What do you think homework is for? Here are some general guidelines our family tries to follow.
Time allotted. The general rule of homework is that it should take about 10 minutes/grade in school. So, my Kindergartener should have about 10 minutes/night of homework (if any). My third grader, 40 minutes, my fifth grader, 60 minutes and my sixth grader, 70 minutes.
Teacher’s philosophy. Find out your child’s teacher’s homework philosophy. Is it an extension of the classroom work? An enrichment? Intended as a re-teaching at home? Simply trying to inform parents of what their child is learning in the classroom? Is it graded? If so, how? What percentage of the grade is based off of homework? The answers to these questions may change the way you approach homework.
My kids’ teachers all have different philosophies:
My 6th grader’s math teacher believes he should only focus on math for 45 minutes/night. If that means he gets one problem done, so be it. She believes homework to be an exercise in time management and not much more. His other teachers assign so little that he accomplishes it in the 20 minute “enrich and reteach” session at the end of the day. He usually doesn’t have much homework besides math, but that is all on the computer and there’s a box to press for help, so he doesn’t have to ask dear old mom or dad for help. Which is probably a good thing because pre-algebra (or algebra of any sort) isn’t exactly my strong suit.
My fifth grader’s teachers do not send any work home. Almost ever. I don’t know what she is doing in class and only vaguely how she is performing based off of the reading folder that communicates her goals in reading. She is to focus on practicing math facts for 30 minutes per night and spend the other 30 minutes reading. She independently does her work and the most I have to get on her is to ask her to stop reading to help around the house. However, she did have 3 big writing assignments due in one day and didn’t get them all accomplished due to procrastination. I made her go to bed at the usual time and told her she could work some more in the morning before school, but there is no reason for me to allow her to stay up later than usual or to really help her out. They were her assignments. She had missed a couple of days of school the week prior due to strep, but I told her that she could ask her teachers for an extension based on missing, but I wasn’t going to do that for her. She didn’t ask, turned in 2 great assignments and 1 rough draft that should have been a final draft. She obviously didn’t do as well on that, but she did learn to manage her time better in the future.
My third grader’s teacher sends home what isn’t accomplished during the day as homework with spelling work (a whole other topic), reading work and math work on different nights. If the student does not earn at least a 75% on any assignment the previous week, it is all sent home for correction on Monday night and due back that Friday. The child can only earn that 75%, even if all of the work is perfect. I think this is a good opportunity for the students to prove mastery of the subject. However, for my child, some weeks it has been a TON of work on top of the regular homework. He was choosing to rush through papers and not put forth his best effort the first time. We are working on this at home and he is really improving the amount of effort he puts in at school so he doesn’t have to do as much at home. I will admit that because of the low grades, I have made him work longer than his allotted 40 minutes. I usually just write a note in the assignment notebook that he worked his 40 minutes, had a particularly hard time with the math and needs help and didn’t get it all done. She is usually receptive to that as long as I communicate.
My kindergartener’s teacher sends homework home that she does not expect to be returned. We are to spend out 10 minutes reading with/to our child and if we want to do the math page for fun, it is our choice. We do the homework on the nights our schedule allows and that she wants to do it. I think this is just an introduction to homework and keeping the parents informed on what they are learning.
- Environment. I do not believe that I need to provide a quiet environment for them. How many adults do you know that work in a perfectly quiet environment? There is often someone on the phone in another cubicle, friends chatting by the water cooler about last night’s episode, and people mumbling about cake and staplers. Classrooms usually aren’t the quietest either. Maybe for testing they are quiet, but not often. So, the three year old is usually cooking something up in her kitchen while I’m cooking, some kids are telling me about their day, people are coming and going to practices and so on. It’s kind of (un)controlled chaos, but lends itself better toward real life environments for future situations. I have made kids complete their homework at their siblings’ practices and games, in the car, at grandma’s and at church. You just do what you gotta do.
- Throw in the towel. I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to teach my child, and mine to support the teacher and my child in that learning. If they cannot complete the homework independently, the responsibility lies with my student to ask their teacher for help the following day. It does not lie with my husband and me to (re)teach the material. Homework is usually intended to be an extension of what is being taught at school. An opportunity for students to practice with the intent to master the material/application taught at school. It is not supposed to be a time in which we as parents are stressed out because our kid didn’t get it and we aren’t sure how to teach them (common core math, anyone?). If my child is struggling with a specific topic, I usually ask the teacher how I can support her at home and if she has any time before/after school for my child to ask questions to ensure comprehension of the topic. I have hired tutors and now tutor one of my children with a friend.
- Give it up. Power struggles can be a nightly thing when it comes to homework. “You are NOT getting up from this table until that work is completed!” “I have to go to the bathroom…” “You will go to bed when this is finished!” “But I’m tired!” “You’ve sat there for 2 hours twiddling your thumbs and not working, I bet you are tired.” It is NOT YOUR RESPONISIBILITY TO COMPLETE THE HOMEWORK! You child goes to school. You are probably done with homework (if not, you might have your own homework to work on). If your child refuses to complete their homework, send them to bed. “Goodnight. Maybe you’ll want to try again in the morning before school when you have a better attitude.” Be supportive. Provide help and guidance when they ask, but do not enable them out of their responsibility. Sleep is more important for the following day most of the time. Encourage better time management skills and allow your child to face the natural consequences of their actions.
If homework is a nightly struggle, Education Champion provides a Homework Boot Camp in which I come to observe a typical homework night, then write a report on observations and a new plan. The following week, I meet with you and your family to present and demonstrate the plan. It can be incredibly empowering.