home to parents once at the beginning of the year listing possible spelling words and math facts, with suggestions about playing simple games for practice. Parents in this situation will probably want to find some more educational opportunities for their children.
Parents and children are often looking forward to having homework. Children with older siblings really want to do homework when the other children are working. This usually means work the children can do independently, but often more difficult work is sent home. Some schools have a ten minute per grade level policy, which is reasonable. That means a first grader would have 10 minutes of homework a night. This helps establish routine and work habits. However, if the homework is extension work such as in the Everyday Math program, much more than ten minutes can be required. For ten minute sessions, simple worksheets or spelling words are best. The work really needs to be work the child will not require much parent help to complete. Just a note, the school mentioned above with the no homework policy has now adjusted to the ten minutes of night plan. Most parents prefer to have some homework for their children. Additionally, the work all pages for the week need to be sent home on a Monday and finished by Friday so there is not the nightly stress of having to hand in homework by the next day. This avoids messages and questions about why homework wasn’t completed, and also allows children to turn it in daily if they wish.
Finally, some schools send home extension homework or longer lists of spelling words. Oh, my, some parents hate this and some parents love the chance to be really involved in the education of their children. This is where the confusion and debate happens most of the time. Common core standards homework can be very stressful to parents and children. “That isn’t how I learned it!” is what the adults at home say. The child may feel his or her parent doesn’t understand math. A steady diet of homework that cannot be completed without knowledgeable adult help is usually going to either not be completed, returned to school with incorrect answers (how do teachers correct parents), or sometimes even finished with obvious adult handwriting on the pages. I taught in a school district with the Everyday Math program, and the homework was extension learning, not simple practice. I had the issues I just mentioned even though all the answers for all the grade level homework was online and accessible to all the parents in the form of Family Letters. I even printed the answers for parents at the beginning of each chapter, and many times was told I didn’t send it home. Most parents just do not want homework to take their time, although some love to be very involved. This type of learning is for fewer rather than most families. One solution for this is the flipped classroom where the extension learning is accomplished at school, and routine practice is sent home.
All in all, you can tell this is an opinionated piece of writing and that I favor the 10 minute per night per grade level approach in K-2. That means no homework at all for kindergarten, but rather just read and discuss books at home as well as incorporating math into daily life family activities. I also really think more than 30 minutes a night for grade levels 3-6 should be rule as many children are participating in out of school activities, sports, and other opportunities.
Further Ideas on How Parents Can Foster Learning at Home
I wrote a guest post for the Cult of Pedagogy blog about reading homework. Your child has nightly reading homework, what should you be doing to help? This is an informational blog post and a video intended to help parents. Included in Jennifer’s post are some links to my free printables, also.
In the area of math, parents can help their children so much by using precise language and explain what they are doing at home without worksheets or flashcards. Really! This is a link to my blog post with more information.
I wrote a free ebook for parents and teachers about developing reading comprehension in young children without using worksheets or flashcards. It is free to download at this link. I give many tips for parents about reading to and discussing books with their children which will help them at school.
And finally, sometimes parents are overwhelmed and busy. Grandma came to visit, the family had the flu, overtime was required, a parent was traveling for work, or the family needs to enjoy some time together. When that happens, tell the teacher. I would tell parents not to worry about it. College entrance does not depend on homework every single week those first years of elementary school. No college will ask if homework was completed each and every night of grades K-2!
Many times parents travel during the school year, and some even take extensive trips to other countries. In these situations, I would be asked for vacation homework. Vacation homework? Why oh why do people want vacation homework? There is so much learning that happens on a vacation with travel for learning about geography, maps, budgeting money, and meeting new people. That is the learning and no homework is required, in my opinion. I did provide the homework the class would be having but many times it was never returned. I am completely against vacation homework if you are at all wondering what I really think.
Please also see my post with free editable calendars for parents and teachers at this link.
Thank you for reading, Carolyn