Monday, May 6, 2013

The Homework Struggle Part 1 of 3 (Elementary and Teen)


We have all been there.  It is 9:00 at night.  You have to work in the morning.  Your child comes to you just as you are thinking about how tired you are and says, “Mom I need a poster board to finish my project.”  And you say, “When do you need the poster board?”  And your child answers with the dreaded: “Tomorrow.”  You groan inwardly, but get your purse and say, “Come on. You are going with me to get that poster board.  You should have thought of this before tonight.  I don’t have time to…..”  And on you go berating the child for making your life so miserable.   It all started with a homework assignment.  It was work that was only meant to be completed at home.  It is not work that is supervised by the teacher.  It is not work that is even supported by a textbook  for many districts.  Because of budget cuts many schools only have one class set of text books for each classroom.  These books will never cross your threshold.  Even if a parent wanted to help by looking it up information in the text book, that is not an option any more.  Now a helpful parent has been made even more helpless.  The pressure is on.  The work is due tomorrow no matter what.  Even if the student does not understand how to complete the assignment it is still due.  Even if the parent doesn’t know how to help the child complete the assignment it is still due.  Even if there is no “phone a friend” available it is still due.  If you as the parent are feeling the stress, think about what a student feels especially if they do not understand the assignment.   They will face the teacher tomorrow.  You won’t.  
There are five types of homework.  These are projects homework, rote homework, practice skills homework, reading homework, and studying homework.   Projects homework are the science fair projects, posters, essays to write, and models to build.  Unless you have a child who is extremely independent, you will be required to see these through.  If you have a compassionate teacher, he or she will e-mail you far ahead of time with the rubric (a list of exactly what is expected for the assignment).  If not, the teacher will give it to your student who will eventually lose it all.  Then you will get the blow under the belt with the 9:00PM “Mom, this is due tomorrow.”  Not a pretty picture.    The rote homework is writing your spelling words five times, working with flash cards on sight words, math facts, state capitals, or looking up vocabulary words and writing the definition.  This is the type of work that is almost worse than death to a student who can memorize easily.  But for a student who has trouble remembering what they did with the coat you bought them last fall, it is probably beneficial.   Practice skills are the most productive of all the homework.  It is practicing skills that the student just learned that day in class.  It is basically a rerun of what they did already, but this time no one is holding their hand.  They are all on their own.  This concept works well if the student understood the lesson, but if the student did not understand, you have a homeschooling lesson ahead of you.  And if you don’t understand, there will probably be tears.  The fourth is reading homework.   Reading is a skill that only gets better with practice.  Students do not get much time during the school day to read for pleasure.  Sometimes they are only given 30 minutes of independent reading.   Reading at home, during the holidays, and during the summer are very important.  As a long term reading teacher I had the issue of students not having books they liked at home to read, I solved this by letting them “check-out “ books from the classroom library.  If this is the issue for your child, talk to your child’s teacher and check out your local library.  The last is studying homework.  This is something a good student will do just because they want to go over the notes they took in class that day.  Even an average student will crack open their notes if there is a test the next day.  Many times my children will come with me with their notebooks and say, “Quiz me mom.”  They have been studying and they want to be reassured that they know the material before the test the next day. 

The next post is some research I discovered about homework.   It is a shocker!  And in the last installment I will share some tips that we use to get through homework. 

What are some of your homework struggles?

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