Back to school: Let's talk homework!

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Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4103
Back to school: Let's talk homework!

Homework has pretty much always been a given in high school, but it's being given now on a regular basis in elementary schools. There is a wide range of supposedly-expert opinion about the issue. Those in favor of homework for elementary kids are saying that it helps kids build good time-management skills, avoid the pitfalls of cramming for tests, better retain the information learned, and have an opportunity to explore the subject in more depth than the time at school allows. Those against it will tell you that there is no correlation between how much homework young children do and how well they comprehend material or perform on tests, and that homework cuts into a child's social & physical activities and also into precious family time. Some parents refuse to make their kids do routine daily homework at all, while others enroll their kids in after-school homework clubs so it gets done before the kids even get home, and some parents even switch schools because of the homework load difference between individual schools. Some teachers use the threat of extra homework as punishment for misbehaving in class, while others drop homework as a reward for good behavior. Some schools have set policies so parents & teachers have the same expectations about homework, and some districts have set policies to standardize homework load between schools.

Where you do stand on the homework spectrum? If your child is in elementary school, or if you're familiar with your school's or district's policy, what is it's official homework policy? Did you have homework in elementary school? If so, do you think it helped you in the long run? If not, do you wish you had?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I've never been a fan of homework even at the high school level. I'm okay with reading a chapter of a book or doing a long term project but I hate the little worksheets most teachers send home. If there isn't time to go over material at school we need to re evaluate how we set our kids up in their school schedules.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6568

I am going to answer even though my children are currently homeschooled. DD1 did go to private school for 2 years before being homeschooled and I have several nieces and nephews that go to school and homework has been a huge issue.

I am going to say some homework is a very good thing. First, It allows the parents to know how their child is doing in school. It is a terrible shame if the parent does not know their child is failing until the report card comes home. Second, a teacher with 30 or more students per class can not possibly pay each student adequate attention. Homework allows the parents to help fill in the gaps.

That said, I feel homework should be reasonable. In elementary school, say 30 minutes per night max. High school, an hour or so. I have one niece that struggles in school. She has routinely had homework that has taken from the moment she gets home from school until bed with a short break for dinner. I have several nieces and nephews in this same school and all have at least 2 hrs per night of homework. I have also heard of similar stories from parents at the school that Alyssa used to go to. Now these are both private schools, but regardless, I think that is ridiculous.

ETA - My sister has since hired a private tutor to help my niece with her homework, but she still spends a TON of time on it.

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

I think a little homework is ok for Elementary but the younger ones are usually tired so schools who give more than an hour's homework I think are being counterproductive. My son is in 2nd and they do 30 mins of reading homework daily (their choice of book so long as it's challenging enough), create sentences using spelling words, and one page of math homework, and some memorization work. It took my son about an hour; I can tell that's about all he can manage and still focus. He gets out of school though at 3:45 and starts at 7:30.

eta, I use a timer to keep my son focused otherwise he procrastinates, finds other things to do, or stare off into nowheresland

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

I think there is too much homework in our elementary school. They ease into it, and the kindergarten and first grade homework makes sense to me, it's not a whole lot. But I don't like it cutting into my time with my fourth grader, it does bother me. We have a new babysitter who picks them up after school and spends the next few hours with them, and I'm hoping she can help with homework and flag any issues for us, because I want to come home and hang out with the kids, not nag them.

It's funny thought because I was a nerdy academic kid and I would have loved tons of homework. They didn't give us any until fourth or fifth grade and I wanted it! But as a working parent, I don't want the kids wrapped up in homework all evening. When we only have a few hours together at the end of the day, 30 minutes is too long!

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

I favor less homework for kids, especially elementary kids. School work should be done at school, home time should be for family.

My kids are only in grades 1 and 2, so we don't really do homework yet. Their school has a home reading plan which involves reading with a parent every day and I fully support that. They do weekly spelling words which we also go over every day. It takes maybe 20 minutes which I think is reasonable.

