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Homework: does your child have it? how do you handle?

After being tucked in at least 30 minutes prior, our 10-year old fifth grader scurried downstairs in a real hurry last Sunday night.  With a frantic look on her face, she held up a paper with about a dozen questions on it about Paul Revere.  "I was supposed to do this!  It's due tomorrow!"

I certainly know the feeling of having forgotten to do something and the feeling of needing to get something done right away.  I used a calm voice and demeanor, as I know just how stressed she was at that moment.  We tackled the questions together, I kind of prodded her along with leading questions.

*whew!*

Our fifth grader gets homework.  Our first grader does not.  We never really ask, "do you have any homework?"  We just know and assume and fully trust that it will get done.  And, it almost always does.  Thank goodness our school's teachers deliver only a moderate-to-mild dose of homework for any given night.  Some nights, there is not homework.  Lucky kids: I recall having at least two hours-worth of homework, every night, when I was growing up.

Have times changed?  Do your kids get a lot of homework?  I know every kid is different, but how do you handle homework in your home?  Does your child get it done even before they get home (I know some kids who do!)?  Does your child do it in a hurry at the breakfast table?  Do you do it together every night?

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My Second-grader gets a lot of homework. I would say at least 30 minutes of routine homework every night. Our school has many events in the evenings, at least once a week, which really makes it difficult for Mommy (me), I work outside of our home. So when I get home at 6pm, I'm a drill sergeant for 2 hours until bedtime! Not that her education isn't worth it, but it does drive me to wanting Sunday to be free of anything school related :)

Also, how do working parents handle homework? by the time we get home (5:30pm) and get dinner started, then eaten, it feels like it might be too late to tackle! My son is only 1st grader, no "nightly" homework yet, but I know it's coming... when is the best time of day to try and do homework and still have a respectable bedtime, and not interfere with tiredness at the end of a long day??

Our kinder has two to three pages per week, plus this week we have to address 24 valentines. As a working parents we try to get some done every week night (really Mon - Thurs, since it is assigned and due on Thurs). Usually while I am getting dinner together and/or right after dinner. He does some at his aftercare and on Thursdays he gets picked up early (3:00) and does some right after snack. Even when done with what the teacher assigns we have been trying to do other "work" - word games, reading, math workbooks, etc. just to keep in the habit.

Ugh. Our Kinder also has weekly homework, which frankly, drives me crazy. I just don't think homework in Kindergarten is necessary/helpful. The spirit is to try to get them used to the concept, but the reality (in my opinion) is that it's just more work for the parents. Homework is assigned on Monday and it's due Friday, with a 10-15 minute activity/task for each day. It doesn't take much time, and the boy really enjoys it so far, but like I said, it feels like one more thing to keep track of/remember for me.

In addition to the weekly homework, there are also 1-2 bigger projects per month that we need to prepare at home and bring in on an assigned date. A few weeks ago we had to construct an insect and he had to write a report. Luckily for me, he mentioned it to my parents and they took on the task of helping him figure out how to build an ant with materials around their home. This week he had to turn in a collection of 100 items to celebrate the 100th day at school...I had him stringing and counting buttons for a week! And next week we have 20 homemade Valentines that need to go in...

I remember having quite a lot of homework, but not at this age...

I am so grateful that the after-school care at my daughter's school requires that the kids do their homework before any other activities. As a first grader, she has homework most nights, but the three days a week when we pick her up from aftercare she has finished it already, such a relief on a busy and tired evening. This being the only school we've attended, I don't know if it's standard of aftercare programs but it certainly seems like something I'd want to clamor for if I didn't have it.

I also appreciate that her teacher makes a point of telling parents at the beginning of the year that homework can [occasionally] be skipped if we have a too-busy night or she is feeling overwhelmed. I know this will change as she gets older but it's nice to hear the recognition that there are some things more important than another page of homework.

My kiddo goes to a Montessori school so no homework for us! YEA! I always HATED homework growing up. I think it is just wrong and robs the joy and freedom from family life. Kids are at school long enough anyway - let them be kids.

I have a third grader and a ninth grader. The third grader has one to three hours a day plus at least thirty minutes of reading and the ninth grader has anywhere from three to seven hours a day depending on papers, projects, exams etc. That is on top of daily piano practice. I guess the school week is pretty full.

A ninth grader has seven hours of homework???? Not to sound alarmist, but I am sure that is not what the teachers intended. That means after getting home from school (at what, 3pm?) they can't do anything else until 9 or 10 at night?? That's crazy. I went to a very posh, college prep, INTENSE high school in another state and at most, I had 3-4 hours of homework a day.

That is why I said anywhere from three to seven depending on what is going on. When she has research papers, several exams or a very large project then it goes to the high end and when she does not; the low end. She has a very full schedule at a very competitive high school and I assure you her experience is in no way unusual.

