Dear Amanda: What’s With All The Homework?

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iStock_boy & dad working on homeworkDear Amanda is an elementary school teacher and parent of two school age children who provides honest and straightforward advice geared toward all things education. Here’s the twist: she will answer your question as a parent as well as a teacher. These two opinions, while different, can provide a refreshing take on topics we care about most. It’s two forms of advice on one burning question or concern. Just ask Dear Amanda!

Q: Dear Amanda, My child is in 2nd grade and we are spending more time on nightly homework than discussing our days, telling funny stories or simply reading for the enjoyment of reading. I am completely in favor of reviewing what my child covered in school but at the same time, when is enough enough? Some nights it gets done with ease but other nights it is too hard. Often, a fight ensues as the battle of just getting my daughter to sit down to look at it is an uphill battle!

I am feeling conflicted as to whether I address it with her teacher or leave it alone. Talking with other parents doesn’t seem to help as everyone has their own opinion on this touchy subject and each child is so different that we all face different battles with our children. The research I read leads me to believe that homework is not an indicator of educational success nor is it the most effective way to reinforce what is learned in school. Help me find the way! 

Signed,

Haunted Homework Parent

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Dear Haunted Homework Parent,

Help is on the way! As both an elementary school teacher and a parent of a Kindergartner, I see both sides. Let’s look at it from the perspective of a parent. All parents work, whether it is outside the home or as a stay at home mother or father. Our days are long and with dinner prep awaiting, lunches to be made and tired kids who want (and are deserving of) down time, the struggle of getting homework done is real. But, with that being said, it still has to get done. School is our children’s job and just like we are faced with job responsibilities we do not like sometimes, we do them anyway because it is required.

What works in our home is setting expectations upfront. After school, allow time for playing, screen time, whatever you feel is appropriate and then after a snack and a little recuperation, get to work. Try to be consistent everyday. If there are after school activities in place, work around them as best as you can. On those days, the activity replaces the other down time (screen time, playing, art). They just can’t have both sometimes, there is not enough time and too much to get done. If you find that the work is too easy, consider this a good problem to have! Additional reinforcement can be achieved through reading or extracurricular activities or clubs.

On the other hand, if the work is consistently too difficult, advocate for your child. We know them best and if it is a daily struggle, discuss it with the teacher. Ask specific questions. What is the school’s homework policy? What else can you do that might reinforce the concept without reaching that dreaded frustration level? Can the homework be completed over several nights? Does your child require a tutor perhaps? If so, explore these options; there are plenty of free tutoring services.

As a parent, take part in the process so that you can learn how to help them as well. I am sure you would rather communicate, regardless of being “that parent” and get to a resolution that results in 20-30 minutes of peaceful work versus continuing a struggle when no one is learning anything except how to master the art of frustration.

Signed,

Amanda the Mother

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Dear Haunted Homework Parent,

I truly understand your frustration, as do most teachers. Homework policies are generally left to individual teachers although on occasion, it becomes a district policy. Some individuals in the educational field truly believe in its importance. They believe learning continues at home whether through videos, projects or rote practice. Practice makes perfect, right?! Other teachers give homework as a review, with the goal being that it is easy, quick and it should reflect concepts that are being reinforced, not concepts that are still being learned and mastered.

Being that these are two varying schools of thought, make sure that your child’s teacher is clear with what he or she envisions as the purpose of the homework and what role you, as the parent, should play in the process. Do they want you to be a “guide on the side” where you hang back and let the child explore, make mistakes, take risks and learn as they go or should you be sitting across the table, monitoring the work closely and providing instruction as the homework is completed. Make sure the expectations are communicated.

Many districts are taking notice of the new research surrounding homework. It is not falling on deaf ears. However, since homework policies vary between districts, parents are at the mercy of their specific school. I would encourage you to share the information you found with your child’s teacher or the school board in your community.

On a final note, look at the work given, and if it is too simple for your child, treat it as a positive. Alternatively, if the homework is too hard, set a timer. Work with your child for a set amount of time (I like to use 20-30 minutes as a gauge) and if his or her frustration level reaches an all time high after that amount of time, stop doing it. If this pattern continues, approach the teacher with specifics. Is there is a possibility they can assign work that is simpler or suggest tutoring service options that can provide additional support?

As we all know, the student teachers see is sometimes not the son or daughter that walks through your door. Teachers do not know what goes on at home unless you communicate. They are unaware of difficulties that arise. The more information you provide, the more effective the assistance. Take it one day at a time, one assignment at a time.

Signed,

Amanda the Teacher

If you have an educational question related to this topic or any other educational area, write a letter titled Dear Amanda! You can contact her at amanda.lehrman@gmail.com or respond below in the comments section below.

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Amanda Lehrman is a trained teacher and curriculum consultant. She attended Fordham University and received an M.S.T in Elementary Education and has worked with the Accelerated Literacy Learning program as well as Teachers College Reading and Writing projects, Kaplan K-12 and Catapult Learning. Amanda currently teaches 3rd through 5th grade students in a Gifted & Talented program in Edison, NJ.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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