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Homework in Elementary School
Questions about Homework
My daughter is a first grader at an OUSD school. She struggles with the homework, and often copies others in class to get by. We spend up to an hour, M-Th, on her homework (spelling, writing sentences, math, reading). I am concerned that it is both too much work and too much pressure (she has told me she is 'dumb') and/or that it is too hard/going too fast for her for some reason. While the principal is supportive of the fact that my daughter may be a 'whole language learner' rather than a phonetic learner, and may have some 'spatial processing' issues, her teacher has asked me to 'push' her more, and do homework 'in 1/2 hour intervals, with breaks'. To me, this seems like way too much, and not addressing possible learning differences. I am wondering if others have had this experience, and how did you advocate for your child? anon
My middle child has a mild processing delay, and what takes most kids 20 minutes can take her an hour. So, I did two things. One, I requested an SST and a 504 meeting at her school (if you are in a public school, you can request this, in writing, and by law they must respond to you within two weeks). The SST meeting will help you and her teacher (and the school psychologist and so on) decide what you all think is going on, and what testing you and they think should be done. Then, modifications can be made, if necessary, for your child in order to meet her needs (both in and out of the classroom).
The second thing I did was to say that as her parent, *I* will decide when she has had enough! If that means doing half of the math problems instead of doing them all, so be it. If that means I cut her off after 20 minutes, then so be that!
I have always had teachers who support me and my daughter. I have never had a teacher insist that my daughter do more than she can at home. It is insane to imagine a child your daughter's age doing an hour of homework! That is a 6th grade expectations, not a first grade one.
Please ask for an SST meeting, and do not take no for an answer. Legally, the school must do this, if you ask. How horrible for your daughter if she is simply a slow processor, or a child who needs to learn through touch, that she is essentially punished for being who she is! An SST will help you identify what her needs are, and will help design an appropriate approach to learning for her and you.
Good luck! You must be an advocate for your child
As for how to advocate, I think it works best to be polite and respectful, and to put things in terms of working together to help your daughter succeed. Even so, you absolutely should be firm about what's not working, like the homework, and what you'd like to try. The teacher may not like it, but if your daughter's getting discouraged, she's only learning to have low expectations of herself. That's a hard thing to unlearn.
It would be good to look into learning differences. For this you ask the school, in writing, for an educational evaluation. Better to do this sooner rather than later; while the school legally has to respond within 60 days, things can drag on. Check out a book like ''Negotiating the Special Education Maze'' for information on the process. Best of luck- PhD with an LD
The first month of school is not over yet, and I'm already battling with my kindergarten son over homework! He has to write upper and lower case letters -- a letter a day -- but he has never liked writing or drawing. He's imaginative-creative, but not into the visual arts. He is VERY strong-willed. I have already cajoled and bribed, and I don't like who I'm becoming. It is already stressful for both of us. I don't really want to open a discussion about kindergarten homework -- he's in a Berkeley pubic school and I think I just have to accept that. (I think there is too much too soon -- let them get used to the school first!!-- what happened to the kindergarten I had? oh, yeah, it's called preschool now!) What I would like to hear from those who have been there and created successful homework routines and habits is how?! What works for you? My son is overwhelmed by the change from preschool to Kindergarten - will homework get easier once he's more accustomed to his new environment? Homework Hag
I'm not suggesting you homeschool your kindergartner, but I'm just reminding you that it can be physically hard for younger kids to do things we take for granted. Some skills (fine motor skills, for example) develop at a different rate than others. I don't know if you've considered talking with his teacher about suggestions for making homework easier for him (and you!). I'm sure s/he has been there, done that before. Laurel
My son is in first grade and he hates homework. I think he mostly hates the writing part of it, but he writhes like he's in pain, whines, throws (small) things and yells at his little sister.
I checked the archives and didn't see anything regarding this sort of thing. He has tied his own shoes since he was four, so I don't think he needs OT, but something's gotta give. Also, his handwriting is terrible.
This is stressing us all out. He gets a weekly homework packet and it colors the entire week culminating in a tantrum the night before he turns it in. At this point, early in the week I bust my a-- to get him to do a few pages, and then lose it entirely by the end of the week and tell him to finish only if he wants to.