Up to three and a half hours of homework for an 8 year old is abusive in my opinion and I wouldn't stand for that as a parent. Homework at that age (aside from reading at home) has been shown to be ineffective for learning.

Molly, What is your daughter's after school care? It seems like a great idea to give children time for homework before they can play. I don't expect the after school care to be tutoring my child, but it is certainly nice if they facilitate completing the easy parts of homework. This way I could focus on the remainder at home and there could still be some time left to play.

Homework is abusive? And people wonder why we have fallen behind the rest of the world. At eight years old he does 20 to 30 minutes of math which at this age is practicing multiplication/division, 20 or so minutes of English which is practicing this weeks spelling words, writing his daily journal entry, etc, 20 or so minutes of foreign language, usually vocabulary, etc. There's usually a larger multi-week science or history project going on and he'll spend time daily working on so that it's never too much at once. Then there's reading for 30 minutes which is a constant. I guess none of that sounds abusive to me. The higher end number comes closer to when larger projects are due and then he devotes more time to work, which is why I offered a range.

We aren't quite at that point yet. My kindergartner gets to bring home one-two books a week she is supposed to read with us, and we have the occasional 10-15 minute item to do. We have established a rule that when she does have homework, that has to get done before she does anything else -- no playing, watching TV, or anything else until she finishes her school task. For now that's working, and it's a habit I'd like to keep as we move into grade school. Of course as a parent, I am well aware that the best laid plans... well you know.

I had that rule growing up though, and it worked pretty well. I also was expected to work independently from a young age. I personally will be more involved with my kids than my mom was with me, but I do think the expectation to complete homework independently and then review it or ask for help when needed is important as well. Ah, ideals...we'll see what happens when we are inundated with it. ;-)

My son is in second grade and the homework thing just started to become a problem this year. My husband and I both work FT and although my parents pick my son up from school on Thursdays and Fridays, M-W he was starting homework at 5:30 or later and it was not working - he was tired, we were tired, it was a struggle and it sucked.

After a couple of weeks of this, I called his after care and found out they would have him do his homework there, but they needed me to tell them that is what I wanted them to do first (really wish someone had let me know that earlier). Anyway, since that time, things have gone much more smoothly. He does most of his work at aftercare and then finishes up things he needs help with at home. It wasn't a huge worry for his work load now, but before I talked to his after care provider, I was starting to become seriously concerned about what was going to happen as he reached higher grades. I kept wondering how on earth were families with FT working parents were supposed to find time to have their kids to their homework properly. Am hoping the aftercare thing continues to work out as he gets older. If it doesn't, I'm not really sure what we're going to do.

My son is in 6th grade. One thing I appreciated was a note that came home at the beginning of the year from his math teacher. It said that the assigned homework shouldn't take longer than 20-30 minutes. If a student worked in a focused way for 30 minutes and wasn't done, that student should bring in a note to that effect from a parent. The student should not be penalized for the incomplete homework.

My first reaction was stern. MY son will ALWAYS finish his homework NO MATTER WHAT. And then I paused to think a bit. The teacher--the expert--thinks this work should take a certain amount of time. If it's taking longer, chances are that the student doesn't understand the skill involved, and the teacher needs that feedback and needs to re-teach the skill. It's just like with a piano teacher--the last thing they want is for a student to spend hours practicing something--and practicing it wrong.

Plus, all of his teachers work very closely together. They do not want students spending hours on their math homework and then failing to get their social studies completed. Together, they've worked out what an appropriate amount of time for routine homework is per night. No one subject gets to take up more than its "fair share" of the homework time.

So far, we haven't needed to take advantage of the time-limit offer on his math homework, but I appreciate the underlying attitude.

I also appreciate the homework for my kindergarten student. It's not onerous, and the teacher is careful to tailor it to the kids to keep it from getting that way, but it keeps me in touch with what she's doing and what skills she's mastered. She spends about 20 minutes a day, Monday-Thursday, finishing up a weekly packet that is due Friday.

My second-grader has what seems like a very manageable amount of homework, but we still struggle to get it done. We get home at 6 pm and bedtime is at 8 pm. Sure, that's 2 hours, but I think that kids need downtime, and we're busy cooking, etc. and it seems like we're always ready to get started on it right at bedtime. Our solution thus far is to scramble, and some of it doesn't get done. We have a weekly reading log that we never complete. I find old homework in his backpack weeks later. I've told his very nice teacher that we're just probably not going to finish it all, but we'll do our best, and she has accepted that. I don't want to teach my 7 year old that homework is something to stress out about too much, making school seem like no fun. I want him to like school, and I think that we can build up to a normal level of homework by the time the homework really matters.

aj: it's a program run by her school [Holy Redeemer], on campus. But yeah, it seems like every after care program should aid children and families in this way!

