Tuesday, August 25, 2009


School has started and homework is once again a reality or soon will be. I have such mixed feelings about homework.

Too much?
I have seen thoughtless or inexperienced teachers assign way too much of it and that's bad! I have seen poor disciplinarians punish a class with loads of homework to "keep them busy."

When I was a brand new teacher years ago I assigned all the problems in the book. I thought that's what they were there for. When loving and concerned parents pointed out that 25 long division problems could take hours to do... I felt horrible. It was a painful lesson but a valuable one. Later a wise principal reinforced the lesson by asking me how much practice was enough? If I had taught clearly and they could perform the task and answer the questions - was their a need for overkill? Finally, God gave me the blessing of a child with learning challenges and I became the parent trying to be an advocate for that child with teachers I was scared to death of.

Is there a rule?
In one of his books I picked a rule from James Dobson that helped me as a teacher and a parent. A child should have 1o minutes of homework a night per grade in school. S0: 1st grade? 10 minutes. 5th grade? 50 minutes. You get the idea.

Even Dr. Dobson explained that he had to negotiate with teachers for less homework because he wanted their to be time for his children to be children and for family time at night too. I learned for the sake of my children and our family to be an advocate for the right amount of homework but those conversations with teachers were tough.

Before you call the teacher...
  • Make sure your child has enough time at home to do homework; the right supplies; and the right amount of sleep. If your child or your family is over scheduled that's where you need to put the breaks on first.
  • If you are a helicopter (hovering) when it comes to homework, checking to make sure it is done, making your child does it over and over until every problem or answer is correct then consider that you could be damaging your child's self esteem, retarding their ability to develop competence, and perhaps even creating an anxiety ridden college student of the future. Homework is their job. They need to learn from their mistakes and be responsible for their own workload. Do you really want to train them to believe that they cannot be competent without your presence over their shoulder?
  • If at all possible, it is a life skill to learn to deal with difficult people and situations. As much as possible help your child develop strength of character by owning and solving this problem themselves. Practice with them questions they can ask, skills they can learn, things they can say.
  • Ask around quietly to see if other parents are having homework problems with the same teacher. If their children are doing fine then it's time to investigate other issues.

More coming.

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