Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Homework Debate

There has been a lot of talk recently about an article shown here.  In short there was another study done in which they "prove" that homework isn't needed.  Grades apparently don't increase with homework and there is no correlation to success from homework. 

One school in my area has decided to do away with science homework all together beginning next year.  They feel it is the teacher's job to teach the students during the day and that the kids will be fine and understand the materials.

I beg to disagree. 

Kids benefit from homework for many reasons.  My oldest daughter is a natural student and brings home great grades without putting forth too much effort.  She completes her homework daily and she and I both see a benefit to it.

She would probably still get good grades but not great ones.  In many subjects especially math there are often a couple of problems that she just doesn't understand.  She attempts her best at them and then we talk about how to solve them.  I usually make up a new problem and show her step by step how to do it then she redoes her homework.  She is a perfectionist and if she didn't have homework to show her the types of problems she had trouble with she would be devastated come test time. 

Now take my middle daughter who is not the most natural student.  She works hard for her grades.  She puts countless hours of work into her schooling every single day.  So this year when she no longer had math homework her grades TANKED.  Big time.  She is not a perfectionist she is okay with a decent grade.  No homework meant indecent grades.  She was devastated. 

Cue a long talk with the teacher about why there is no math homework and arguing my daughter's case.  Lo and behold there was math homework we could do on our own.  She now spends 10-15 minutes a night doing math homework (that the rest of the class doesn't do) and is actually achieving the highest grades on her tests.  She has so much more confidence and went from crying every day that she hated school to enthusiastically running to school each morning. 

Now when her "spelling" work is getting harder than she can handle and there is once again no homework to support her learning I know what to do.  Ask the teacher what we can do at home to improve the learning.  Guess who's idea that was - my daughter's.  Kids don't want to fail or do poorly.  Elementary aged children in particular still strive for assurance and praise.  If we can help them to succeed early on by providing them tools for success then they won't give up on themselves later. 

If my daughter hadn't gotten the homework she needed we still would have worked to improve her grades but it would have been much tougher.  Instead she is learning to ask for help and seeing that "homework" is really just more learning, she knows that she is capable of achieving more than she was.  That knowledge could have been squashed very easily if she had continued her low level of achievement.

Now I get it not all parents are home after school to do homework with their child.  I get it kids have so many other commitments that homework may be the last task of the day.  I get it that most parents don't necessarily know their kids grades until progress reports or later.  I also get it that there are kids out there who have ridiculously too much homework.  But I wholeheartedly believe that homework has many benefits.

1. Homework is a connecting force between child and parent. We get to see what they do each day and can have meaningful conversations about how they will use this later or even how they won't (yes we can laugh when our kids tell us something we learned and don't remember). 

2. Homework teaches kids good habits, it is like a chore it teaches them responsibility.

3. It can give a child that extra confidence that they are capable.  To know that they are able to finish with a slightly higher grade.

4. Doing homework alleviates time when a student just didn't understand something in class.  Maybe they had an emotional night and can't focus, maybe they are sick and just not concentrating, maybe the teacher really didn't do a great job with this lesson, homework allows them to recoup what they missed.

Hearing that schools might be doing away with homework is extremely concerning and saddening.  I agree to limit homework - no child should spend every minute from after school until bedtime doing homework.  And yes please get rid of busy work.  We should maybe even tailor homework to specific groups within the classroom (my daughter's teacher has three levels of reading comprehension homework). 

Please do your child a favor and encourage them with their homework and ask for homework in subjects that are difficult for your child.  Our kids are our future and I for one want to encourage our future to be even better than our present.

-Ash of All Trades

Monday, April 4, 2016

School Projects

     It is that time of year when Open House looms on the calendar for all teachers and parents.  It is the perfect time for teachers to show off all that the students have learned and for parents to come to terms with the fact that their child is about to finish their current grade and move on into the future.

     With Open House comes projects.  Every teacher wants their classroom to showcase the best work and likely some pinterest inspired ideas.  While most projects occur in the classroom at this time (to surprise mom and dad.)  Naturally one or more make it home to be completed in off school hours.

     My oldest two are in the 3rd and 1st grades.  They both have projects looking right now.  My first grader came home with an assignment to learn about an animal and build a pyramid style diorama with writing, a habitat, and a poem.  Cue the complaints from parents.

     It seems in today's world parents don't want to contribute to their child's projects.  Everyone is incredibly busy with this and that and well they think the project is to complicated for a child to do. Some parents went so far as to question the principal (thankfully she agreed with the teacher).

     As is our teacher and she clearly on multiple occasions pointed out that this is the child's project.  Our job as parents is to guide them.  Don't get me wrong - mom (and some dads) have to take the kids to the library, help kiddos research on the internet, buy supplies, help construct said pyramid, and inevitably help their child with correct spelling, facts, and placement of the pieces, but it is their project.  Their work, their ideas, their creation.


     I have been waiting years for the day my kids would have a project to do at home.  I couldn't wait to help my little one create this thing and make it a masterpiece.  Yet as I pondered the teacher's words: "this is the student's project" my pinterest inspired ideas vanished.  I thought of the work my daughter could do on her own and of what she would think looked amazing.  And that folks is what we did.

     My favorite sentence from her writing portion was in response to a fur seal's predator: "Orcas eat fur seals, it might be sad but it is the food chain."  I would never have written that but it put to paper her exact feelings.  She was sad that the seals would be eaten but she knew it had to happen.

     Oh we had our arguments about not wanting to do the project and not liking that her answer was wrong.  And the arguments when I didn't like her answer and thought she could do better even though she was correct.  But in the end her project was so uniquely her.  It was beautiful and a little silly, somewhat brutally honest but it was her.

     I am humbled that I was able to work on the project with her.  To see just how far she has come in this first grade year.  To see her thought process in action.  To see her cry when she heard about the orcas and the fur seal coats people make.  For her excitement to know that fur seals like seafood just like her.

     Our at home project experience was awesome and I am so glad I had this experience.  I don't want projects every week or even every month but once in awhile I think they can be great bonding tools.

     So next time your child comes home with a project - that they are likely over the moon about-- share their enthusiasm and let them know you are excited to spend time working with them and sharing in their learning.

     Now I must say adieu as I prepare materials for my other daughter's soda pop bottle model of Sacajawea and the report that goes with it.

Ash of All Trades