Why Homework is Necessary

Elementary School Hw

I come to you in defense of homework. It seems homework has gotten a bad reputation, and some believe it should be banned from elementary school. I beg to differ.

The Today Parents website posted an article by Heather Shumaker entitled ‘Here’s why I said no to homework for my elementary-aged kids.’ Ms. Shumaker makes a persuasive argument. She noted a review conducted by Dr. Harris Cooper, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University. Dr. Cooper reviewed 180 research studies and found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit for elementary school students.

Continue reading

Three Ways I Cheat on My Children’s Homework

Boys experiencing homework frustrationMaybe you thought you were done with homework when you graduated high school. Maybe you thought you were done with homework when you graduated college. Maybe you thought you were done with homework when you completed your Master’s degree.

But here’s the truth.

If you have children, you are NEVER done with homework. It’s always there.

To put my teacher hat back on, I see the value of homework. I really do. Homework can be a useful tool for an educator. Homework is a way to recognize if a student has actually grasped the information. It also allows the teacher to know if anything has to be retaught.

Makes sense, right?

However as a parent, I don’t like homework. Now, that’s not to say I don’t want my children to have homework. If there’s a true educational purpose for the homework, I am all for it.

Yet, homework can be a pain in the neck. When my boys get home from school, homework is the last thing they want to do. Seriously, I think they would agree to eat brussel sprouts (tough rap those brussel sprouts always get), clean their rooms, and have needles stuck in their arms quicker than they would agree to do homework.

Well, they have no choice.  They need to get their homework done.

Inevitably, bumps arise while the boys are doing their homework. I try to assist and encourage them to soldier on. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes, it doesn’t.  Frustration mounts. Tears are shed. Curses are spewed. And my children are upset too.

It’s around this time when I cheat on my children’s homework. You heard me: I Cheat on My Children’s Homework. And so does Ms. MMKK. Don’t judge us – I bet you’ve done it too.

Want to know how? Continue reading

Should A Parent Play A Role In The Educational Process?

High School Classroom

High School Classroom
(Not Mine)

An article recently came out in The Atlantic by Dana Goldstein. The article is entitled: Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework.

The article references a study by Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke. The study was the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement.

According to The Atlantic article, the study found that “most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.”

With all due respect, I find these results hard to believe. Let me remind you of my background.

I am a high school English teacher in an inner city public school. Between my five classes (3 senior and 2 sophomore), I have 140 students (3 classes have 34 students). There are approximately 10-15 students who never show up to class. I’ve called their houses but never heard back.

Here is my first hand evidence to counter the article and referenced study in The Atlantic.

Parent-teacher conferences recently concluded. Less than 20% of parents showed up. Those numbers are not atypical. A number of my colleagues who I spoke to reported the same attendance rate.

I have been in the school 11 years.  The attendance rate at parent teacher conference has fallen from approximately 65% to the now less than 20%. It has been steadily declining.

And so has the school.

The typical student is less able and motivated than in the past. I’d like to add that the percentage of students who passed has fallen as well. Again, I don’t think all of this is a coincidence.

The media and politicians seem to enjoy bashing teachers these days. All the nation’s problems are because of poor teachers. If we had good teachers, all would be in the good world.

I am biased and have a limited perspective. I’ll admit it. So, read on with a grain of salt.

The mass majority of teachers I have worked with and met are caring individuals. They want to help their students grow, learn, and succeed and are willing to work hard to make it happen.

I have also come across ineffective teachers. And lazy teachers. And teachers who are burnt out and counting down the days till retirement.

Tell me what profession are you in? Does everyone in the profession meet the highest standards of the calling? Didn’t think so.

Of course, teachers are a huge factor in the education process, but they are NOT the only element. Most obviously, the student him or herself matters. There is the administration. There are the therapists, guidance counselors, etc. And then there are the parents.

I’m not blaming the parents, or denying that there are multiple reasons why their involvement has declined. However, I very much believe that their involvement in the educational process would help.

Now, the influence of parents does not have to come via parent teacher conference. Many times the teacher will not be able to see the influence of the parents. However, they often see the result.

Did you ever see the movie Waiting for Superman? The movie Waiting for Superman follows a few students as they strive to get into Charter Schools. I’ll never forget the scenes where parents whoop it up as if they won the lottery when they recognize their child got in to the public side. On the flip side, those whose children did not get in are so clearly dejected. It’s as if they have been told they have months to live.

It’s not a coincidence that Charter Schools, as a whole, have students who achieve higher results than those kids in public schools.

Again, I know there are other factors that one would be naive to ignore. However, the naivety would be just as great if one ignored the influence of the parent(s).

Therefore, I say sorry to The Atlantic, but I can’t agree with The Robinson and Harris study. Parents matter in the educational process.

Pic is courtesy of Photopin

No More Homework!

How many days of school are left? Come on, everybody has a calendar somewhere where they are “x”ing the days out and counting down till school is out. As Alice Cooper sang, “School’s out for summer!”

There are many reasons why you may be counting down. Maybe, you are tired of carpool. Maybe, your child has had a challenging school year. Maybe, you are sick of preparing lunch for your finicky child.

Do you want to know my reason? Homework!

Courtesy of Google.com

Courtesy of Google.com

I graduated high school over 20 years ago. I have an undergraduate degree and three master’s degrees (creative writing, literature, and education). My chosen profession is a high school English teacher. Therefore, it is safe to say that I have and continue to spend much of my life in a school setting. You can rightfully conclude that I appreciate education and the education process.

My professional opinion is that a reasonable amount of homework should be part of the education process. Quality homework (not busy work) reinforces what was taught in class. When a teacher reviews the class’ homework, he or she can get an understanding just how much the students have learned. Homework allows the child to work independently (parents can and should guide as needed and not do it themselves), giving him/her a sense of confidence that they can accomplish work themselves. Lastly, students learn about responsibility and time management.

Yet, I CAN’T WAIT to be done with homework. I know I just noted valid pedagogical reasons why homework is important and practical. However, my children — kindergarten and 3rd grade — get it nearly every night. Our schedule revolves around it. Now, on those rare days when there is no homework, our whole schedule and outlook changes. We make s’mores, write poetry, and listen to classical music. Well, not quite, but it is a much appreciated bonus and leaves the household calmed. All these years later, and I’m still thrilled when the teacher says, “No homework tonight, class!”

Generally, my children do their homework well and with little fighting. Unfortunately, there are those times when the process doesn’t go that smoothly. Voices can get raised, tears shed, mutterings uttered underneath breath, and that’s just me. Can you relate? In fact, this friction caused by homework between parents and children is very common. It is especially so in families who are serious about and concerned for their children’s education. Because the homework challenge is so common, there is a trend toward hiring people who’s sole job is to help kids with homework! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/nyregion/08homework.html?_r=0

Of course when the school year is over, parents are left to entertain their children, juggling work schedules, especially on those days between the end of school and the beginning of camp. Yet, I’ll take this challenge. Why? Because it means no more homework.

Now, how many days till school the end of school?