We didn't get much homework in elementary school until grade 6 or so (just a few projects before that). Even in high school, homework mostly consists of completing what wasn't done in class. I don't think I've ever done more than 2 hours of homework/day ever. My experiences definitely formed my opinions about school/homework.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

My kids both go to private school and the homework is about the same at either school (5th grade and 7th grade) Both of them have reading to do, not a set amount of time though, so they do that while laying in bed. Then they both only have to do what they didnt finish in class. For one kid that is math, the other it is her spelling packet. For both of them those are the areas they struggle the most so being able to help them gives me a great opportunity to see where they are struggle and to see what I can do to fill the gaps.
I have always understood that the general rule is no more then 10 mins per grade. At one point last year our 4th grader was doing almost 2 hours a night and I did go to the teacher on that one, it was cutting into all the family time and her physical exercise time. She also had a take home test sent home one weekend, Dh told her she was not doing it and called the teacher on Monday and told her that DD would be doing it on Monday and that weekends are family time

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4103

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I am going to say some homework is a very good thing. First, It allows the parents to know how their child is doing in school. It is a terrible shame if the parent does not know their child is failing until the report card comes home. Second, a teacher with 30 or more students per class can not possibly pay each student adequate attention. Homework allows the parents to help fill in the gaps.

I'm going to disagree with both of these points. To the first, there is absolutely no correllation between homework and how the child is doing in school or on tests. That's actually one of the arguments *against* required homework! To the second, class sizes in California for 3rd grade & below are mandated to be 22 students or less, I believe, so that argument doesn't hold water, at least not in my state. And finally, it is the school's job to not leave gaps in my child's education, not my job to fill them in. I'm an auditor, not an elementary school teacher.

Our school policy is 10 minutes of homework per grade level, plus reading, but our district policy says no more than 30 minutes at the elementary grades, so that might be an issue next year when Tiven is in 4th grade. We have one 4th grade teacher who routinely assigns over an hour of homework every night, plus homework on non-holiday weekends, and that is so not going to fly in my home. When Tiven reaches 30 minutes, unless she's totally been procrastinating, I sign off on the rest and I've told her if a teacher tries to make her do it at recess, she's to tell me because that isn't right. And weekends are family time, period.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

"Spacers" wrote:

I'm going to disagree with both of these points. To the first, there is absolutely no correllation between homework and how the child is doing in school or on tests. That's actually one of the arguments *against* required homework! To the second, class sizes in California for 3rd grade & below are mandated to be 22 students or less, I believe, so that argument doesn't hold water, at least not in my state. And finally, it is the school's job to not leave gaps in my child's education, not my job to fill them in. I'm an auditor, not an elementary school teacher.

Our school policy is 10 minutes of homework per grade level, plus reading, but our district policy says no more than 30 minutes at the elementary grades, so that might be an issue next year when Tiven is in 4th grade. We have one 4th grade teacher who routinely assigns over an hour of homework every night, plus homework on non-holiday weekends, and that is so not going to fly in my home. When Tiven reaches 30 minutes, unless she's totally been procrastinating, I sign off on the rest and I've told her if a teacher tries to make her do it at recess, she's to tell me because that isn't right. And weekends are family time, period.

I have to disagree with this. I think turning over your child's education to someone else is foolish. I think the school and teacher can only be players on the team. I am saying this as a teacher and a parent. People that think schools can take a class (even if it is a small class) and meet each of their educational needs in 7 hours a day are not really aware of the huge chasms of differance in different children's learning needs. Then you start adding in that your child is most likely in class with children that dont get to eat everyday, dont have pencils at home, play video games for 10+ hours after school and all the other things that deeply effect learning ability and you have an environment that is not good for learning. I think most teachers do it pretty well, I do have great respect for what they do. But I think teachers should not shoulder all the responsibility for my child on their own, at the end of the day I think all the responsibility is mine

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

"mom3girls" wrote:

