View From The Glen

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Homework Debate

Lots of people arguing right now over whether homework is good or bad for kids, whether it’s useful or just a waste of time that gets in the way of other fun activities.

Here’s what I think:

1. Homework can be tough on families, especially these days when both parents work and the kids go to after-school programs. When the family gets home at 6pm and has to fit in homework between supper and running out to Cubs, the kitchen can quickly become a battlefield where nobody wins.

2. Some of the homework kids get is, let’s face it, silly. I completely identify with the lawyer parents who started this debate when, after questioning the value of the crossword puzzle homework and being told it was for fun, they sent in a note to the teacher that said, thanks, but we’ll make our own fun.

3. Days are short for much of the school year, and kids aren’t getting outside enough. Having hours of homework doesn’t help that.

Having said all that, I agree with homework. I believe it is valuable and an important part of school life, and here’s why:

1. Homework is the bridge between school and home. It allows me (as a parent) to get involved in what my kids are learning, to reinforce lessons learned in class, to see how they are handling new material, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. (Without homework, for example, I would never have known that my 9 year old, in a composition, described the older cat as being pissed off, and would not have had the opportunity to brainstorm more suitable descriptors and remind him that not everything Daddy says should be repeated.)

2. Teachers do a great job, but sometimes kids who are having difficulty in a specific subject benefit from a little one-on-one time with Mom where we can go over trouble areas and figure out how to solve problems in a way that makes sense for that child. And when Grade 4 Math seems just a little elusive, we can send them to Dad. (And what’s with Grade 4 Math anyway – the answers are easy, but the way they want to solve them are so convoluted and unclearly worded that it drives me crazy).

3. Doing homework regularly at a younger age makes the transition into high school much easier, and establishes solid study/work habits that will help them later in life.

Homework should never be about new work. It should not take up too much of a child’s time (I think the 10 minute per grade rule is good). I like the younger grade (K-3) approach our school uses where they send homework for the week, and allow parents to figure out when and where it gets done, allowing us to schedule around Cubs, Karate, and days when we just want to go outside and play.

For the most part though, at least at our house, homework is a priority. I know it, the kids know it, and their teachers know it. Sure, we’ve had days when I’ve written a note to my son’s teacher saying I told him to leave his homework, and I don’t apologize if I decide to bury the kids in fallen leaves one glorious afternoon instead of making them sit at a table practicing spelling. And some nights there just isn’t time for one reason or another.

But I get tired of the debate that it has to be all or nothing. Like so much in life, it’s all about finding a balance that works so that work and fun happen side by side.


Leanne Haines said...

Beautifully done! As a teacher and as a parent I agree with all your arguments! When teaching grade 3, my goal in homework was to keep parents informed of what their children were learning in class, as well as whether or not their children were "getting it". Last year Connor's teacher didn't believe in homework: I had no idea what he was learning, or if he was learning it, all year. His response to my questioning about it was usually a series of grunts: not helpful!
I agree that sometimes it is hard to get to. And it is often a fight in my house -- at least with Connor, as Janelle still LOVES everything about school. But I do think it is important if I am going to be involved in my child's learning in any significant way. Otherwise, the surprise report card is inevitable!

Laura said...

I enjoyed your post. I do not remember homework as a young child. We encourage the girls to get homework done quickly so the rest of the week is relaxing and fun. I agree it is all about balance.