Tag Archives: homework

No Homework…Beneficial?

This is a guest post written by Katie Cassavaugh. 

katiecassavaughHomework as defined by Merriam-Webster means “preparatory reading or research (as for a discussion or a debate).” When I was a student, it meant hours of stress and hair pulling after having having already spent eight hours cramming knowledge into my head. It was also a point of tension in my house as I who lacked math skills tried to get help from my parents who were not hip to the new methods. And my brother didn’t want to read anything other than sports magazines. Not only was homework a painful time for me, it was more than exhausting for my parents, who had a full work day followed by making dinner only to then battle us for homework.

That is why when I started this year as a student teacher in a fifth-grade classroom at Orchard Elementary, I was overjoyed to learn that the school had instituted a no-homework policy. I, along with some of the other teachers, immediately became worried that our already jammed schedules would become more cramped, but after the first two or three weeks, that concern faded away and we got into a steady rhythm. We found ways to fit all the subjects into the school day and knew that whatever we did not finish, we could do tomorrow.

Now, no homework does not mean no reading; the stipulation is that students are still always working on becoming lifelong readers. We expect them to read their “just right books” for 20–30 minutes a night and do not consider a book they are choosing to read out of interest to be homework. This is learning to enjoy reading rather than dreading it,  which would have been perfect for my brother who only read magazines. And, along with choice reading, we expect students to spend more time playing and not sitting in front of a screen!

As a student teacher, I was excited to see this policy in play. Earlier in my school career, I had interned in a first-grade classroom. The students there had only one math sheet for homework every night, but this was enough to cause them stress. Not getting it done and missing morning meeting to complete it made them sad. The school and students were great, but if one worksheet made children this stressed, I could only imagine what 30 to 60 minutes of work would do!

Of course, we cannot forget the benefits of homework, such as helping those who struggle to get extra practice and holding students accountable for all their work. One drawback to to  a no-homework policy is that students do not have any accountability for their work. Before, if students fooled around and did not finish their work, they would have to finish it at home. Now with the new policy, teachers either let go of the assignment and move on or have to carve out more time during the school day for the students to finish.

Overall, I support a no-homework policy. Students are so scheduled between school, sports, musical instruments, and other extracurricular activities and chores. Taking away one thing such as homework can free the students to be kids again. It can give them an extra one to three hours to play and be free. They already spend so much time studying and learning new information; they should have the opportunity to leave their work behind for the day and relax. When kids hit sixth grade and beyond, they will once again have homework. From age 5 to 10, they need to focus on being kids, growing their creativity, and learning through play!

Katie Cassavaugh is a senior at Champlain College. She currently interns at Orchard Elementary and works at Kids and Fitness in Burlington, Vermont.

A New Kind of Parent-Child Bonding—Homework Help

The following essay by NCTE Vice President Jocelyn Chadwick  was originally published on the Parent Toolkit produced by NBC News and sponsored by Pearson:

 

Jocelyn Chadwick
Jocelyn Chadwick

No one needs to tell parents that helping with homework today in no way resembles how they may have experienced it with their parents. That said, children do want your interest, your perspective, and your help, even high school students, who are my area of expertise. While high school students may appear initially disdainful or dismissive, they do respond, eventually. Actually, homework can provide an unexpected and even meaningful setting for sharing, exploring and learning together. So as parents, we must figure out the how.

As a teacher and a parent, I have found the following tips to be keenly helpful:

Make the time. Remember this special time focuses on your children and you spending time together. Refrain from reminding children how much of your time you are sacrificing or how grateful they should and must be. Also, avoid shifting focus to you or your past memories about homework or a particular subject.

This commitment and focus are particularly effective and supportive for high school aged children but it’s important to begin this practice and commitment as early as pre-K. Sometimes adults assume that as our children mature, they do not require, nor do they want our intervention. Actually, older children long for the support; they simply loathe expressing or asking for it. Plus, the fact that parents volunteer on their own accord displays uncoerced, honest interest.

Make time inviolable. No matter your child’s age, establish your shared homework help time as sacrosanct.   Technology, like smartphones, tablets, computers, iChat, Skype, for example, enable constancy and consistency anywhere, anytime in the world, thereby enabling parents to participate and help, regardless of distance.

Be intrepid. Don’t be afraid to offer help with homework, even if you are uncertain about the subject matter. Remember, help includes listening, asking questions, and simply showing interest.

Children rarely expect parents to inquire earnestly about their homework beyond a few questions. Know which courses your children are studying and familiarize yourself with a few of the topics that they will be learning this year.  You can even prepare  a few questions ahead of time. Taking such time illustrates clear and active attention, often surprising your children. This kind of sharing can provide a fertile environment for parents to learn or hone their own research, computer and reading and critical thinking skills right along with their children.

Practice listening and appearing to listen: your doing so will convince your child, especially those in high school, that you are not simply “going through the motions.” Signs that you are uninterested or not listening include;

– Sitting dutifully but not always attuned
– Not providing uninterrupted time
– Multitasking on your own work
– Email, texting, calls, etc.

In contrast, parents’ asking their children questions, using sentences, such as, “I didn’t know that”; “Well, I have certainly learned something, working with you”; “This has been fun”; “I’m really glad we are doing this; I am learning a few things, too” will go a long way in the relationship that is growing.

Sustain and maintain. Establish your homework help time during the summer and remain consistent throughout the year. If there is no homework, your listening, showing interest, even asking questions about classes, different assignments, and assigned readings will further illustrate to your children (K-12) your earnest interest and commitment.

Exercise curiosity, not one-correctness. You don’t have to have the correct answer. Students, even high school students, will be appreciative just because you are there–listening, collaborating, being curious, and learning together.

Finally, don’t forget, you are here to help, not change or mold your child’s assignment, comment on the teacher, comment on the politics of education, or even the assignment. You are here to help your child with homework. Parents who have questions about an assignment, or even parents who want to seek teachers’ input about homework help should always feel confident to email or call their child’s teacher. In so many ways, when parents take this kind of initiative with their children and teacher(s), they are actually creating and stimulating a kind of learning community of their own, a community without stress or a targeted issue. One immediate benefit of this kind of approach emerges with parents themselves establishing a proactive learning environment, one that blends both home and school.