Like it (parents) or not (students), homework has become an ingrained part of the school landscape. At its very basic level, homework reinforces what students are learning in class and gives teachers a quick check to see if their pupils understand the material.
While homework has been around since the introduction of public schooling in America, the homework of the early 20th century looks much different from the homework of the 21st century—and I’m not talking about the actual worksheets and problems, although that has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts as well.
What has changed is the fundamental understanding of homework. It used to be understood by all—teachers, parents, pupils—that homework was the sole responsibility and domain of students to whom it was assigned. Nowadays, homework involves not only the student but his parents as well—all with the full support and encouragement of teachers.
|Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/|
For one of many examples I could cite from our children’s teachers at the local public elementary school (and let me state that we think the teachers are doing a bang-up job teaching our kids overall), take a look at this recent note from my second grader’s teacher:
“Some students are still not writing down the books they read at home or having a parent sign their planner. This is part of their homework, so please help your child remember to do this every night.”
Now read it again and see if you can catch the irony in that simple request from teacher to parents. Here’s the words and phrases that jumped out at me: their homework, that is, the students’ work. Then, please help your child remember, that is, the parents need to help their child remember the child’s homework.
Let’s return to the matter of whose homework is it: The child’s, of course. So why does the teacher request that the parents get involved with helping the student do his own homework? If the child is supposed to be learning to be responsible for his own homework—which is the goal of this entire planner thing, in which the kids write down their homework each day—then how is a parent reminding the child going to help the child learn that responsibility?
The short answer is that it’s not. And the more we as parents “help” our children “remember” their own homework, the more our children will “forget” to do the work (or even how to do the work). I guarantee that every parent who reminds their second grader to write down the book they read and to bring the planner to a parent for a signature will still be reminding that same child until the end of the school year. That kind of “help” is not going to make our kids progress to the point where they don’t need our assistance.
In other words, if we don’t put the onus of remembering homework in the first place and if we don’t allow our children to turn in incomplete work or imperfect work, we are essentially creating an dependence on others for work that by its very definition should be completed, alone, by the child. If the child really doesn’t understand the material, then the teacher needs to know that. If the child can’t “remember” to have a planner signed by a parent, then the teacher needs to know that too—and grade accordingly.
Our second grader has a rather spotty record on the planner signing and book title writing down in planner. We knew that teacher’s note was talking about our second grader (and probably others in the class as well). However, we simply said only, “Your teacher said you are not writing down the book titles and having us sign your planner.” That’s it. We didn’t remind the second grader every day to do this. We didn’t hound the second grader to get this down. We put the responsibility firmly in his hands and let him sink or swim on his own. He has improved his performance in this area, which wouldn’t have been the case had we gotten involved and started shouldering the responsibility for his planner.
How do you handle homework—and is that way working for you and your kids?
Until next time,