Help! Signed, On the brink
My son is in the 2nd grade in a Berkeley public school and he is just turning 8 years old. This year he has started to get regular homework assignments. He is very resistant to doing homework and tries all kinds of tactics to avoid getting his homework done. These include - going to the bathroom, saying his foot hurts and he need to rub it, even just staring at the page and saying he can't do it. Even tho my husband and I sit with him and try to help him out, he is still resistant to getting it done. He usually does the parts that he finds easy ( ie: math problems) first, and then starts the avoidance tactics . I would like to hear from other parents who have faced a similar problem with a child of this age and how they solved it. I am interested in an approach that emphasizes positive motivation rather than punishment. Any advice would be welcome. Thanks. Ellen
Exactly how you do it will be individual to your situation and relationship with your son and his teacher. With one of my sons, we had a parent/teacher/child discussion about homework, in which everyone stated their position. Mine was: ''I'll be glad to help you with your homework if you get stuck, but it's up to you whether or not you want to do it.'' The teacher explained the homework ''rules'' and asked if he was having any problems with it. In this reasonable environment, he was hard put to think of any. After that, it only took one or two times of my ignoring his whining for him to get it.
It's great to be out of the loop! Good luck. Susan
-- Get your child's vision checked both for visual acuity (which is the 20/20 stuff) and visual tracking. We found out that our daughter has visual problems that make her eyes feel as tired as a 40-year old! (She had her eyesight tested at school in kindergarten and no problems turned up.) She is getting glasses and will do several months of eye exercises. She was diagnosed at the UC Eye Clinic in Berkeley.
-- Consistency: Have your child do his homework at about the same time of day, in the same place in the house.
-- Environment: Create a quiet place for homework to be done. Create a place (desk drawer?) where homework and other tools (pencil, ruler, etc.) are kept.
-- Back off: Our daughter's teacher tactfully suggested that it might help if we were a little less involved in our daughter's homework (I am so guilty of this.) Homework is hard and takes time away from playing, which understandably can lead to complaining and resistance. The teacher made us realize that we were providing our daughter with the opportunity to resist homework every night by sitting down and, while doing it with her, entering into a conversation about the merits of homework. Essentially, our daughter didn't want to do homework, and she would engage us in conversation about it as an avoidance tactic. Now, while she does homework, we are nearby to answer questions, but are also clearly engaged in some other activity. This has really helped.
-- Tell your child often that you are confident that he can do the work. (But don't engage in a longer discussion when he inevitably says ''but I can't do the work!'' Otherwise this becomes another avoidance tactic.) Interestingly, when we suggested to the teacher a reward system (gold stars for completing homework without a big fuss, followed by a present for X number of gold stars), she gently discouraged us from doing this. She explained that it was crucial for our daughter to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for her homework, and for the motivation to come from within our daughter, not externally. anonymous
It may also be a good idea to let your childís teacher know that you are struggling to get the homework done. Teachers usually have good suggestions for emphasizing some parts of the homework over others. They can also give you input based on what s/he sees your child doing in class. It is important to recognize that the purpose of homework is to practice what your child has learned in class. If you feel like your child is struggling too much at home, then perhaps you should seek to simplify the work. Engaging in a daily struggle with your child is more detrimental to his learning than him not fully completing each assignment.
One thing that is often helpful on the home front is following a daily homework ritual, where homework is done during the same time period each night. When this is done consistently, children learn to expect it, and ultimately become less resistant. It is important to stick with this plan, even if it doesnít seem to help at first. Children (and adults too) will often test the boundaries of anything new, and it can take some time for your child to realize that you are serious and committed.
A reward system is also a good idea. A Friday treat for having done all of his homework with little or no resistance often works. One family I worked with had some success taking their child for an ice cream cone Friday evenings if he had been able to complete his homework each night during that week. Keeping a fun, daily record of completed homework (perhaps using stickers) is a fun way for your child to share how much progress he has made.
While direct punishment can make the situation worse, not allowing privileges when homework hasnít been done is often successful. For instance, a lot of parents wonít let their child watch TV or play video games before their homework is complete. In this way a homework battle can often be avoided. You can tell him (without showing anger) that of course they canít engage in the particular privilege when homework hasnít been completed. Again, consistency is important. These are just some basic tips. There are always new things to try, some which may be more or less successful to you. The thing to keep in mind is that while school success is important, it is also important for an 8 year old to love to learn! Good luck. Lisa
I think my child, who is in the 3rd grade, is assigned way too much homework on a daily basis. But, how much is too much?
My child is very diligent and works at a reasonable pace. Still, it can take more than 1 hour, sometimes 2 or even 3, to get the work done. I think this is outrageous. It seems to me that in the third grade a 1/2 hour to 45 min. is about right and occasionally 1-1/2 to 2 hours might be needed for a special project.
