The Homework Debate

Ah, the homework debate. Some parents love it and ask for more and more, others hate it and wish it was sent into space where it got sucked into a black hole never to be seen again. As a teacher, I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. I find it practical and beneficial though.

My class and I had a conversation the other day about why they think homework is important for them. This was not discussed previously or my words put into their mouths. We were actually discussing lots of things – importance of schooling, personal and class goals, how we could achieve them, what we wanted our classroom/school to be like, etc. For the homework question, points were raised such as: so I can learn more, so mum and dad know what I’m doing in school, so I can practice at my own pace and catch up if I need to, so I don’t fall behind, so I get good marks cause it helps my brain get smarter, so if I don’t understand something at the same time as everyone else I can spend more time on it at home and learn it then, etc.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

The Queensland Government recommends:

Years 1-3: Could be up to but generally not more than 1 hour per week.

Years 4-5: Could be up to but generally not more than 2-3 hours per week.

Years 6-7: Could be up to but generally not more than 3-4 hours per week.

Years 8-9: Could be up to but generally not more than 5 hours per week.

Years 10-12: The amount of time devoted to homework and independent study will vary according to the student’s learning needs and individual program of learning, determined through their Senior Education and Training (SET) Plan.

So if every other student in every other school and state in Australia are doing this kind of work at home and we don’t think it is important so we don’t do it, then what happens when we are trying to get a placement in uni or more importantly a job in the workplace against all these other people? Or we are just simply struggling to understand a few things and as we go through the schooling years, concepts get built on top of foundational ones and so on….and we haven’t grasped the foundational ones yet. There is only so much a teacher and school can do. For instance, when I played volleyball for New South Wales our coach trained us HARD. But if I wanted to succeed above others (and to be selected for the NSW team) I had to put in an effort on my own accord. I had to practice by myself, eat well, exercised my body…all outside of the time my coach could practically invest in me. If I just relied on what my coach could give me, then I would have been the same as the others who did what he said. To get ahead, I had to do extra. It’s that simple.

Homework isn’t meant to be about new concepts. It is supposed to be revising and going over things they have already been doing in class to concrete it in their brains, with maybe a few new challenges chucked in for good measure. We (teachers) do not have time to go back over and over and over the simple concepts we have already taught in class for the following days and weeks as we have a gazillion other things to cover in class as well. We hope that students are putting aside 15-30 minutes in the afternoon to practice it.

I don’t know about you but I still have ‘homework’ to do for my job. So do both my parents – a builder and a theatre nurse. Doing work at home is a good habit to get in to and is a part of life whether you like it or not. The argument that kids should just be kids is true and I agree – and part of being a kid is continuing your learning at home as you try to understand new things. After all, practice makes perfect right….or at least makes it easier for the kids as they go along.

In saying all this, I do believe that there is such a thing as too much homework…but that is a whole different topic! 🙂

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Joanne on July 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I am so glad you wrote this. I have a friend who complains that her child is having a hard time understanding stuff at school but never does any work with him at home as she doesn’t ‘believe’ in homework. Its quite funny when you think about it.

    Reply

  2. I teach third grade in the Los Angeles area. For seven years I taught an ELD (English Language Development) cluster. I didn’t mind sending home math homework as we started that in class, but many of the kids had NO support at home for language arts homework. For the kids who knew it, it was just busy work. For the kids who didn’t get it, homework helped them practice doing the work incorrectly.

    Two years ago I got my master’s degree and had to do an Action Research project. I did mine on individualizing homework. My students’ only homework was math AND reading an Accelerated Reader book at their level that they took a quiz on the next day. The parents LOVED it, as most worked and didn’t want to come home and argue about homework. My class’ standardized scores were spot on. Last year, I got my first cluster of Gifted and Talented Students and did the same although some of my GATE students also had an additional accelerated math page.

    I wrote the parents a lovely letter about how their child’s time with them was much better spent talking with THEM, watching the Discovery Channel, helping prepare dinner, learning to play an instrument, or participating in a team sport. To my surprise, I didn’t have a single complaint and every child was able to complete their homework every night!

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comments.

      I love this! What a fantastic idea!

      In my class we do a points system. 50 points for doing the compulsory homework – reading, spelling practice and math. Then the other 50 points are from the choice section where the student and parent can choose what they would like to do to make up the 50 points. Things such as: after school/weekend sports, helping at home, getting own things ready for school, taking care of the family pet, parent choice (parent decide what this can be and how many points to allocate for it), maybe an art challenge, learning on the computer, writing a letter to someone, cleaning your room, going to church/museum/etc, playing a game with the family, and so on. I change it up every week. I have also had a great response from parents since doing this, and I love that it links in with what they do everyday at home as part of their learning…not just ‘school stuff’.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Mum on July 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    That is so good…clever Treens to include family/home activities etc…all life skills!!
    I totally agree that it’s important for parents to support whatever homework comes home. Nothing worse than a child getting the idea that any study out of school/work hours is wrong or unfair…’homework’ should be part of life, we should all be constantly learning and growing no matter how old we are!! 🙂 Also, when my kids were little and needed extra help in a subject, I’d get some work books from the newsagents and do a little bit extra where and when it was needed…or get some after hours tuition. It was just the extra odd half hour or so here and there, but made a world of difference to their confidence if they were struggling with a particular subject. It never occurred to me that the teacher should give the whole class (or just my child) extra work. Naturally teachers are there to teach…but ultimately it is up to the parents to help and guide their kids through life…might be an old fashioned concept, but makes sense to me anyway!!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Rebecca on July 31, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Great post Treens!
    Very interesting for me as a parent with my little man 3yrs away from ‘big-school’.
    Love all the ideas : )

    Reply

  5. […] did a post here about my view on […]

    Reply

  6. Posted by Ronelle Roberts on August 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Homework is a tricky one. I both enjoy and despise it. With 4 kids, time management is key and the expectation of doing homework everyday is simply unrealistic. We finish school here in Victoria at 3:30pm get home at 4 with enough time to unpack, clean up, bath and oh look it’s 5 and time to cook dinner before the littlies loose it at around 6. It saddens me that I don’t feel my kids have anytime after school to simply unwind and play. And this doesn’t include the afternoons with extra curricular activities.

    I have been fortunate enough this year to schedule Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with nothing on. Zeke and Seyanna get stuck straight into it after school and it would take us a good hour at least. I have really enjoyed the time spent, being able to see what they are learning, offering a differing approach to some of the techniques and tactics taught in class.

    It is so important as parents to know where your kids are at in the classroom. By observing my kids doing their homework I have been able to offer suggestions to the teachers with ways to help them ‘get’ the things that they seem to get stuck on, but at the same time the homework needs to be achievable by the child with mild amounts of scaffolding. With all the dynamics that take place in the home, my kids simply wouldn’t get their homework done every week if they couldn’t do a large portion of it without my assistance.

    Love your thoughts and the homeworkopoly. All things that have been filed away in my memory bank 😉 . Keep up the writing Treens.

    Me xx

    Reply

  7. Posted by Naomes on August 6, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Well said! I actually used to loath doing homework with my 3 until they hit the upper grades and then it was a such an effort to get them to finish their assignments on time and work on the tougher stuff. I ended up having to pay for a tutor so my kids would work on things outside of school. I think it would have been better, in retrospect, to have done the hard yards at the start and get them into a bit of a habit.

    Reply

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