Many parents feel unsure about whether their kids are getting too much or not enough homework. Some complain that their kids sit for hours to do their homework, while others say, “I never see them sitting for 5 minutes”. Over the years, with three kids in different schools, I have also said that homework was too much or that I do not see the kids doing homework at all.
I am sure this happens to every parent. With different teachers having different homework philosophies, you will likely meet teachers who hardly give any homework and those who give too much. I believe that you, the parent, have an important role in making sure your kids do not miss any important part of their learning.
Whereas in the past, every lesson had homework attached to it and kids as young as 7 or 10 years old sat for an hour, sometimes several hours, to do their homework, I am very happy to say that today, most of the homework is monitored and most education departments have policies to control the amount of homework for each year level.
When you register your kids to any school, it is very important to find out that school’s philosophy on homework. If you believe in homework and the school thinks that all work should be done at school and nothing sent home, think twice before registering your kids. The misalignments with the school philosophy will become a conflict at one stage. You will nag your kids for not doing any work and resent the teachers for not giving homework and, if you do survive this most of the year, the minute something goes wrong (like your kids get a low score or do not understand something), you will start blaming the system for it.
If you do not have a choice, like when having to register at a school within your catchment area (your neighborhood or district) and you think homework is still important, buy your kids some workbooks and/or computer-based learning programs on the topics covered in school and establish a homework routine of your own. Since we traveled a lot and my kids missed years of schooling, it was very easy for me to create my own routine. When we traveled for 6 weeks or 3 months, I would buy workbooks and test books and tell my kids that only if they worked for an hour every day we would be able to travel so much.
Many times, parents are unsure about the right amount of homework time. The department of education usually announces homework guidelines, but if you are not aware of the policies, ask your kids’ teacher for them, because they know. The reason I am recommending each parent to be aware of what is required at each year level is that in many cases, if your kids exceed this time over and over again, it is a sign you need to discuss this with your kids’ teacher.
1. The teacher may not be following the guidelines and giving too much homework, or
2. Your kid may not fully understand the topic and needs extra help.
In the past, kids used to take all their books home and parents could keep an eye on their kids’ progress. Today, most books and workbooks stay at school, mainly to reduce back problems for the kids and to ensure kids have all the material they need to study in class.
What usually happens is that parents cannot tell if their kids are progressing well or need help unless the teacher says something before the end of term when he or she sends the report cards home. Parents can tell if their kids are on the right track only if they sit with their kids regularly and monitor their homework.
Once, I discovered that my daughter, who had skipped two grades while we moved from one country to another (long story), did not know how to work with fractions. I found that out just by sitting with her to do her homework. During the previous year, when I had asked her teacher about possible topics she might have missed, her teacher said, “Oh, no, she’s a perfect student. She gets A’s on all her math work”. And you know what? She did, too. When I discovered this and asked my daughter about it, she told me she had been checking her answers at the end of the book and “fixing” the ones she had gotten wrong!
Parents’ involvement in kids’ homework is essential to the kids’ learning. While teachers are in charge of the whole homework practice, the term “homework” indicates that parents need to take charge of the home side. Gradually, I believe homework should become the kids’ responsibility, but in primary school, parents and teachers must work together to help kids develop this responsibility.
Pay attention to your kids’ homework, because, after all, they are your kids!
Join me next week for more about homework, this time about homework timing.