By Carol Josel
French President Francois Hollande made headlines in American newspapers last year when he proclaimed a no homework policy as part of his education reform plans. As he said, “Education is a priority. An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”
His reasoning: “Students aren’t on a level playing field when it comes to homework, since some are able to get help from their parents while others cannot.”
And, for better or worse, he’s not alone in his thinking, as a number of school districts on this side of the Atlantic are taking the same route. Then add to that mix, author and lecturer Alfie Kohn’s, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, its title speaking for itself. And now comes his “Rethinking Homework” article in which he posits the following items as facts:
- “The negative effects of homework are well-known.”
- “The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.”
- “More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its value.”
Then there are parents like Kristina Janer who complain, “I don’t feel like a parent. I feel like a drill sergeant.” Michelle Fine takes it one step further with her, “I think it’s a home wrecker.”
Lots of folks would agree, and yet…
- “One of the goals of homework is internalizing in children a sense of responsibility and independence about their work… ” ~ Janet Crouse, National PTA
- “There are not enough hours in the school day for all the learning and reinforcing students need to master a subject. That’s what homework is for.” ~ National School Public Relations Association
- “Homework extends the learning process beyond the four walls of the classroom, reinforcing the process by giving children a chance to practice skills covered in school.” Linda Sanna, author
- “Homework is key to a child’s success. Critics of the American education system point to other countries whose students show a high level of achievement and attribute that success in large measure to the many hours of homework they are assigned every night.” ~ National School Public Relations Association
Indeed, says mother of four Ann Gunty, “Making it less and less is contributing to us being less competitive worldwide.”
And so the debate goes on, but, regardless of where you stand on the issue, for most kids homework remains a fact of life, so here are some helpful tips to get the job done in your home:
- After-school down-time of physical activity and a healthy snack.
- A constantly replenished store of school supplies
- A dictionary, thesaurus, daily newspaper, pencil sharpener, and three-hole punch.
- A quiet, well-lit study spot.
- A homework/study schedule, making schoolwork a top priority.
- An early start on schoolwork, as soon after school as possible.
- Alerting friends to study time to avoid interruptions.
- Parental screening of incoming calls, saving return calls for study breaks.
- Starting a child off with his/her hardest subject, winding down to the easiest as energy flags.
- A reasonable bedtime-with reading as part of the nighttime ritual.
- Check your child’s assignment book faithfully, so you know what’s to be done.
- If necessary, request that teachers sign the assignment book daily to ensure homework is recorded.
- Make sure that all assignments are completed and well done every day and placed in a pocket homework folder for easy access the next day.
- Don’t buy into the “We have no homework” or “I did it all in school” excuses. You want to see the work, whenever and wherever it was completed.
- Even when there is no written assignment due, there’s always textbook note-taking, the making of flashcards, and/or reviewing
- Start your child off at the kitchen/dining room table to better settle him/her down quickly, monitor attention, note signs of frustration, and reduce wasted time and/or daydreaming.
- Encourage short breaks (phone calls, snack, exercise, favorite TV show) between assignments-never in the middle of one.
- If your child has a homework question, he/she should call a classmate and/or see the teacher first thing in the morning. Also try to figure out why your child is confused-and not everybody else-by contacting the teacher yourself.
- When your child is absent, make sure she/he calls a “buddy” to collect the work and bring it home to you or to leave it in the main officer for you to pick up. Most schools will not collect missed work unless the absence is a minimum of three days. By then, it’s just plain overwhelming.
And finally one last thought: Remember that it’s all but impossible for your child to fail a course if homework is always done carefully and turned in on time. Not only do completed assignments reflect good effort and accountability, earned homework points usually constitute a fairly large percentage of a student’s grade.
Oh, yes, just one more thing: Be sure to simply oversee homework but don’t do it-or any part of it-yourself.
Carol Josel is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at both Gwynedd Mercy College and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and Teaching Pre-K-8, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for examiner.com; you can find her articles at http://www.examiner.com/wise-parenting-in-philadelphia/carol-josel. For more information, go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com or contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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