Too Much Homework for Kids
Homework is a Dirty Word
Homework is not a word that brings a smile to your face. Why do teachers even assign homework? It coughs up a cloud of dread and frustration over my household almost every day. It has been more than 20 years since I was assigned homework, but I don't recall having much anxiety over it then. Things are different today. My children bring home mountains of meaningless, very "in-the-box" homework assignments. Really, what is the purpose of homework? And if we have to have it, how can we make it better?
Does Your Child Have Too Much Homework?
What's Homework For Anyway?
Educators have explained that homework is crucial for practicing skills and teaching responsibility. Aren't the kids practicing skills during the seven plus hours they are in school each day? And I can think of a dozen better ways to teach responsibility than pouring over endless math worksheets into the night. I understand the importance and need for book reports and projects. Those are great for creativity, self confidence, and for guess what else? - teaching responsibility! My problem is with the worksheets, worksheets, worksheets - pure busy work.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Fill in the blanks with homophones.
The ____________ was thrilled to have Beethoven as a guest.
The museum has a fine collection of _________________.
(SPOILER ALERT: the answer is at the bottom of this article)
What's the Real Problem with Homework?
The problem with the quantity of homework can easily be solved. No child should spend more than 1 hour on homework each weekday. Weekends should be homework-free. Make a contract with your teacher or principal agreeing that your child will spend one hour on homework and then stop whether it is finished or not. The child should not be penalized for unfinished work. If the students are spending more than an hour on the work, it is too much.
Maybe the real problem is the quality of homework. First of all, worksheets should be banned altogether. Trying to fit a student into the box of rigid worksheets is fruitless. In the blue-shaded box above, is an example from my 5th grade daughter's homework today (yes, this was the inspiration for this article). There was not a corresponding word bank or story that gave you a clue to what the words might be. I plan to ask this question to all the adults at our next family gathering to see who is smarter than a 5th grader! The worst part of this question, is that if my daughter comes up with an answer that fits, but does not match the answer in the teacher's answer book, it is marked wrong. So much for creativity and out of the box thinking. Let's teach conformity instead.
One of my biggest pet peeves is my child's vocabulary worksheets. There is a word bank of 15 new vocabulary words to be used to answer 15 questions about a corresponding reading passage. You only use each word once. My daughter follows the directions, uses complete sentences and shows full understanding of each vocabulary word. Unfortunately, her word choices do not match the exact ones in the teacher's answer book, so those answers are marked incorrect. It is absurd!
Change the Quality of Homework
I agree that there is value to bringing home knowledge from school and applying it, but are schools really doing this with worksheets and other busy work? How about asking the students to write a poem, or build a prop, or take a survey, or create a poster? Imagine homework that is engaging and interesting. My daughter once attended a magnet school that did have this philosophy. One assignment was to find a tree in her yard or neighborhood, sketch it and write a poem about it. I suggested this to her current school principal, but was told that most parents want simple homework that the kids can knock out by themselves. If the homework is too elaborate or creative, parents will complain about having to get involved, and, dare say, have to make a trip to the craft store. Really? Have parents now jumped on the bandwagon of assembly line, one-size-fits-all teaching and learning? We can do better than this.
Don't be afraid to bring homework concerns to your teacher, principal or PTA. This is an important issue and our children deserve better. See if you can make a difference at your school.
Did you guess the correct homophones?
Okay, here they are. The correct homophones are "prince" and "prints." My daughter thought of "Jim" and "gems", but realized "The Jim" didn't make sense. My husband offered "colonel" and "kernel", but we weren't so sure about the corn kernel exhibit at the museum! My input was "aunt" and "ant", but we haven't really heard of a fine ant collection either.
Bonus Question: Name the class or group these two words belong to:
"bow" and "stick"
Leave a comment and let me know what you come up with - we are still stuck on that one! I think my daughter came up with a pretty good guess, but we won't know until next week if it was "correct."