Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Education in America: Homework

I started writing this, a little fired up by the article, thinking I'd make a quick point and get out. Then I started talking and thinking (and boy is that ever dangerous) and getting really bugged out when it came to the state of education in this country. So, now it's going to be a series of posts and I hope that you will participate with your thoughts on the subject, your ideas for what could work, your problems with the state of education in your own schools. Feel free to comment here or e-mail me at .

Last week I caught this article on Slate. Did you read it? Go ahead and take a minute to catch up. Go on, I'll wait.


OK, so I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I mean really? No homework? Sure Girl would think that was awesome! Almost as awesome! as being held back a year because I can pretty much guarantee that's exactly what would happen.
Let me stop here for a moment before I go into the rest of what I wanted to say to just point out my personal experience on the whole homework vs no homework deal. Girl? She struggles in school. She is easily distracted and and if she can't see the teacher speaking, see the problem being dissected in front of her, she is lost. I think some of it relates back to her early childhood hearing loss. She still has trouble saying certain words. Now how many teachers do you know can sit in front of one student all day speaking directly to them and still maintain a classroom? Right. Girl does pretty well in school. She's smarter then she pretends to be. But she needs that one on one time she gets when she brings her homework home. She needs that practice. She needs the extra work to manage her study habits. So even if the teacher doesn't assign work, I give her work to do. Math, reading, sentence structures, whatever she does in class, we review at home. It has made a tremendous difference in her grades.
However, even if she didn't have the difficulty she does in her learning process, I would still expect her to do homework. I want to see that she understands what is being taught in class and that she is not just copying what she sees her classmates doing.

Now, personal feelings aside, I still feel that homework is an absolute necessary as long as it relates to what they are studying in class. Because really? What is the point in doing this at home if they aren't going over it in class? What are they learning then?

Last week I posed the question of homework: yes or no? to some teachers.

While the answers varied, the general consensus was "Yes" and "Are you kidding me?"

The few who had problems with homework? The main concern was the amount of time that it was taking their kids to get through the work, claiming that their kids were coming home with several hours of work and sad little faces.
I think (and teachers out there correct me if I'm wrong) there is a general guideline of 10 minutes times grade level. So a child in 4th grade could handle 40 minutes of homework and that would be reasonable.
At least it is until you consider that quite often, it's the parents who have to nudge the shoulder of their child into doing that homework and helping them correct their mistakes.
Here, I admit that I am fortunate. I'm home all day. Yeah, yeah. I'm busy and all that blah blah blah. Whatever, I'm still here everyday so when Girl steps off that bus, bag and attitude in tow, I can help her get done with whatever work she has to do and still have time to make dinner, throw in another load of laundry, pry Cat out of Hurricane's mouth and perform my clown routine.
But what about when both parents work or single parents who are already stretched to the limits so when they get home and are faced with 40 minutes of 6 x 9 and "how do you spell 'relief'?" (t-e-q-u-i-l-a), dinner, laundry, possibly other kids crying for attention and all those other little things that have to get done? What about when you just don't have time to sit down and help them with the work?
There is also the argument that teachers have our kdis for 6- 7 hours a day and that should be plenty of time to get across whatever lesson they were going over that day.
I think that's flat out lame. 6-7 hours? Take out lunch, recess, music, PE, library, art, computer and tell me how much time do they have left to cover math, science, spelling, grammar, social studies, reading, and so on. Homework isn't a teaching tool, it's a review of what has already been learned (or at least it should be).
I believe homework is a necessary evil but it's hard to see the balance between that, play, family, etc.
One idea is to create a homework club. An afterschool group that can meet, do the work, and have someone their to answer questions and go over the work with them.
This too has it's problems. The school has to be willing to give up space for it and a teacher or parents are required to volunteer their time. But what else is there?
What do you do? What does your school do? Where do you sit on the Great Homework Debate?