Am I way off base here? Is this just the way it is as they progress through school? Anon
But, in the practical sense, what can you do about the situation? That's the system, right? I used to oversee my daughter's homework, and when she brought home assignments, we would sit there and ask ourselves what it was they were trying to get her to learn. If the answer was ''not much'', or the assignment was ambiguous and a waste of time, I'd instruct her not to do it, and I'd call the teacher and impart my decision. Not sure if the teachers loved my phone calls, but we have a very close family, and my daughter, now in high school, is brilliant, curious, engaged in learning, and at the top of her classes. She thinks about what they're telling her to learn. Now then, I don't think there is much flexibility in the public sector. We've chosen private schools (and our mortgage shows it). We selected schools that emphasize learning, not tests and homework. Does this help? I've just comiserated, but maybe this doesn't offer an alternative. I am nearly sure that I am in the minority. I am willing to struggle with this as long as my children are in school. I don't think it's necessary to train children to be obliging while doing pointless busy work, but it is necessary that they learn how to learn and how to seek information, how to love learning, and how to tell the difference between hard work for a goal and submission as a way of life. So sue me. Tobie
I sure hope that lots of parents complain *now* and keep complaining, because I will send my (now toddler) to a public school and I will not allow him to do unreasonable amounts of homework in elementary school (and it will probably embarrass him greatly, unfortunately; another Cal professor with their back up about too much homework !). I hope the ''homework pendulum'' swings back to something reasonable by then with help from concerned parents (and teachers who also posted) like you. An advocate for schoolwork in school not at home Homework in 3rd grade
Would love some insights as to how other families (parents) facilitate the completion of homework on a school day that contains after-school activities. Our third-grader now has more homework to do, and her interest in extra-curricular activities has also expanded, but she's understandably tired at the end of a long day and we're wrestling with the right formula for work and play. (She doesn't actually do much after school yet, just soccer, but would like to add in one or two more things, and I am reluctant to do this until I have a better gameplan for the homework). Suggestions and strategies would be most welcome for supporting these two important areas. Thanks. Deborah
Like your daughter, my son enjoys extra curricular activities. So recently we signed him up for gymnastics, one day a week on a day that does not conflict with soccer practice. I find placing him in varios activities allows him to release all the energy he has and tire him out for bed earlier in the evening. Healthy snacks and a nutritious breakfast and dinner is a definite must, god knows what he eats at school. And allowing him to be a kid on the weekends has also helped. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are his time. We allow him to be a kid and not worry about school or anything else, and generally our weekend schedules revolve around his play time and what he wants to do. He plays outside, watches TV, hangs out with his buddies, and just relaxes. Sunday evenings at around 5-6pm, we prepare for the upcoming school week, we have him take an early shower, and he relaxes till dinner and bed time. We constantly remind him of the importance of school, and explain to him that his education is what will help him excel in life. But like most kids, he is most worried about what his buddies are doing.
Just hang in there and encourage your daughter in everything she does. It may cut your time in half, and force you to give up a lot of personal time. But in the long run I think it is very rewarding for the child to be active in after school programs. If I recall correctly, studies have shown that children involved in extra curricular activities always do well in school. I think it's just a matter of knowing how to balance everything out, and showing your child to do the same. Good luck. mom
I am wondering how much help parents are giving to their 4th graders with their homework. I know that the ideal is that kids are able to handle this responsibility independently. His teacher this year certainly expects this. However, my ten year old boy does not yet seem capable. We have tried to put it on him and he ends up getting sent to the office to finish certain assignments. This is humiliating to him and does not seem to be helping. He does finish about 80% on his own, but spends so much time fighting the homework that it takes him a long time. His organizational skills are also poor as is his handwriting. His ''grades'' (numbers) are good, but the homework issue is becoming a battle ground at home which I know is also not helpful. His dad and I are wondering how involved others are with their children's homework. Anon.
I think you first need to ask yourself as parents if all of the homework is relevant. Children in both public & private school settings are given what we term in our household as ''busy work'' it has no real value toward their education and is typically boring. We have (if requested by one our children) helped them with the ''busy work'' in order to create time for the important school work and other aspects of development such as music lessons or other interests.
All children are different, our oldest daughter never wanted help on anything after the 3rd grade, great student, super self- movitated and at 22 will be graduating from college with honors. However, our youngest (13) is also a highly self- movtivated straight A honors student, both private and public educated. Our 13 year loves having her dad and I involved in her school work. She typically studies for tests with our assistance, that being - going over the information with us and exploring better ways to remember specific information. She loves sitting with her dad each evening while doing pre- algrebra. Dad LOVES math and is able to share with her a deeper understanding and appreciate for the subject than any schools I've ever experienced.
If your child wants you involved, you should be involved. I am not saying do the work for you child, but actively be present. It can be very time demanding, but it is worth the investment. Also, keep in mind, not all children approach their homework the same way. Few kids like sitting at a desk doing homework for 2 or 3 hours a night. I watched our kids spread out on the beds, take over the entire living room most school nights, one liked to sit at the kitchen table and enjoyed my being close by, another seemed to do his homework all over the house, rarely seeming to sit still. All of our kids have been high achievers, they have preformed beautifully in college, and more importantly are good people.