I have to disagree with this. I think turning over your child's education to someone else is foolish. I think the school and teacher can only be players on the team. I am saying this as a teacher and a parent. People that think schools can take a class (even if it is a small class) and meet each of their educational needs in 7 hours a day are not really aware of the huge chasms of differance in different children's learning needs. Then you start adding in that your child is most likely in class with children that dont get to eat everyday, dont have pencils at home, play video games for 10+ hours after school and all the other things that deeply effect learning ability and you have an environment that is not good for learning. I think most teachers do it pretty well, I do have great respect for what they do. But I think teachers should not shoulder all the responsibility for my child on their own, at the end of the day I think all the responsibility is mine

I completely agree. I have ALL of my child's needs in mind and feel that I am responsible for meeting ALL of them, including her education. Her teacher is my partner in this venture. One doesn't have to be an "elementary teacher" to teach his or her own child and help with homework.

That being said, I'm not a huge fan of homework (because I highly value social time and pursuing hobbies) but agree that it is necessary at times in small amounts.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

I'm not sure how homework lets you know how your child is doing in school. It's a tiny tiny piece of that puzzle. Talking to my kids and to the teacher is much more effective in that regard.

Also my sneaky son last year would only show us part of his homework and we'd think he'd done it all until the teacher called him out on it. Hah! So yeah...the homework told us nothing.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6568

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm not sure how homework lets you know how your child is doing in school. It's a tiny tiny piece of that puzzle. Talking to my kids and to the teacher is much more effective in that regard.

If my daughter is doing a math paper and gets every question wrong, I can easily look at that and know that she is struggling in that area.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6568

In DH's school there is around 30 kids per class. I think in the school my girls would be zoned for, there are even more. There is no way I would completely hand over my child's education to the schools they are zoned for.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm not sure how homework lets you know how your child is doing in school. It's a tiny tiny piece of that puzzle. Talking to my kids and to the teacher is much more effective in that regard.

Also my sneaky son last year would only show us part of his homework and we'd think he'd done it all until the teacher called him out on it. Hah! So yeah...the homework told us nothing.

For us it is a glimpse into how their brains work when processing problems and how they do with time management. When DD2 had a lot more homework all the sudden it only took a little while to figure out it was because she was playing instead of working, it was an easy fix that I didnt need to go talk to her teacher about.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I'm not sure how homework lets you know how your child is doing in school. It's a tiny tiny piece of that puzzle. Talking to my kids and to the teacher is much more effective in that regard.

Also my sneaky son last year would only show us part of his homework and we'd think he'd done it all until the teacher called him out on it. Hah! So yeah...the homework told us nothing.

Also finding out they are not doing homework or lying about it can become a lesson in and of itself.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

DD is in kindergarten, so we haven't gotten any homework yet, but I expect to get some reading 'homework' soon. I think homework can be a really good tool in older grades (from about 3 up) if the parents are on board with it. I believe that teachers should give class time to complete all the work, however if a child chooses to spend that time doing other things, then they should have to complete the work at home. If the child is struggling and that is why they didnt complete the work, then often one on one time with a parent can help, however a good teacher would see that is the reason and offer alternative one on one time if the parents are unable to support that. Without parent support, none of this works though.

I dont agree with giving homework just for the sake of homework though.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

I don't mind a little bit of homework, but I think even 30 minutes a day is too much. If they are not getting their work done at school and so the teacher sends something home to finish up thats ok, but I think most of the time they should be given time to do it at school. Studying spelling words or multiplication tables at home or being required to read a book every day or something is reasonable. I have one in first grade right now and they give them a reading log, spelling words and a couple pages of math problems every Friday, and they have until the next Friday to turn it in. The are supposed to read 60 minutes and do the homework sometime during that week. I think this is a very good solution because we have a whole week to find the time to do the homework and get the reading done a little each day.

Danifo's picture
Joined: 09/07/10
Posts: 1377

I think some homework is fine in elementary school. Not too much but I like Gloria's list of a reading log, spelling words and some math. My mom was a primary teacher and she always had some parents complain that her homework was either the child reading a story to the parent or the parent to a child. They said that was too much work to do outside of school. I think your attitude towards school and related activities is important in your child will pick up on it if you don't think it is worth your time.