My first grader has a lot of homework--at least half an hour seven days a week. It requires us to be so crazy organized to get it done as well as preparing/eating dinner and getting him to bed on time. I don't love it, and I do feel like more downtime would be good for him, but I have to admit he's learning fast. He came from a Montessori kindergarten and couldn't read very well. Now he's cruising. His handwriting is finally starting to switch over from the cursive he learned at Montessori. I think it's too bad they still teach cursive when all it does is confuse kids when they have to move on (but I digress). I think the benefit of homework at this age, is that it allows the parents to get involved in what he's learning. There is a sense that this is a community effort, that we are part of the proverbial village.

Well, i wouldn't say homework is abusive,however i believe schoolwork should be completed at school. Home is for family time. They're. At scholl for 6 or 7 hours a day and that's plenty of time for them to get all their schoolwork done. Sometimes a worksheet here or there for homework is good but excessive homework takes away from quality family time. My kids go to a montessori school and don't have homework. But i don't believe that homework has anything to do with how smart kids are. The american public schools have their own issues,and that's why american kids are behind other countries.

My first grader has maybe an hr or so of homework assigned monday and due friday (or ok to turn it in the following monday, which we often do). My daughter usually works quite fast so I imagine the packet takes some children a lot longer. I don't think homework at this age is necessary, in fact I think it rather ridiculous. One thing that's nice about it, though, it that it gives me an opportunity to provide some instruction at home to supplement what she's getting at school.

As a family with 2 FT working parents, I agree with previous posters about the difficulty of fitting in homework in the evening (and I get home by 4pm!). Our aftercare program also provides time and help with homework esp if parents request it although I really think my daughter needs some down time to play and relax right after a full day of school. She often does some homework in the mornings (she's an early to bed, up early kind of kid).

The homework doesn't seem onerous to her which is key, I think. At times in the past (last yr) when she was getting stressed out by hmwk, I would take it away and write a note to the teacher if necessary about the stress it was causing. Homework will certainly be required in later grades, but hmwk for young elementary kids should be simply to practice some skills, get parents involved and learn the routine of hmwk, not to create stressed little robots who don't have time to play or hang out with their family.

I view homework as an opportune time to:
1) Interact with my child--My daughter and I talk about her homework but she also shares little tidbits about her day at school that may not come out during dinner or at bedtime.
2) Stay informed about what she is learning--I think one problem with the American educational system is that some parents think it is primarily the school's job to educate children. Even though our kids spend a majority of the day at school, a child's support system at home is an integral factor contributing to success at school. Families need to step up and shoulder the responsibility for educating their children.
3) Build confidence--I love watching my daughter's eyes light up after she works through an assignment that she had previously thought was incomprehensible. Rarely do I allow her to stop working altogether when she is frustrated. Sometimes we continue tackling the assignment and other times we move to another assignment and go back to the challenging work later. I want my child to know that I have confidence in her abilities and am available to support her in overcoming challenges.
4) Develop good habits--Kids need to learn responsibility early on. My daughter has certain responsibilities that she carries out as part of our family. One of them is being a good learner which means she does her homework and with a positive attitude. I don't understand parents who say homework in early elementary years takes away from a childhood or family time. Also, the idea that you can instill good habits later, rather than sooner is ludicrous. (How many adults do you encounter on a daily basis who don't say "please" or "thank you?" Or walk out of the bathroom without washing their hands?)

Homework is an unavoidable part of traditional school models. If early elementary kids don't develop the habit of doing homework then it is going to be a tough battle to get them to see the value of it later on. Not to mention the message you are sending about the value of school or respecting teachers.

Mamie, I couldn't have said it any better. We believe strongly in making homework and studying a priority for our first grader, not because we're militant about grades, but because we value setting good work habits early, supporting her teachers in every way possible and showing her that we value the work she does in school and at home enough to stay involved with it and make sure she's getting it done. Barring severe illness, her job is to do the work her teachers assign and ours is to make sure she does it. And that light in their eyes you mentioned when everything clicks and the hard work pays off? Just incredible to witness!

I know most of us have little ones, so it's hard to tell what's in store for us. My kindergardner brings home a worksheet or two that she maybe didn't finish every couple weeks and once a month we get a packet of things to work on throughout the month. We just have to sign off saying that we worked with her on the concepts and read every night. I think that is completely reasonable.

I will say that as a smart kid in a decent public high school I was used to doing 2-3 hours of homework a night, and I was in for a rude awakening by the time I got to an ivy league college and was expected to do four hours of reading a night, in addition to papers and problem sets. I dropped language study in college because they expected 2 hours of practice in the language lab every day. So . . . even though I think 7 hours of homework sounds onerous for any kid, I'd definitely say that for an elite school it is probably part and parcel with the whole prep school package.

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