As parents, we get frustrated with the amount or type of homework that our kids bring home.
But how can we tell if it’s just our mood or if the work is appropriate? Also, what to do about it?
(P.S. If you want more help with this, you’re going to love Chapter 3 of my book, Drama Free Homework available on Amazon.)
In my first years of teaching fifth grade, I knew that my students needed help in spelling.
Sooooo much help in spelling.
However, I had no idea what to do. Sure, we had a district spelling program with 20 words a week…
But it never taught my students how to spell. If they didn’t know how to spell by the time they reached fourth grade, there was not much to help.
I thought, well, maybe all they need is more practice.
Thus, my colleague and I created the spelling packet from hell.
I didn’t think of it like that at the time, but looking back that was an appropriate name.
We asked kids to alphabetize all 20 spelling words, write them three times each, and color code each word into syllables. I can’t even remember everything that we asked.
But it was 5 pages…
Everyone told us that good teachers were tough and expected a lot out of their students. THIS is what we thought we were doing.
After a few weeks, we found that the students who aced spelling tests on the regular had no problem completing the killer spelling packet. However, the horrible spelling packet had no effect with the kids who struggled.
Probably, just refinforced the idea that spelling, well, sucked.
We continued assigning the spelling packet until one of our curriculum coaches took us aside and asked, “Wouldn’t you be mad if a teacher asked you to do this?”
Fair point. Yes. Yes…
I would be furious.
This spelling packet was not appropriate homework for a fifth grader. It was busy work. Boring, repetitive, monkey-like tasks that asked no critical thinking.
Well-meaning teachers everywhere have assigned this type of homework at one time or another. When I asked the No Guilt Mom tribe on Facebook what homework they received that seemed useless they said,
“Alllll the same, repetitive daily assigned homework. Seriously, its basically the same thing every day just different words/numbers. Same concept, same layout.” – Allison
“Making 49 cards about Greek Mythology characters. They had to write 3 facts about each character and draw a picture for each one. Just Ridiculous!! A few cards/characters would have been ideal, 49 was outrageous.” – Miranda
What is the appropriate homework?
Appropriate homework asks kids to use a skill already learned in class.
It doesn’t require re-teaching by you. Maybe it’s writing a paragraph to reflect on a reading passage. Perhaps it’s practicing a few math problems.
The amount of homework depends on the child’s age. A guidepoint recommended by the Parent-Teacher’s Association is 10 minutes for every grade level. For instance, first grade gets 10 minutes, second grade gets 20 minutes and so on.
Know that these are rough guidelines. As a fifth grade teacher, I aimed for 30 minutes of math practice a night plus 20 minutes of reading.
If my child gets more than this?
If homework causes a strain in your home and is taking WAY longer than the recommended amount, bring it up with child’s teacher.
Something is amiss.
Either the teacher, like me, doesn’t realize this strain of homework, or your child needs extra help grasping a skill and this will be the opportunity to fix that.
Whatever it is, know that it isn’t your sole responsibility for your child to get all his or her homework done.
It’s your child’s responsibility to do homework.
You and the teacher are consultants and coaches. You help and assist where needed. Maybe gently guide the kid where he or she needs to go. But know, the moment you become the enforcer, the homework war is on and you’ve lost.
That’s putting it harsh, I know. But the only way to improve homework for your kids is to:
- first, figure out why he or she is stumbling and then
- work with them on how to overcome those obstacles.
Talking with the teacher to make sure you, the teacher and your child are all on the same page will make it easier to move forward and help.
Appropriate homework doesn’t cause undue frustration. A little frustration is good, but if homework causes a fight every night, that’s a sign something needs to change.