If your child is struggling, I think it is your responsibility to talk to the teacher to work out a solution and that may involve more homeowrk for them to get caught up. Even in a class of 20 (or 10!) I don't think a teacher has time to spend to truely help one child who is struggling. If the parent doesn't want to do the extra work, they should be prepared for their child to repeat the grade.

In high school I was in IB and we had buckets of homework. All reading was done on our own time. We had papers, presentations and problem sets to complete in our own time. For the most part the problem sets were optional because we were tested on it and testing is what showed you knew it, not copying it off a friend. I did 3-6 hours of homework a night. We were also expected to do a certain number of volunteer work, creative activities and sports. I still got to hang out with friends, I still spent time with my family, I had part time jobs, and I still gooffed off. I liked it because even the really smart kids had to work and they couldn't coast. I thought it taught a good work ethic and time management.

In univeristy, all classes had work outside of class time. In sciences you could get work associated with the class and the lab! Good times. I would teach labs and periodically get notes from parents that their 20 year old was having to do too much homework. At age 10, reasonable complaint. At age 20, suck it up!

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"mom3girls" wrote:

Also finding out they are not doing homework or lying about it can become a lesson in and of itself.

I agree. I didn't mean to say that you get NO information from homework, and I think having a little is fine. I just don't like the volume that hits some kids, it can be overwhelming and interferes with family time & other activities.

But yes...there is some information and some value. I just get a lot more information in other ways than through the homework.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I think a little bit of homework is fine. I think an hour a day or more is way too much, even in high school. I think it's important that kids (even in high school) have time to persue hobbies, spend time with friends, get physical activity, have family time, et cetera. And I certainly wouldn't want my elementary school aged kid toiling on homework for hours at a time. I think it's counterproductive and a great way to ensure kids hate school.

mommytoMR.FACE's picture
Joined: 04/10/09
Posts: 781

I am all about homework (even though I loathe doing my own homework, lol!). Being exposed to material at home that was exposed in class earlier that day helps the brain recognize and retain. Jace started Kindergarten this year (!!!!) and he has homework and I'm cool with it. I also like the bonding aspect; it helps me learn more about him... Like how he colors, his handwriting style, how he draws, how he thinks, what type of ideas he comes up with, etc. When the teacher talks to me about his progress and areas that he needs improvement in, I will already be on the same page and be just as aware.

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

"mommytoMR.FACE" wrote:

I am all about homework (even though I loathe doing my own homework, lol!). Being exposed to material at home that was exposed in class earlier that day helps the brain recognize and retain. Jace started Kindergarten this year (!!!!) and he has homework and I'm cool with it. I also like the bonding aspect; it helps me learn more about him... Like how he colors, his handwriting style, how he draws, how he thinks, what type of ideas he comes up with, etc. When the teacher talks to me about his progress and areas that he needs improvement in, I will already be on the same page and be just as aware.

Madi is in Kindergarten this year too and I can hardly believe it! She had 2 "All About Me" homework projects that were designed for the entire family to help out with, and I thought that was a neat way to introduce homework to little ones. Doing those projects and the 3 Math papers she brought home this week did help me realize that she doesn't yet have the work ethic I'd like her to and that is something we will have to work on! lol

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

I would agree that more than an hour of homework is too much homework time. I am so happy my son only has homework a couple of nights a week and he's just required to read for 30 minutes . I think that is very good, and I make sure he reads for 30 mins a day on the weekends too.

I like to see how he's progressing and yes homework does let me know how he's doing. If he has a page of math in his workbook, and he gets them wrong, then I know he didn't understand the lesson. That is clear cut evidence. Spelling words have to be learned and that takes time. I love that his teacher gives us the spelling words on Friday and then tests the following Friday. She gives us the homework expectations a week before hand as well so we can balance everything better. She doesn't care when it's done, so long as it's done before it's due. So for example, it's difficult for him to do a lot of homework on Mondays so I can let him do his 3x each Spelling on the weekend along with his sentence writing. So easy. I like it that his teacher very flexible and communicates well with parents.