The most widely accepted “rule” for the amount of homework for students is 10 minutes per night per grade level. That means that a second grader should expect 20 minutes per night. The rule is not universal and is quite often ignored. But even if it were followed families with three or four children in school can still get hammered, especially if parents are asked to help.
Parents Need to Know Teachers Do not Always Agree on the Purpose of Homework
It is important to understand that homework is not viewed as equally important by those involved in educational research. Some see it as unnecessary while others consider it as essential. Many teachers see homework as fundamental to the development of responsibility. Parents might agree to some extent, but also see responsibility development as a parental matter.
Parents may well be right. Responsible students tend to be raised by parents who monitor their children’s lessons and encourage responsibility as a broad trait that entails much more than homework. Irresponsible students are not likely to become significantly more responsible simply because teachers assign homework.
Another issue is the grading of homework. Homework is a type of practice. Students hopefully learn from practice if it is well-conceived and relevant. Parents should be able to tell whether or not the homework being assigned is on target. That is, the homework should be linked to learning standards which should be made available to parents.
Moreover, homework – as practice – is a formative assessment, meaning that it is to be used in a non-stressful way to give students a chance to work on the material being learned. Teachers review it with students and/or take it up and examine it without expecting perfection. Practice is not graded!
Grading homework is another point of disagreement with teachers, and some count it as a major part of a grade – perhaps 25%. Should practice or responsibility training be graded? Grades are derived from summative assessments – tests and quizzes primarily.
If parents find themselves spending frustrating evenings helping with – or essentially completing – homework assignments, something is wrong. It’s one thing for a child to ask for minor assistance with homework; it’s entirely something else if parents have to sit down with the child and help complete every item.
Homework should be completed by students with little or no help. If parental assistance is a frequent problem a conference is called for to see whether the assignments are too hard or if the child is just not getting it.
Parents Should Teach Themselves About Homework and the Issues
There are numerous homework blogs and websites available on the Internet that can help parents get a grasp on the homework dilemma. There are also other parents who might be having similar problems. When conferring with a teacher or principal about homework a parent should be armed with knowledge, not emotion. Here are a few points worth knowing about homework:
- The use of homework has increased drastically since the late 50’s, but the United States has not made significant gains in standardized test scores, graduation rates, or responsible behavior.
- Many teachers do not understand the difference between formative and summative assessments.
- Educators generally agree that students should not fail because of missing or failed homework.
- Children need some down time in the evening and on weekends to relax and spend time with friends and family.
- Homework is a more effective teaching tool in high school than in elementary school where its benefits are limited.
The purpose of homework is not consistently defined or understood. Elementary school children should have short assignments – if any. Several children can compound parental duties in the evening if homework is too hard or if the assignment is too long. Parents should try to do other activities like coloring pages with their kids and grow a lasting bond. Coloring stimulates creativity and most importantly it contributes to better handwriting for kids.