As the holidays draw near, homework becomes more and more of a chore. But how much is too much? Our teacher Emilie Blanton who's usually over at Teaching Ain't For Heroes has the answer.
As a parent and educator, I believe homework is vital and serves an important role. However, and this is a big however, there can be too much, which defeats the purpose in the first place.
My son is four and attends Pre-K at a local Catholic school. He has homework once or twice a week and overall, it has been a positive experience for us. You're probably thinking I'm crazy for appreciating homework at the Pre-K level, but there are some advantages to it. First, it reinforces the idea that learning happens at home as well as at school. It helps students practice skills they've already learned. If done correctly, kids have fun while practicing school concepts at home. Importantly for our family, it gives us a guideline of what is age appropriate "work" to do. I teach high school, but that doesn't mean I understand the ins and outs of what's appropriate for a four year old to be able to master.
Homework can be done wrong. Homework done the wrong way is what creates headaches and nightmares for parents, as well as students. Homework is not the time to learn new material. Homework is for additional practice and nothing more. At the younger grades, homework should be more about creating good habits than overloading students with too much work. We get maybe 10 minutes total of homework a week and it's only 10 minutes because my son gets distracted or spends time talking to me instead of writing what he's supposed to write. We don't push too hard and he doesn't resist. It's a good set up for now.
Even if a student isn't being asked to learn something new at home, lengthy homework, especially at the younger grades, can really damage a student's confidence and love of learning. After being at school for several hours, another hour of homework is unreasonable for anyone, but especially young children.
As a teacher, I use homework as a time to practice skills we're learning that need more practice. I'm not in the habit of making busy work. When students do busy work, I have busy work to grade, as well as the expectation that I make more busy work. Who has time for that? No one. Not my students and certainly not me.
When it comes to doing age appropriate work, I have no idea what four year olds are capable of. Yes, I know my son best, but I also see the epic Facebook-crafting that makes me think my child should be composing symphonies. Instead of beating myself up that my child is not the next brilliant genius, I'm having fun watching him grow and increase his skills. It's also important to remember that not every parent knows what to do to help their children become lifelong learners. Without assigned homework, some students may never do any reading or writing at home at all.
If homework is creating headaches and drama in your household, it's time to talk to the teacher and discuss more reasonable expectations. If your kindergartener is stuck at the table for an hour every day, that is not appropriate. Even though the teacher is the educator, you ultimately do know your child the best and you know when they are exhausted and frustrated. If things don't change after talking to the teacher, it's time to talk to a school counselor or administrator and talk about how you can ensure your child is successful.