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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Homework-Parenting Dilemmas

I am not a big believer in the value of homework. Though not as vehement in my opposition as some, I just don't find it all that useful, especially in the lower grades. I have read many interesting articles and reviews of the research, but I am not going to go into that here. Mainly I want to explore and seek feedback on the dilemma that I am presented with as a parent.
I understand that my children's teachers have different views than I. I accept that my children attend a school where assigning homework is required. My strategy, for the most part, has been to work homework into our after-school routine and let the kids do it themselves. I rarely look at it unless my help is specifically requested, which it rarely is.
When I do look at the work, I find it consists of a bit of practice or busy-work; occasionally there is a "project" requiring me to go to the store and buy a poster-board or some art supplies.

In my own defense, I do engage with my children in many ways that, I believe, impact them educationally. I read aloud to each of my children almost every night, discussing and laughing over stories and characters. We play word games like Boggle and Scrabble. My son and I have a beloved storytelling game that we have been playing for years. I bake with them. We play board games and thinking games, guessing games and Mad Libs.

But when it comes to homework, I am just not that involved. And I wonder, sometimes, if I'm doing something wrong. I see how involved other parents are in their child's homework, taking the opportunity to teach their child and help them. They show them, through this, that school is important and that they care. Although I am not outwardly negative about the homework and I do what is required of me, I do not give my children that extra bit of help and attention where homework is concerned. This is not my way of protesting my children's homework, it is simply the last thing I care to spend my precious minutes on, in a busy family and work-filled life.

Am I doing a disservice?
Last night my daughter and her friend worked on an assignment to create a flyer about Florida. I set them up with two laptops and left them to the task. Afterwards, the friend's mom noticed a spelling error in her daughter's work and asked me to reprint her flyer. I then took a moment to look at my own daughter's work. There were several errors of spelling and punctuation. I now feel that I should sit with her and help her correct her mistakes, and I very well might, but is this MY job? Or is this the teacher's job? I know that parents and teachers are in partnership together. I am not trying to be dense or difficult or to push an anti-homework agenda. I am questioning the purpose of why we do what we do, we being teachers, as I am also a teacher. I am also faced with a dilemma: as an educator who cares very much about learning and substance and very little about grades, do I try to care more about the grades in order to help my children? The other mom said that she thought it was important to correct her daughter's work because the flyer counts for a "quiz grade." I had to admit that I had no idea what kind of grade the flyer counted for and I personally don't feel motivated to help my daughter because something counts as a "quiz grade." If I help my daughter it will be because I do want her to learn (and think she should already know) that Florida starts with a capital "F," and you should always read over and check your work before printing.

My daughter, when asked, rarely understands the purpose of her work. She tries very hard to comply with what is asked of her, not understanding the learning behind it. I try hard to be true to myself while also trusting my children's teachers and being generally supportive. What do you think? Is homework a parent's responsibility?

1 comment:

Jenny said...

As a teacher and a parent, I believe that homework is the child's responsibility. The parent's only responsibility is to be sure the student is not frustrated or overwhelmed by the homework. I don't know if that's a fair assessment or not, but I don't think parents should be overly involved with homework.

Homework should be something students can complete independently. If it isn't, there is a problem. That means students should be able to be responsible for it. If you are building into the daily routine I would say you've done your part.

(I tend to pay attention to my daughter's homework only to be more aware of what and how she is learning in class.)