Be patient with your son, find out what works for him, be involved, but be clear that his homework is his responsibility. Let him know you are willing to talk about his homework and explore organizational ways to help him get the job done. Long term projects can be daunting for a 4th grader, support him in learning about process and how to plan ahead. It is a fine line between helping and doing and it is your responsibility as a parent to know where to draw the line while supporting your son. Good Luck! Kate
My step son had great difficulty beginning in 5th grade and even now in 8th grade continues to struggle to keep up - given many circumstances that didn't help him succeed.
Anyhow, your involvement is very important to his success but try not to make him dependent on you. Focus on one goal at a time. The first one being how to stay organized. Where he should put papers, having a good binder w/ clearly marked dividers, and having one place to put his homework assignments (like a little calendar book). Work w/ him on this first. Also, check each homework assignment and make sure it is properly headed - name, date, subject. Small things like this make a big difference. don't badger him w/ the mountain of mistakes he is making - it's way too overwhelming. take one step, then move on.
you will be amazed - my son actually has neat writing now, whereas before he looked like he did his homework in the midst of a tornado. he used to literally scribble his name slanted in the middle of the top of the paper and think that was sufficient.
after he get's a ''system'' down. then start to see where he is really struggling subject wise. often times many boys (excepting that small percentage that excel) don't do well cuz they don't care - probably counter to you or your wife's achieving natures. my son always does the minimum and sometimes his idea of what the minimum is doesn't qualify as passing - well it did in 4th grade, but not in 8th.
then, give him strategies to complete his homework successfully. Discuss what he has to complete, then talk about what the best approach would be to completing it in a timely matter. Also, try a timer - my son's mind wandered very easily, so the timer helped him focus. Say you have 20 minutes to complete your math. that's it, then you can check it and help w/ problems he couldn't figure out.
always check to make sure he put his assignments away properly in the binder so he can find it the next day. the slacker's 2 favorite answers are, ''i forgot it'' and ''i can't find it''.
in terms of ''putting it on him'' - make him do the work. don't do it for him. check the work, if it is wrong or incomplete, send him back to finish and don't let him get away with incomplete work - he's setting and learning important standards of work now and if you let him go to school w/ incomplete assignments, he will get the message. if he or you both don't understand how to do something, it is fine to mark it on the paper and get help from the teacher. he has to learn how to identify where he is unclear and find solutions to getting the answer - but not from you and often we are wrong or learned how to do things differently.
mostly i think our job is to set good standards, reinforce, check, give them training (ie organization and standards) and support them positively. after years of failed lecturing only the ''total positive parenting'' approach has given us any success.
also, communicate with the teachers and find out what systems they have to assign homework - where do they post it. they usually have a very clear and simple way to make sure the kids know where to find out their assignments. it helps if you know it too.
if he has the assignment book, then you should look at it every day and see if he writes them down clearly and properly.
this would probably amount to a full time job mentally but only an hour or 2 of real work time for the parents... best of luck! still training too
Looks like you have totally left it on the kid. I have a 4th grader. He does his homework every day. H only asks for something that he is having trouble with. He does writting practice every day. Usually he writes a page about how he spent his day. That gives writting practice as well as keeps me informed of his activities and feelings during the day. He can play after he finishes his homework.
I spend about 10/15 minutes with him in the end, going over his homework and discussing it with him. making corrections and telling him to do it over if it is not neat or correct. He doesnt like that, therefore to avoid it he tries to do it correctly the first time by himself.
If this approach doesnot work with you and it is a constant battle for the two of you as well as a mood destroyer..........Find a smart high school kid , who will come and help with homework for $10/hour. It is worth it for the confidence that he will gain, and your peace of mind.
A friend of mine does that and it has done wonders for the kid. sherry
I only wish my parents had sat with me, and helped me develop the habits necessary to keep my assignments organized, sectioning out the longer projects into manageable chunks, so I'd never have to cram, crunch, get behind or feel overwhelmed/incapable.
As it was, they just said ''Do your homework'' throughout the years, never extending their involvement. It was up to us kids to figure out how to manage our time and workload, and the truth is... we all failed miserably in school, despite our intelligence, because while we easily slid by in our early years, in high school/college, we discovered you can't get by on smarts alone; you need to be diligent in completing coursework, and know how to study, in order to succeed. We didn't know how to do this - noone ever taught us.
Having said that, I don't think parents should do the homework for the child, because that teaches a kid that they are not responsible for their own domain, and that ''someone else will do what I don't want to do''. Guide and explain that which is not understood when necessary, but let them learn how to problem-solve until it's clear the problem is beyond their current capability to reason it out.
I think parents' job is to create the structure, the framework, within which the child does homework. As the years progress, the child will have this habit solidified, and the parents can ease up, as the child will understand what sort of routine to create to get all the work done. anon
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