I set the expectation early with my kids that I don’t do homework. They do homework. I did homework when I was in school. Actually I didn’t do much homework then either, so why start now. ☺ Back to my point, if I’m more invested in their homework than they are, it’ll soon be MY problem. If the teacher sees perfect homework every night, they will assume my child understands the material.
My third grader taught me that the other day with her book report. I glanced over the rough draft of her book report and noticed she possibly misinterpreted a section of the directions that would hurt grade on it. I went against my better judgment and pointed it out to her. She disagreed with my assessment and to break the impasse I encouraged her to postpone her final draft until her mother, an attorney and professional wordsmith, could look over it for a final verdict.
By the way, it wasn’t due for another two weeks, but she REALLY wanted to get it over with. Not sure where the “get it done two weeks early” trait came from, I did my seventh grade leaf album project the morning it was due at the bus stop (collect leaves) and on the bus to school (make the album). I was proud of my efficiency. Much to my classmates chagrin, I managed to meet all the requirements on the rubric and got an A-Thanks Mrs. Savitz! (BTW, I’ve been known to still be working on my blog at 3 or 4 am the day it’s due. Old habits die hard!)
Why am I worried about a book report grade for my eight year-old child? Who cares? It doesn’t mean anything anyway, right? School is about LEARNING not GRADES. Besides, last I checked colleges don’t request elementary school transcripts…
My daughter refused on the grounds of “This is my work and if mom helps me with this the teacher will think I understand the material when I don’t! It’s okay if I don’t get a perfect score dad, it’ll show the teacher what we need to work on more.” Lesson learned.
How much practice is required to master a skill or learn certain material?
Practice is essential to learn new skills, but how much is enough? I’m pro-homework. I want a reasonable amount with some flexibility and choice about how much is necessary. In an effort to be fair, teachers generally assign everyone the same number of problems/questions to all the students. At first glance, that makes sense, but in reality it works against a fair number of students. Not everyone learns the same way and some kids may not need as much practice to master a skill, while some may need more problems than assigned to understand the concepts. It frustrates students that pick up the material quickly and gives others a false sense of security that since they did the homework they should be fine for the test when in reality a few more problems/questions/studying would be a good idea.
Most classes have some sort of homework component in the grade. It’s a way to reward students that are responsible and keep up with their studies. It is also a way to punish those kids that are slackers and don’t do their homework. I somewhat agree with the first part but disagree with the second. Class grades should reflect a student’s mastery of the subject not their compliance with homework assignments that are ‘checked’ but not graded. A homework grade should only help a students’ grade not hurt it.
Assuming tests and projects are also part of the class grade, I think homework should be optional. Back when I taught math and science, here is the offer I made my students when they complained about homework:
If you can maintain an “A” average in my class on tests and projects for a marking period, I won’t count your homework because you are demonstrating to me that you know how much work you need to do to keep an “A.” If you can’t keep an “A” you probably needed to study more and the homework may have heled, so I will count your homework and you will probably end up with a “C” if you haven’t been completing it. How confident are you?
I originally has this idea as ‘confident’ high school student and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate it with many teachers. In my three years of teaching, I think only one student briefly took me up on that offer. In the end, the student did more homework/problems than everyone else because they wanted to maintain the requisite “A” and decided it would be easier to just do the minimum homework in the future and stop complaining. Incidentally, I got better quality questions from the student while “not doing homework” because the student was doing the homework for understanding rather than “just getting it done.” Big difference!
One thought for teachers
My calculus teacher had a daily habit that all his students appreciated. He would take out a sheet of paper and do the homework himself at the beginning of every class. His philosophy was that if he couldn’t finish it in five minutes, it was too much and would adjust his assignments accordingly.
I know how much work it is to be a teacher, it’s a tough job. In an effort to reduce everyone’s stress (students, teachers and parents), I have one favor to ask of teachers, when possible, complete the homework assignments and worksheets yourself before assigning them to the students. It is disheartening as a parent to see a child struggle with a homework assignment and then realize there was a mistake on the worksheet/assignment or missing direction that would have completed the puzzle.
Just to be a homework contrarian
“In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded.”
“Even in math. The study zeroed in on specific course grades, which represents a methodological improvement, and the moral may be: The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework.”
How’s that for a final thought on homework? The results are VERY counter-intuitive, so I am reluctant to totally buy into it. I know there is a lot of tradition and peer pressure among teachers to assign homework also, not to mention the expectations of some parents, so nothing drastic will be changing anytime soon.
Reading Log Follow-up
So after my last blog about reading logs, I had a parent ask me if I ever looked up the research on them before writing my blog, which I hadn’t. Fortunately that parent did and it’s good news for reading log haters…they don’t help! Voluntary reading is good, mandatory reading is bad. Check out the research here.